Advocacy Funding

The Philanthropy of Changing Minds

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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.

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

"The key to changing policy was to make people realize that this is an issue that affects everybody's life. So if you're going to be effective in changing it, you can't just bring in one voice."

- A grantmaker on collaboration

"You can maybe get a few controversial grants approved if you sugarcoat them, but advocacy is a long-term business, and your support is going to be very short-term if it's based on incomplete information."

 - A grantmaker on managing the expections of foundation colleagues

"Polls consistently showed a majority in favor of the idea. The problem was, no one thought anything could ever be done about it. We had to show that there was a real movement, that people were doing something, and that there was a reason to get involved and make your views known."

- A grantmaker on using mass media to build a constituency


The Challenge of Assessing Policy and Advocacy Activities
Blueprint Research & Design, produced for The California Endowment
This "state of the field" report provides an overview of the challenges involved in assessing policy change work. Includes practical advice from grantmakers and funders on developing a theory of change, considerations for selecting and measuring benchmarks, and insights for working with grantees.
[PDF - 58 pages]

One Foundation's Story: The New Hampshire Charitable
Foundation Makes a Significant Impact with Public Policy

Elizabeth Banwell, Aspen Institute, Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy Program
This case study looks at lessons learned by this community foundation in its efforts to impact public policy at the state level, address issues on a systemic level, and secure broader social change. While this paper is not intended as a prescriptive model for all foundaitons, it's meant to inspire discussion about having a greater impact by becoming involved in government-related decisions that shape social programs and influence outcomes.
[PDF - 23 pages]