Small Targets vs. Larger Ones

Grantmakers often struggle with the question of whether their advocacy would be more likely to succeed if they aimed at small, narrowly defined issues — things that could be adopted or enacted fairly quickly by an easily targeted group of people. Examples mentioned to us included changing one state’s policies for shelter eligibility and altering a single provision in state law to allow more people to be covered by public health insurance. A few foundations have intentionally aimed at much larger targets, such as cutting rates of smoking or teen pregnancy, or increasing public receptivity to school vouchers nationwide. They say that big targets, if wisely pursued, can yield historic rewards. A grantmaker whose foundation successfully supported a campaign to change U.S. transportation policy argued, “Some funders told us to pick something small, technical, short term. If we’d done that, we wouldn’t have accomplished the sea change that we have seen. It was important to tackle this big target, even though we know it couldn’t be finished in ten years, because we knew that others wouldn’t tackle it, and a winnable cause might be lost while everyone dealt with it only on the margins.”

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This takeaway was derived from Advocacy Funding.

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