Lessons learned from Foundations on the Hill

April 2, 2024

Pictured from left to right: Tim Wohlgenant, Executive Director, Yampa Valley Community Foundation; Naomi Amaha, Director of Policy and Government Affairs, The Denver Foundation; Senator John Hickenlooper; Noah Atencio, CEO, Philanthropy Colorado; Anthony Grimes, Director of Communications, Bonfis-Stanton; and Robin Wood-Mason, CEO, Community Shares of Colorado.

This year I was honored and inspired by all I learned at Foundations on the Hill, the largest annual public policy and advocacy conference dedicated solely to the philanthropic center, held in Washington, D.C. in March. Every year, foundations and philanthropic-serving associations travel to our nation’s capital to attend Foundations on The Hill. Hosted by the United Philanthropy Forum, Council on Foundations, and Independent Sector. This policy conference is an opportunity for philanthropic staff to meet with members of their congressional delegation to discuss timely policy proposals impacting the sector. Additionally, the conference facilitates learning and relationship-building for elected officials, agency staff, and foundations.   

I was able to attend learning sessions on timely issues impacting the sector. At the forefront of our minds is the impact of voter engagement, federal funding opportunities, and philanthropy after the affirmative action ruling.  

Voter engagement

Specific to voter engagement, I attended a learning session held by representatives from Nonprofit VOTE. Their presentation elevated the importance of general operating and multi-year funding for organizations that are working to further civic and voter engagement. The presentation resonated with us as we begin planning for our grantmaking to support nonprofits working to get out the vote this November.  

Federal funding

Staff from foundations and philanthropic-serving organizations shared the vast ways they are partnering with state and local governments and nonprofits to ensure dollars are getting to the communities and the importance of capacity building for nonprofits to pursue and manage federal funds. This is an area in which the foundation has been engaged. The discussion and sharing of our approach led to new connections with peer foundations and learnings of new strategies that we can incorporate in our work with state and local government partners to bolster the nonprofit sectors ability to pursue federal funding.  

Affirmative action

Attendees had honest conversations about the impacts of the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action and how it could influence the philanthropic sector. Many of these organizations fund efforts to advance racial equity. They discussed not pivoting from that area of grantmaking and shared the tools the sector can still use to continue its work even following this court decision. This is something we’ve been following at The Denver Foundation, and I plan to bring this discussion back to our leaders as we examine how this decision influences the way we do our work.   

Throughout our conversations with federal elected officials and their staff, our delegation, which includes foundations from across the state, highlighted the following:  

  • The positive impact of the nonprofit sector in Colorado based on data detailed in the Philanthropy Colorado, Colorado Nonprofit Association, and Community Resource Center’s Colorado Nonprofit Economic Impact Report.  
  • The potential for increased equitable charitable giving if we see the reauthorization of The Charitable Act, which is a policy change adopted in March 2020.  
  • The concerns of the sector on charitable giving if the U.S. Department of Treasury adopts proposed rules that would change how funds are classified.  

As the November election nears, I believe that the philanthropic sector has an important role to play – as a funder, convener, and advocate for issues impacting the communities we serve. We should lean into the realities of this moment and join the work of our partners to ensure the issues impacting our stakeholders and sector are at the forefront of the dialogue happening with voters and candidates. I look forward to this work and hope others will join us!