Thinking (and acting) outside the cigarette box

Here’s a ballsy and completely appropriate use of the goodwill accruing to nonprofits: the American Cancer Society’s decision to devote its 2007-8 advertising budget to a campaign arguing the urgent need for repair of our current system of health insurance.  Unlike an announcement by an arts organization, say, that it opposes the war in Iraq, these promotional spots address something related directly to the Society’s mission, namely, protecting people from disease.

But it takes a particular level of strategic thinking for an agency to recognize that public policy decisions have an impact on its day-to-day operations, and often a greater impact than anything the organization itself could accomplish.  And it takes a particular level of courage and sophistication to reject the notion that participation in a public policy debate is "too political" or "too partisan"–or just too risky–for a 501(c)(3) group.

I’m not usually very interested in the disease charities, particularly the behemoths; but all kudos to the American Cancer Society for this move.

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4 Responses to “Thinking (and acting) outside the cigarette box”

  1. Tidy Sum Says:

    This is great news.

    It reminds me of how large international aid nonprofits like Oxfam and many of the other big guns have quadrupled their emphasis on policy advocacy in the past 10 years.

    I think folks are starting to understand that you have to have an aggressive policy game that goes beyond your pet line items in the budget.

    One would hope that the other “disease charities” as you aptly call them will up the ante after learning about ACS’ big play.

    Do the disease guys seem strategically stuck or is it just me?

  2. russburke Says:

    I have always been a believer that more nonprofits (not only the behemoths)should be encouraged to promote public policy, including lobbying, that coheres with their mission. It is likely that a bonifide organizational vision statement can’t have legs without a tacit commitment to public policy.

  3. Sam Davis Says:

    Creating another unfunded, trillon dollar entitlement program is not going to work. There’s a better way. Michael Cannon has these thoughts in a USA Today Op-Ed: http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2007/09/fix-health-care.html

    And, it should be worrisome to all when human service organizations abandon their central missions to engage in public policy initiatives. Donors did not give them money for that purpose and, in my view, it represents a betrayal of donor trust and expectations.

  4. Laura Ginger Says:

    John Seffrin, head of the ACS, used to be a professor here at IU in Applied Health Sciences. This sounds like the kind of creative good idea he would come up with.

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