We at the Potts Family Foundation in Oklahoma feel our most important role is not as a funder but as an advocate, convener, and catalyst. Foundations—including those with few staff like ours—have reputation, access, voice, convening power, and passion. Let’s use them to move people to action!
Our activities are part of an effort to raise our state from near bottom to among the top 25 in markers of early childhood well-being by 2025. To address these concerns, the foundation created OK25by25, an early childhood coalition. Progress is being tracked on an annual basis with the help of some 60 organizational members.
Here is some of what our foundation does.
Using Our Voice
So your grant dollars don’t go far? Then be little but loud! Using your voice with people of influence can move others to action, be they business leaders, fellow funders, or policymakers. You have credibility (earned or not) just by virtue of being a funder. You can provide a strong voice for the causes—and the nonprofits—that you care about.
That voice can be through social media, newspaper editorials, presentations to civic groups, and other means. You can involve volunteer spokespersons, training and supporting them in their role as advocates. You can engage expertise and influence on behalf of your cause.
Business leaders need to understand the economic implications of issues. Local and state policymakers seek solutions to challenges their constituents face. The general public needs both facts and stories that help them support evidence-based programs rather than ones based only on emotion or politics. We, as small-staffed foundations or donors, are perfectly positioned to step up and fill these needs.
We find the impact of advocacy is maximized when we have business leaders speak with business leaders, legislators with legislators, and folks who have overcome difficulties with those experiencing the same.
Bringing Others Together
We have been convening experts and learners around greater investment in early childhood education for six years now. In the process, we’ve planned annual conferences, civic group speaking engagements, and legislators reading at child care and Head Start centers.
Most recently we’ve begun organizing free showings of a documentary film on resilience to over 2,600 viewers statewide. Each showing concludes with an interdisciplinary panel sharing how attendees might work together to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) (e.g., child abuse or neglect) in their communities. Our goal is to reach a variety of entities within ten communities in the next two years.
Working with Oklahoma State legislators who are members of our Early Childhood Legislative Caucus, representing legislators on both sides of the aisle and in both houses, we were able to secure passage of legislation creating a task force to make recommendations on best practices to mitigate the impact of trauma on Oklahoma children and advance hope-centered therapy and coping skills.
We also took the initiative to create the Raising Resilient Oklahomans! virtual community on the ACEsConnection.com global website. Following our extremely successful conference in March of this year, we realized the need for a way to connect groups and individuals from across the state who are working to prevent ACEs, healing trauma, and building resilience. Using this resource, along with the 500 contacts we made at the conference, we are in the process of doing just that.
Pat Potts, MBA, co-founded and serves as immediate past president of the Potts Family Foundation. She also founded the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits and served as its president and CEO for over 20 years. Pat was a founder of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition and has served as president of a number of civic organizations.