Funding advocacy can have the feel of going for a wilderness mountain hike on an extremely dark and foggy night. We know there’s much to be gained, potentially, and, there are some potential pitfalls. Is there a map? Might we end up on private property? Get fined? What if the property is guarded by a large and angry dog?
Luckily, there are tools available to help you map the terrain and remove some of the unknowns, so, as a funder, you can feel more confident as you explore how advocacy strategies might help your foundation, and your partners, reach their goals.
As a starting place, “4 Ideas to Help your Foundation Discuss Advocacy.” , Bolder Advocacy explores ways of beginning the conversation. As they note, “Without a clear and consistent understanding of what advocacy is and isn’t, foundations may avoid funding and supporting advocacy.” Think of this as reaching a decision on what wilderness hiking even means and whether you’re potentially up for it.
The piece outlines simple, clear and straightforward steps for gaining clarity. Each section has useful information to support you as you:
- Think about the definition
- View advocacy as one of many strategies
- Consider how advocacy can further a foundation’s mission
- Discuss advocacy with your staff and/or trustees
Once your foundation has some clarity, when you’ve reached a shared understanding and are ready to explore, more deeply, what it might mean to act, there’s also Bolder Advocacy’s “Philanthropy Advocacy Playbook.” It’s comprehensive and covers the spectrum—from dispelling myths and understanding the legal rights, through to choosing the right approach, evaluating and getting the board “on board.”
And, just in case you were wondering, advocacy funding isn’t only for large foundations. According to the Playbook, “All foundations, and more especially smaller ones, are finding they can have an outsized impact by supporting smart, strategic policy campaigns that lead to big changes.”
Looking for examples and inspiration? “Words to Give By: Leading Voices in Advocacy Funding,” shares interviews with 23 seasoned advocacy funders. From this, here are the word of Holding Cater III, former President and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation:
“We should be enabling people, through our grantmaking, to speak more vigorously on their own behalf about what is being done to further diminish the quality of their lives. It is in precisely the hard times that strong voices are needed.”