Levels of Advocacy Operation: Individuals, Organizations, Collaboratives or Networks?

Mobilizing individuals directly may be the easiest approach to understand, but it’s usually the hardest to accomplish. To stir individuals to carry out or advocate for change directly, it may be necessary to apply mass media in a sufficiently sustained and concentrated way to reach thousands or millions of people with a persuasive message.

Funding organizations to advocate for new ideas is the most widely used approach among grantmakers, and one with many successes. But aiming grants solely at influential organizations has its limits. Over time, even very popular, widely respected organizations come to occupy a niche in public policy discussions.

To overcome those limits, advocates and funders sometimes form collaboratives — or organizations of organizations. A collaborative may include a staff and a designated chair, committees and a division of responsibility, and sometimes a small executive committee or leadership group. The strength of a collaborative is its ability to gather different constituencies, ways of thinking about an issue, and styles of leadership and advocacy, all focused on a common cause.

More and more, funders are beginning to explore a different model of collaboration, involving not just formal collaborative bodies but also decentralized networks. These tend to feature open paths of communication among actors at all levels, involving both planned, regular forums and spontaneous, ad hoc communication going on constantly. Participants may work in far-flung parts of the country, concentrate on different levels of government and policy making, occupy varying ranks or branches within their organizations...

EXAMPLE: A grantmaker in civil rights believes that some of her most significant and lasting accomplishments have been in helping to form a network of committed people in many fields loosely connected with civil rights. She describes it this way: “These were people from fields whose goals were objectively interlinked, but whose movements were in reality completely walled off from one another. We had environmentalists, trade unionists, civil rights people, academics, education people, community economic development people, businesspeople, all committed to building a more equitable society, from their various vantage points. Amazing things have come about because of people in that group calling each other and saying, ‘How can I help?’”

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by GrantCraft using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Advocacy Funding.

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