Advocacy is a long game, and it can be messy at times. However, when combined with grantmaking, advocacy is a powerful tool to advance system change, strengthen relationships with your grantee partners, and enhance learning and understanding around the issues your foundation supports.
Helping your board understand the broader concept of advocacy will help shift the conversation toward what you can do. While our foundation advocacy journey is still relatively new, here are some of its building blocks.
Getting Your Board Over Its Fear and Anxiety About Advocacy
- Advocacy can include many different elements, large and small. Provide board members with examples of how other foundations activate advocacy and the results of those efforts. Exponent is one source of advocacy stories and examples, via its blog, podcasts, and Advocacy Field Guide.
- Engage board members in conversations with other foundations that support advocacy.
- Invite a legal expert whose practice area includes foundations and advocacy to speak with your board about what you can support as a foundation. I think board members will be surprised about the many ways you can engage in advocacy.
- Identify incremental steps: technical assistance, op-eds, letters of support, and other ways to amplify the voice of the communities you’re serving.
- Fund research! This can be an important aspect of advocacy that helps to inform, educate, and engage. Yet, it’s very low-risk.
- Act as a convener and support knowledge-sharing among your nonprofit partners.
- Choose a nonprofit with whom to partner on your first effort. Identify first incremental steps, and invite that partner to share the progress of that work with your board.
Oftentimes, we hear from our partners that as a foundation we can open doors, amplify credibility, and expand awareness in a way that a nonprofit might not have the resources or bandwidth to achieve. We had to shift our own thinking and understanding that incremental steps—funding a study, providing data, supporting the development of a messaging platform—are important building blocks that support larger, long-term system change. These incremental steps grow more impactful over time.
Additional Resources to Begin Your Advocacy Journey
Advocacy Field Guide for Lean Funders
The core of the guide is a set of seven practical, field-tested steps for funding and engaging in advocacy, such as discovering the salient arguments that will move decisionmakers, finding and using effective data, and recruiting unexpected messengers. Download >>
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About the Author
Angela Hult’s career spans philanthropy, global media, strategic communications, and social impact investing. As President of the Kuni Foundation she applies an entrepreneurial approach to the development of grant programs, advocacy, communications, and mission investing in service to advancing innovations in cancer research and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.