When people think of philanthropy and the work that foundations do, their first thoughts do not usually go straight to public policy and advocacy work. However, what people often overlook is the unique role that public policy and advocacy play in the effectiveness and overall impact of philanthropy.
Back in 2017, Philanthropy Northwest recognized this gap in the philanthropic sector around policy and advocacy and decided to create a team within the organization dedicated solely to this work. “Promoting policies that support a healthy charitable sector and equity, inclusion and opportunity for the diverse communities in the Northwest is an essential part of living into Philanthropy Northwest’s vision and values,” explains Meredith Higashi, Philanthropy Northwest’s director of public policy and advocacy. As Philanthropy Northwest began to lean into more and more public policy and advocacy work by getting involved with issues like the 2020 Census, the organization recognized a need to further build the team, deciding to hire an intern during the summer of 2018. From there, Marc Moshcatel became Philanthropy Northwest’s very first public policy and advocacy intern and, with the organization’s public policy work continuing to grow even more throughout this past year, he is now making the transition from intern to public policy and advocacy fellow.
Marc has had an interest in public policy since high school and earned both a bachelor's degree in political science from Chapman University and a master's in public administration from the University of Washington. Before starting his internship last summer, he was not familiar with the philanthropic sector or the policies that the field advocated for but was initially drawn to the position because of its involvement with public policy research. As he started to dive deeper into the work that Philanthropy Northwest was doing within public policy, he began to recognize the need for public policy and advocacy within philanthropy.
“A lot of government policies affect how foundations conduct work,” says Marc. “Philanthropic grantees are also affected by government policies. But oftentimes it seems like philanthropy is maybe just a step behind or is just not invested in public policy.”
When it comes to philanthropy playing a more active role, he says, “I think that the role of public policy and advocacy here and in other philanthropic organizations is to take a more active role in the policies that affect them, their grantees and the people they serve.”
Throughout his internship, Marc worked on various projects ranging from tracking updates on legislative developments for the Public Policy Committee to researching sources for the Democracy Lens project to helping put on the Advocacy in Action webinar series. Although, the projects that particularly interested Marc were ones where he had the opportunity to write research memos for issues that the Public Policy Committee were interested in discussing like charitable giving and the private foundation excise tax.
Some of these memos he wrote outlined how certain policy positions aligned or did not align with the Philanthropy Northwest policy filter. “The Philanthropy Northwest policy filter,” he explains, “is a set of criteria that reflect Philanthropy Northwest’s public policy framework. It is a tool that staff and the Committee use to ‘filter’ out issues that maybe are not relevant enough or ready yet for the Board’s deliberation.” Through this deliberate process, the policy team can intentionally guide Philanthropy Northwest’s policy and advocacy work to have the most meaningful impact across the network and in communities.
Because of all of the research memos that were assigned to him throughout his internship, Marc says that they have become some of his favorite projects to work on.
“While I researched, I got to learn things about issues I did not know anything about beforehand. Additionally, Philanthropy Northwest members who read the backgrounders, factsheets and web pages that the policy team created based on this research hopefully learned about how they could be involved in policy work in a particular area.”
As a fellow, Marc will continue to work on writing policy memos as well as keeping tabs on policy developments. He will be taking more of the lead on writing monthly legislative updates for the Public Policy Committee, tracking and explaining all of the relevant legislation he keeps up with and assisting with Philanthropy Northwest’s policy events. He is looking forward to taking on more of these responsibilities as well as having the opportunity to travel more in his new position for policy related events like Foundations on the Hill.
During Marc’s year-long internship, he gained a meaningful perspective on how philanthropy and public policy intersect. He plans on taking his research skills, legislative tracking competence and all the other tools he has learned throughout the internship to his new, exciting role as a fellow. Philanthropy Northwest is so happy to welcome Marc into the organization and we are eager to see all of the great things he and the policy team have in store for the future!