Social Work

Selected resources at the Monmouth University Library useful for locating information in the field of Social Work

What is the Difference Between a Think Tank, Foundation, Non-Profit, & Advocacy Group?

Think tanks are research institutes that seek to play a key role in making and influencing global, regional and national policy. Think tanks engage in research and advocacy in a range of areas such as social policy and politics. Think tank researchers influence public opinion and public policy, which is a different focus from most traditional academic research at a university. They are generally funded from charitable and/or corporate sources. The main output of think tanks is the publication of their research and policy work. Most are non-profit organizations.


Advocacy Groups in Social Work - The social work advocate represents clients (individuals, formal and informal groups, and communities) by standing up for, serving, or communicating on behalf of them. Or, the advocate represents a cause, which is a social problem that impacts a group of people with similar interests or concerns. Outside of social work, advocacy groups may also be known as interest groups, lobbying groups, or pressure groups. These groups seek to influence public opinion and public policy. 

Source: Encyclopedia of Social Work Database 

Foundations are private institutions for public benefit. foundations are a growing organizational form that policy makers increasingly view with both potential (as a source of private funds to complement government services) and caution (given their autonomy and low level of accountability).

Source: Encyclopedia of Social Work Database 

Non-profit Organizations - "nonprofit” is the term commonly used in the United States to describe organizations that may have historically been called “charities” and includes both religious and secular organizations. Nonprofits are unique because of their dependence on donations or grants from outside the organization (by individuals, foundations, and government) and because they exist to serve the public (as opposed to private) good.

Source: Encyclopedia of Social Work Database 

A Community Based Organization is a public or private nonprofit organization of demonstrated effectiveness that— (A) is representative of a community or significant segments of a community; and (B) provides educational or related services to individuals in the community.

Source: Cornell Legal Information Institute 

To learn more about an organization, search on Charity Navigator. This site offers free access to data and tools to help navigate more than 200,000 charitable organizations.

Finding NGOs and IGOs

To search thousands of IGO's (Intergovernmental organizations) or NGO's (non-governmental organizations) at once, try:

IGO Search by the Union of International Associations: 
GuideStar by Candid (free version):

Resource Links for Think Tanks, Non-Profits, & Foundations

Liberal Leaning Think Tanks

Center for American Progress

"The Center for American Progress is an independent, nonpartisan policy institute that is dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans through bold, progressive ideas, as well as strong leadership and concerted action. Our aim is not just to change the conversation, but to change the country." 

The Center for Family Policy and Practice (CFFPP)

"The Center is a progressive policy think tank that uses technical assistance, policy research and analysis, and public education and outreach to advocate on behalf of low-income families and develop public awareness of their needs. Because of limited advocacy and policy analysis from the perspective of very low-income and unemployed men of color, the Center focuses on their perspective with regard to these issues."

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

"We are a nonpartisan research and policy institute that advances federal and state policies to help build a nation where everyone — regardless of income, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ZIP code, immigration status, or disability status — has the resources they need to thrive and share in the nation’s prosperity."

Economic Policy Institute (EPI)

"The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. EPI believes every working person deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care, and retirement security."

Human Rights Watch

"Human Rights Watch investigates and reports on abuses happening in all corners of the world. We are roughly 550 plus people of 70-plus nationalities who are country experts, lawyers, journalists, and others who work to protect the most at risk, from vulnerable minorities and civilians in wartime, to refugees and children in need. We direct our advocacy towards governments, armed groups and businesses, pushing them to change or enforce their laws, policies and practices."

Institute for Women's Policy Research

"We win economic equity for all women and eliminate barriers to their full participation in society. As a leading national think tank, we build evidence to shape policies that grow women’s power and influence, close inequality gaps, and improve the economic well-being of families."

The Urban Institute

"The Urban Institute is a nonprofit research organization that provides data and evidence to help advance upward mobility and equity. We are a trusted source for changemakers who seek to strengthen decision making, create inclusive economic growth, and improve the well-being of families and communities."

Conservative Leaning Think Tanks

American Enterprise Institute (AEI)

"The American Enterprise Institute is a public policy think tank dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world."

The Cato Institute

Conservative Leaning- "The Cato Institute supports libertarian positions on a range of political issues. The Cato Institute is aligned with right-of-center economic policy, supporting reductions in federal taxes, widespread economic deregulation, free trade, and minimized government spending on entitlement programs. The Institute has also supported left-of-center positions on a number of social issues, calling for the expansion of immigration, the legalization of all drugs, left-of-center changes to policing, reduced incarceration, decreased military spending, and a non-interventionist approach to foreign policy."

The Heritage Foundation

"A conservative think tank promoting public policy research and analysis based on free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."

Centrist or Nonpartisan Think Tanks

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI)

"Founded in 2015, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) conducts and communicates independent, high-quality research to improve education policy and practice. LPI seeks to advance evidence-based policies at the local, state, and federal levels that support empowering and equitable learning for each and every child."

Pew Research Center

"Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. We conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research. We do not take policy positions."


"RAND is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous."

The Brookings Institution 

"The Brookings Institution conducts independent research to improve policy and governance at the local, national, and global levels."

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

"Carnegie experts are thinkers and doers from diverse disciplines and perspectives working together across borders to advance international peace. Our scholars focus on cross-cutting topical analysis on democracy, technology, climate and more while understanding the regional context in Asia, Africa, Europe, India, the Middle East, and Russia and Eurasia."