Profiles: NC policy groups shaping political conversation

A universe of think tanks, grass roots organizers and other nonprofits aim to change public opinion and shape the political conversation. @NCCapitol introduces you to some of the key players wielding influence with lawmakers and the media. We'll add profiles over time. If you know want to know more about a group we haven't listed, email

Legal definitions

There are many different types of nonprofit groups authorized under section 501(c) of the tax code. The most common types operating as nonprofit policy groups in North Carolina are:

501(c)(3) GroupsReligious, educational, charitable, scientific and other organizations that operate as true charities. They are are not subject to taxes and contributions to them may be tax deductible. In general, they are not allowed to engage in political activity and are limited in the amount of lobbying that they may do.

501(c)(4) GroupsCivic leagues, social welfare organizations and local associations of employees. These groups are not subject to taxes, but contributions to them are not tax deductible. They can participate in some political activity.

North Carolina's nonprofit networks

Generally, nonprofit groups that try to influence the policy debate in Raleigh break down in one of three ways: Two-party system in NC Policy groups help set the agenda in Raleigh

Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation funded: Although the foundation is nonpartisan, its staff and board members have ties to Democratic causes and it rarely funds groups on the conservative end of the political spectrum. Most public policy groups with funding from Z. Smith Reynolds are either liberal or center-left in their viewpoint. 

J.W. Pope Foundation funded: Although the foundation is nonpartisan, its mission statement and staff members make clear that policy groups funded by Pope are conservative in nature. Most public policy groups with funding from Pope describe themselves as either conservative or libertarian in their viewpoint.  

Unaligned: There are some influential nonprofit groups that are funded by neither Reynolds nor Pope. These groups may have a political viewpoint or be viewed as leaning to one side of the political spectrum, but don't share connections through North Carolina's largest nonprofit funders. 

Get to know the groups