Frequently Asked Questions About State Policy Network
What is State Policy Network?
State Policy Network is the only organization in the country dedicated solely to building and mobilizing a durable state-based infrastructure for freedom. SPN supports a powerful movement of 66 independent state think tank affiliates and over 80 associate partners. We do this by:
- Incubating think tanks to help them get off the ground and accelerating their development through strategic planning, training, coaching, and other leadership development;
- Connecting talented state leaders so they can learn, challenge, and grow together with the aim of cultivating state solutions that collectively yield national impact; and
- Defending the 50-state think tank network by disseminating best legal practices, providing critical resources when members are attacked, and fighting organized assaults on free speech and donor privacy.
What do state think tanks do?
State think tanks serve important roles in educating citizens about the effects of public policies on their everyday lives and holding governments accountable to the public.
State think tanks foster healthy policy debate by providing technical expertise and practical public policy solutions to help solve some of our country’s greatest challenges at the state and national levels. The free-market policy approach employed by affiliated state think tanks helps to identify policies that are focused on helping all people to flourish.
Think tanks also serve the important role of informing the public about the likely consequences of policy recommendations. Government has grown so big and complex over the years that it can be difficult for the average person with a job and family to dig into the details of complex policy, let alone identify all the potential consequences policy proposals can have on their lives and communities. Think tanks help to fill this void through research and analysis.
Think tanks also help to hold government accountable to the public. Government agencies often produce studies and analysis so complimentary to big government that most citizens feel disconnected, as though the system is insulating itself from the transparency and accountability that is essential to maintaining American liberties and prosperity. Thus, think tanks, with their independent research, were created to keep average citizens and policymakers informed so that government is accountable to the public.
Are State Policy Network and the affiliated independent state think tanks nonpartisan?
While partisans support political parties, State Policy Network is in the business of advancing think tanks and solutions that transform the lives of citizens in each state, fostering a society where individuals can be healthier, happier, and more prosperous. That is why we and our affiliates maintain independence from any partisan activity or label so we can focus on what matters most to us: making the lives of everyday Americans better. SPN and its affiliates are nonpartisan and will work with any interested policymaker to ensure information is available to make sound decisions for the entire state.
How do I get in touch with a specific state think tank?
Visit the State Policy Network directory for contact information of a specific state think tank.
How many state think tanks are affiliates of State Policy Network?
There are 66 independent, nonpartisan state think tank members. A listing of all state think tanks can be found here.
How can an organization join State Policy Network?
Affiliation with SPN is by invitation only. All affiliated think tanks must be based in a state or U.S. territory and focus primarily on free-market solutions to policy challenges facing states and the nation. State think tank affiliates must be nonpartisan, not accept government funding, and have a 501(c)(3) IRS designation.
Does State Policy Network direct the work of the state think tanks?
Since our founding and by design, each affiliate state think tank is completely independent. SPN is an affiliate-driven operation: our services and training are prioritized and directed from robust affiliate surveys, evaluations, and feedback loops. State Policy Network exists to incubate new state think tanks so they have a viable launch; accelerate their development through strategic planning, training and coaching; connect state think tanks to facilitate the exchange of ideas and best practices that lead to policies that help people live better, more prosperous lives; and defend the network by disseminating best legal practices and counsel.
Do State Policy Network or the state think tanks engage in issue advocacy?
Through training and the sharing of best practices, State Policy Network helps state think tanks leverage communications strategies and tactics so that we can reach wider audiences with our policy research and analysis. When it comes to IRS regulations, the rules state that 501(c)(3) organizations “may take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office.”
Do State Policy Network or the state think tanks engage in lobbying?
Think tanks produce sound nonpartisan analysis and research on public policy and then seek to educate the public and legislators on the findings of their analysis in the broad social and economic context. Their primary role is policy education and not lobbying.
IRS regulations state that 501(c)(3) organizations like SPN, the Sierra Club, and the ACLU are permitted some lobbying, provided it is not a substantial part of the organization’s activities. SPN itself does not regularly or extensively engage in such lobbying, as we are a service organization founded to support public policy nonprofits.
How is State Policy Network funded?
State Policy Network is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization. SPN partners with thousands of Americans from every corner of the country who invest in our mission to catalyze thriving, durable freedom movements in every state, anchored with high-performing, independent think tanks.
We receive support from individuals, charitable foundations, and businesses. All our investors support our mission because they wish to join with SPN to advance a free society. We support every American’s right to support causes they believe in. We maintain strict fidelity to our mission and vision, as established by the SPN Board of Directors, and we are proud that so many Americans have chosen to partner with us, many loyally renewing their support year after year.
Does State Policy Network conduct “directed research”?
State Policy Network does not accept restricted gifts that conflict with our mission, priority free-market issues, or core values, nor do we engage in directed research, quid quo pro donations, or “pay for play” of any kind.
Why does SPN protect the privacy of its donors?
Transparency is for government; privacy is for people. Being free to express our opinions about the policy issues of the day without fear of harassment or retribution dates back to America’s founding, when, in the face of great opposition, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay used the pen name “Publius” to write and publish The Federalist Papers in order to educate the public on the rationales for the adoption of the Constitution.
SPN supports the US Supreme Court’s finding in NAACP v. Alabama that people have a right to keep their political and policy beliefs private even if they financially support causes advancing those beliefs. Just as the right to pull the curtain closed behind us as we vote for our chosen candidates is sacrosanct, so too is our right to support charities and interest groups without the information being shared with the wider world.