The New Parameters of Our Policy Work

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The New Parameters of Our Policy Work
by Michael Hamill Remaley, SVP, Public Policy & Communications
This piece was originally published as the feature article of the December 2016 issue of the New York PhilanthroPost Policy Edition.

Philanthropy New York’s Board of Directors has refined our official procedures for taking policy positions to more clearly articulate the parameters of our work, and they are important distinctions that all of our members should understand in this particular era. 

But first, I should give a little more background about how the Board came to this evolution.  The previous “Process for Public Policy Efforts” document was approved by the Board in 2011 before we really began to do policy work and before our members began to ask us to take specific positions. It said that PNY would only take positions on issues affecting the philanthropic sector, but that mandate has been interpreted narrowly or more broadly from one member to the next.  Our new “Official Procedures for Public Policy Procedures” provides greater specificity and also retains members’ ability to make the case that an issue fits within those parameters.

The revised language came about through in-depth discussions with the Public Policy Committee and the Board of Directors in the context of our larger strategic planning process. 

While I encourage members to read the entire document on our website, this is the language delineating what types of issues we might address in our policy statements: “Philanthropy New York staff, Policy Committee or a member may initiate the process for taking an official position.  The overriding factors to be considered are: 

  1. The relevance and importance of the issue to the philanthropic sector and Philanthropy New York members
  2. The potential impact taking a stand might have on the issue itself, on Philanthropy New York’s members, on our organization and/or the nonprofits our members support.
  3. The potential divisiveness of the issue within the membership.”

This language is intended to denote that Philanthropy New York will only move through our process those issues that directly affect the philanthropic sector or sector’s ability to carry out its work within the larger nonprofit sector, as opposed to issues that may be of concern within various funding areas such as education, environment, social justice, health and the countless other issues our members support. 

To be clear, we will continue to support those members who want to come together with other funders for collaborative projects in programmatic subject areas, and those funders may want to take an official stand.  For example, we are very proud of our work supporting the sixteen funders who came together under the banner of Education Funders Research Initiative to produce “Six Priorities” on education reform in New York City.

We hope that members will continue to tell us how we can best support their work in the policy arena and our Public Policy Committee welcomes all suggestions from members about which policy areas should be our top priorities in 2017.  

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