Success Stories and Advocacy Case Studies

Success Stories and Advocacy Case Studies


Throughout our nation’s history, advocacy by nonprofit organizations has led to fundamental reforms in our society that have saved and improved lives and strengthened our democracy. For example, nonprofit advocacy played a critical role in ending slavery, securing the right of women and African Americans to vote, the environmental movement, the minimum wage, and consumer protections. At all levels of public and private decision making, nonprofit has made a positive difference for many causes and people.

By examining case studies and success stories, charitable nonprofits can learn how they too can make a difference for their cause.

CLPI has been collecting and writing nonprofit advocacy success stories to use for training and motivating nonprofits and philanthropy to leverage their resources for change.

The following are many success stories and case studies that you can draw upon

MADD Success Story
"Across the country, everyday people just like you are making a difference in their communities and for the nation. Find a few of their stories here."

For complete story, click here.

Making Friends - Before They Are Needed: "It's Hard to Say 'No' to a Friend"
The tendency to measure legislative "success" by simply counting the number of good bills passed and bad bills defeated can overlook other invaluable victories. John Askew, Executive Director of the Sunrise Arc chapter of the Arc of Florida, reminds us that true legislative success can come in a variety of shapes and forms, including nonprofits becoming friends with policymakers.

For complete story, click here.

Being Prepared Pays Off for Arkansas HIPPY Program
In 2000, the Arkansas affiliate of Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters ("HIPPY"), a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit headquartered in New York, hosted HIPPY’s annual conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. As 600 delegates from across the country gathered, word spread like wildfire through the conference hall that Arkansas’ Governor was about to slash funding for early childhood education programs.

For complete story, click here.

Civic Education Legislation Passed in NC
Usually it takes a number of years to pass major legislation. The civic education legislation passed in North Carolina in 2003 was a striking exception. The measure was introduced in March of 2003 and became law in July of that year. The story illustrates very clearly the importance of foundation funding of organizations that engage in advocacy. Here is how it happened.

For complete story, click here.

A "Mere Mom" Moves Mountains -- And Legislation

Anna McCartney is the embodiment of Arthur Ashe’s quote: “Start where you are; use what you have; do what you can.” This Seattle-area mom, who modestly proclaims “Gee, if I can do it, then anyone can do it,” has worked with various nonprofits to help pass legislation in Congress, the state legislature, and local governments. And to think that it all started with a simple breakfast.

For complete story, click here.

Promise, Progress, Pain: A Case Study of America's Community Mental Health Movement From 1960 - 1980 (by CLPI Founder Bob Smucker)
The purpose of the study is to show the enormous power of the federal government to influence social movements. ... There are at least four, and probably more, possible [ways to use] this case study. 1) Educate students about this episode in American history. 2) Provide insight as to how a social movement began as well as progressed and digressed. 3) Provide first hand impressions about the successes and failures of the federal government, hospitals and nonprofit advocacy organizations to improve care for persons with mental illness. 4) Help anyone who is interested in government, public policy formation, politics, social movements, nonprofit advocacy, health care and social work to come to better understand this critical period in the history of mental illness, homelessness, and the great society.

For complete case study, click here.

For additional examples of how nonprofit lobbying has changed organizations and changed lives, click here.

Additional Resources

The Advocacy Institute and Oxfam America’s publication, Advocacy for Social Justice: A Global Action and Reflection Guide.

Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest's publication: Make a Difference for your Cause (available for free download and purchase on CLPI's Publication page)

David Aron's book, Power in Policy

National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing and Civic Engagement in North Carolina.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Public Policy Grantmaking by U.S. Foundations.


"Getting the change you want in public policy will occur most readily when you join with other groups in coalition."

Elizabeth M. Heagy

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