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Investing in Change: The Importance of Supporting Advocacy

When a foundation gives money directly to a program that provides community services, the impact is seen immediately: low-income children receive a new educational program or a charity hospital can provide health care to individuals in need. Supporting advocacy is a little different. The impact may be harder to see and measure at first, but changes in public policy are often a precursor to the meaningful, long-term success vital to tackling larger community challenges. This fact sheet shows how supporting advocacy is, quite simply, one of the most powerful tools available to foundations for creating change.







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Lobbying Defined for Private Foundations

This fact sheet explains what activities count as lobbying under federal tax law for private foundations. Under federal tax law, private foundations incur a prohibitive tax on any lobbying expenditures, so it is important for private foundations to know exactly what activities meet the definition of lobbying.









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Webinar Recap – Strengthening the Field of Black Male Achievement: Strategies for Success

During this webinar, we were joined by policy and communications experts who’ve been building and sustaining the Black Lives Matter movement for years. Through the lens of the Foundation Center’s landmark report, “Building a Beloved Community: Strengthening the Field of Black Male Achievement” we explored the capacity-building and systems-change strategies from the bird’s eye to the grassroots to learn what’s working.





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Webinar Recap – Community Voices Heard: Engaging Constituents for Social, Economic and Racial Justice

Learn how CVH builds leadership development and collective power towards broader goals of government transparency and social justice. We explored case studies around three impact issues: welfare policy reform, public housing reform, and participatory budgeting. We also learned what it looks like to fund this work. Attendees learned how funding community engagement can fit into a broader social change grantmaking strategy.    





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Defining, Building, and Measuring Capacity: Findings From an Advocacy Evaluation

This article reports on results from Mathematica Policy Research’s evaluation of Consumer Voices for Coverage, a program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support the role of consumer health advocacy coalitions in 12 states. The foundation based the program on a study that identified six core advocacy capacities, and designed it to strengthen these capacities. The evaluation found that the level of funding, substantial and targeted technical assistance, and the three-year time frame of the program contributed to the observed increases in five capacities. Fundraising remained the lowest-rated capacity for most of the coalitions and may require different Read more





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Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities: Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing and Civic Engagement in the Gulf/Midsouth Region

This report looks at how 20 nonprofits in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi and their allies helped improved their communities and amplified the voices of underserved residents in the democratic process through policy engagement. These nonprofits leveraged foundation grants that generated a $114 return for every dollar spent.







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Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environment and Climate Funders

This report argues that more money needs to go towards grassroots organizing and advocacy for the environment and climate change movements to regain momentum and win important legislative and regulatory battles. Environment and climate funders can become effective resources of a strong and successful movement for change by decreasing their reliance on national advocacy groups and increasing funding for grassroots communities that are directly impacted by environmental harms.





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Consumer Voices for Coverage: Advocacy Evaluation Toolkit

The Advocacy Evaluation Toolkit contains the instruments Mathematica used to collect data for evaluating the Consumer Voices for Coverage program. It explains how the instruments were developed, what each was designed to measure, and how Mathematica used them for the evaluation. Although the instruments in the toolkit were designed to collect data for the grant program and reflect its structure and goals, they can be adapted for other situations and uses, ranging from an organization’s informal self-assessment to shape its activities to a comprehensive evaluation. The toolkit suggests some of these adaptations. For people who might not be familiar with evaluation methods, Read more





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The Colorado’s Trust’s Advocacy Funding Strategy: Lessons Learned for Funders of Advocacy Efforts

In an effort to help advance the field of advocacy and public policy funding, The Colorado Trust published this evaluation report as a joint effort between funder and evaluator, describing where they saw success, where they saw failure, and lessons learned along the way.







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A Model for Multilevel Advocacy Evaluation

The Colorado Trust provided three years of general operating support to nine advocacy organizations working to increase access to health through policy change work. The nine grantees had a variety of goals and strategies and had different levels of organizational capacity, but were evaluated using a uniform evaluation approach. The evaluation was designed to build grantees’ own evaluation capacity to incorporate real-time feedback, monitor progress toward goals, and to assess growth in the overall health advocacy community in Colorado. Individual grantees identified short- and intermediate- term outcomes related to The Trust’s intermediate outcomes, which were in turn related to the Read more





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Expanding Organizational Advocacy Capacity: Reflections From the Field

Organizational advocacy capacity is an increasingly important area of inquiry, raising questions about the opportunities (and limits) for achieving and sustaining policy change. The California Endowment implemented the Clinic Consortia Policy and Advocacy Program to expand grantee advocacy capacity to support the policy and operational needs of California’s community clinics. In-person meetings with decision-makers and developing working relationships were among the key advocacy activities undertaken by 19 grantees. Grantees secured several policy wins through a variety of strategies, including mobilizing member clinics to be potent advocates. The “return on investment analysis” indicates that grantees secured policymaker support for clinic programs Read more





