PhilanthroPolicy 101: An Advocacy Workshop for Foundation Leaders and Trustees


Featuring Phoenix attorney and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Sam Coppersmith and Jason Sabo, founder of Frontera Strategy.

Savvy foundations and public charities understand the importance of educating lawmakers and the public to build awareness about public policies impacting their missions and the communities they serve. But, for many, the legal rules of the road remain murky. Others may hesitate to engage in advocacy work because of perceived conflicts of interest, political pressures or a fear of alienating policymakers. But now more than ever, public policy/advocacy is essential to the work of foundation leaders and trustees.

As the 2016 legislative session got underway, Arizona lawmakers grappled with issues ranging from whether to renew and expand Arizona’s charitable organization tax credit to how to safely reduce the number of children in foster care. They considered whether to restore KidsCare and decide how much to invest in K-12 and higher education, the arts and human services.

Sam Coppersmith demystified the legal framework governing permissible advocacy activities in which foundations and public charities may engage. Attendees left feeling well informed and confident about communicating with lawmakers.

Jason Sabo shared a five-step process for engaging foundation staff and trustees in effective advocacy and highlighted concrete examples from our neighboring states of Texas and New Mexico, where philanthropic leaders are making a positive difference supporting early childhood advocacy.


Sam Coppersmith is a partner at Coppersmith Brockelman PLC. Sam’s practice centers on business and transactional issues, with an emphasis on business organization, corporate governance, exempt organizations, contract negotiation, land use and business planning. He has more than three decades of experience assisting both local and national businesses and nonprofit entities as well as individuals and small businesses. Sam also has extensive political and governmental experience. A former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he served as a member of the Transportation and Science committees. He has also served as the chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, and on numerous state and local boards and commissions.

Sam is the chair of the board of trustees of the Devereux Foundation, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit providers of behavioral health services. Between 1999 and 2008, he wrote a weekly political column for the Tribune newspapers’ Sunday “Perspective” section. He also served as managing partner of our firm from its founding until he stepped down in 2011.

View Sam Coppersmith’s presentation slides here.

Jason Sabo is the founder of Frontera Strategy. Jason has developed a straightforward system for helping nonprofits and philanthropists reach their public policy goals. He has led and assisted efforts to pass legislation and secure appropriations at state capitols across the country for more than a decade. Jason knows the issues and politics important to nonprofits and philanthropy, and he knows how to win. He holds a master’s degree in History from Indiana University.

Frontera Strategy’s clients include the Alliance for Early Success. The Alliance is a national multi-foundation policy consortium promoting early childhood state policies. Jason is currently working with Alliance partners in numerous states to increase philanthropic engagement and investment in state-level early childhood policy.  

View Jason Sabo’s presentation slides here.

Michael Weinberg, early childhood education policy officer at the Thornburg Foundation, works to increase the number of children ready for kindergarten in New Mexico. Previously, as the program evaluation manager for New Mexico’s Legislative Finance Committee, Michael identified opportunities to improve outcomes across the birth to college education continuum. Michael spent the first 14 years of his career in the education trenches as a teacher, literacy coach and principal of a PreK-8 school. Michael earned his doctoral degree from the University of New Mexico in educational leadership, his master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College.

In 2015, the Child Care Exchange recognized Michael as an “Exceptional Emerging Leader.”  What excites Michael most about his current role is the ability to combine his experiences in policy-making with his passion for improving the lives of children. Michael lives with his wife, two daughters and lots of pets in Placitas, New Mexico.