Photo Caption: Steven Rathgeb Smith, Executive Director of the American Political Science Association, speaks at a guest lecture on nonprofits and advocacy hosted by the Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs and the Center for Public Administration and Policy on June 17 in Alexandria. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Roberts)

Nonprofits and advocacy were the focus of a June 17 guest lecture in Alexandria by Steven Rathgeb Smith, Executive Director of the American Political Science Association. Smith highlighted key themes from his recently published book, “Nonprofits and Advocacy: Engaging Community and Government in an Era of Retrenchment,” (Johns Hopkins University Press: 2014) and that was co-edited with Robert J. Pekkanen and Yutaka Tsujinaka. Both subjects are among the many topics examined by students enrolled in the Center for Public Administration and Policy’s Certificate in Nonprofit Management and its Certificate in Nonprofit Financial Management.

Among the questions Smith addressed in his talk include:

  • Should a nonprofit advocate for its mission and its constituents with a goal of affecting public policy?
  • What are the limits of such advocacy work?
  • Will such efforts fundamentally jeopardize nonprofit work?
  • What can studies of nonprofit advocacy efforts reveal?

Following Smith’s lecture, CPAP Assistant Professor Adam Eckerd discussed several additional challenges that nonprofits face today. Key points that Eckerd raised included the challenges nonprofits face when attempting to measure advocacy effectiveness and convey this information to the public, and the potential implications for funding and reputation of wading into contentious political debates.