Advocacy Funding: The Philanthropy of Changing Minds

by Tony Proscio

Mar 1, 2005

Grantmakers tend to be cautious about funding advocacy, and for good reason - yet advocacy can play a crucial role in advancing a foundation's mission. In this guide, contributors explain that advocacy includes a lot of opportunities to improve public policy through work that is well within the limits of the law. Whether your purpose is to advance an idea, argue a position, or enrich the policy debate, the guide offers resources and strategies for planning your work, reaching your audience, assessing impact, and more. Highlights

  • What's permissible for foundations
  • Working with grantees who lobby
  • Building a case, cultivating a constituency
  • Preparing for opposition

What's in the Guide?

  • Why Foundations Support Advocacy: For foundations, the pursuit of better public policy is often crucial to achieving their fundamental missions. Advocacy can be an important part of the strategy.
  • Defining Your Role as an Advocacy Funder: An advocacy strategy needs to match a foundation's mission, values, and long-term goals. It should also be in alignment with your level of persistence, grant-making style, and tolerance for public attention.
  • What's Permissible: Foundations, Advocacy, and the Law: U.S. federal law prohibits private foundations from lobbying or expressly funding lobbying -- that is, promoting a particular position on pending legislation. Yet those restrictions still leave a lot of open territory for grant makers who want to improve public policy.
  • Building Knowledge and Will: Tools and Techniques: Grantmakers in advocacy also help to define and describe problems of public concern, and to educate policy makers and their constituents about possible solutions.
  • Identifying and Cultivating a Constituency: Tools and Techniques: Advocacy is typically a collaborative effort in which organizations, coalitions, or movements deliver their message to the wider public. Organizing people and groups that share a common interest and a determination to make change may therefore be part of the task.
  • Preparing for Opposition: When Advocacy Meets Resistance: When advocacy comes up against opposition, the options for action are not solely to attack or retreat. Success may depend on striking the right balance between confrontation and negotiation, resistance and engagement.
  • Defining and Measuring Success: One common fear that keeps grantmakers from funding advocacy is that success is hard to measure. In this section, grantmakers offer approaches to assessing advocacy work.
Advocacy Funding: The Philanthropy of Changing Minds
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