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Finding the Win in Wicked Problems: Lessons From Evaluating Public Policy Advocacy

Many of the social issues private foundations and other philanthropies attempt to address — poverty, homelessness, global climate change — are wicked problems. That is, they defy easy definition, lack permanent solutions, and have multiple stakeholders. The wicked problems framework helps make explicit the challenging nature of the issue to be addressed, requires an inclusive style of leadership that seeks stakeholder involvement, and demands candid exchange among stakeholders about the nature of the problem and effectiveness of efforts to address it. A wicked problems framework provides a set of criteria and questions for evaluators of advocacy efforts to ask all Read more





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Is the Policy Win All? A Framework for Effective Social-Justice Advocacy

This article offers a theory-of-change framework to help those engaged in social-justice advocacy to reflect on whether social-justice values are being retained in the process. A reproductive rights effort in South Africa provides an example of how social justice values can be lost in the advocacy process. The failure to sustain work on the ground pointed to the need to maintain a base of support even after a policy victory. Strategies must be revisited as social and political contexts change. One of the critical social-justice values that supports the establishment and maintenance of alliances is collaboration, which must continue to Read more





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Measuring the Impacts of Advocacy and Community Organizing: Application of a Methodology and Initial Findings

The increasing emphasis by funders on strategic grantmaking and measurable outcomes may be a disincentive to support policy and advocacy work, because of the perception that outcomes can be difficult to assess. A tool for measuring impact can reduce the barriers to funding advocacy and policy work. The tool draws upon the literature on evaluating advocacy and organizing, social capital building efforts, and return on investment approaches to evaluation. The tool was applied in two sites, where funders found it useful to understand advocacy impacts and learn how advocacy can enhance their grantmaking goals.





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Strategic Communications for Influence: Lessons From the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Its KIDS COUNT Initiative

This article describes how the Annie E. Casey Foundation is using the KIDS COUNT Network in a new way: as a strategic communications tool in its focused efforts toward policy change, broad social change, and improved conditions for vulnerable children and families. An outcome map illustrates links between this strategy and the intended outcomes. Case illustrations of KIDS COUNT grantee activities surrounding the release of the 2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book describe the efforts of grantees in six states where the quantity and quality of media coverage surrounding the national data book reflected the kind of coverage that Casey believes Read more





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Setting the Table for a Sustainable and Just Food System

As consumers and producers, people of color have been affected disproportionately by systemic problems in the food system. This article describes the Diversifying Leadership for Sustainable Food Policy initiative, a joint effort of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to build the capacity of organizations led by people of color to engage in policy and advocacy work. Grantees successfully built their capacity to engage in policy work (e.g., increased capacity to identify policy targets), increased their organizational capacity (e.g., diversified boards), improved their communities’ capacity (e.g., created opportunities for dialogue and improved access to fresh Read more





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Turning the Ship: Moving From Clinical Treatment to Environmental Prevention: A Health Disparities Policy Advocacy Initiative

This article examines success factors for a statewide initiative to reduce health disparities by establishing environmental policies to reduce asthma risk factors for school-aged children. Twelve local coalitions and a statewide network focused on schools, housing, and outdoor air policies. Multiple types and levels of policy advocacy were encouraged by the Initiative so that issues at the local level linked to larger issues across the state, and conversely state-level policies supported local endeavors. Factors that contributed to the success of the initiative included: structuring the initiative on a systems change model; employing multiple technical assistance providers to assure fidelity to Read more





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The Trenton Afterschool Partnership: Expanding Learning Time Citywide Through Public/Private Collaboration

High quality after-school programs have been demonstrated to have significant impact on student performance. Preceding the Trenton Afterschool Partnership (TAP) was a hodgepodge of programs that cost various contributors about $9 million. These programs, of unequal quality, served about 1,500 students in 15 out of Trenton’s 21 public schools. TAP (which includes the Princeton Area Community Foundation) was able to successfully implement programs in all of the Trenton schools. Budget cuts have forced the reduction of the programs, but about half of the schools have been able to maintain programs. Foundations are encouraged to support advocacy capacity and to provide Read more





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Advanced Intensive Grantmaking

This course is targeted to philanthropists, foundation staff and trustees, and individual funders with at least five years of experience. It includes an in-depth analysis of the cutting edge issues in the grantmaking field, such as outcome models, impact philanthropy, advocacy, alternative and inter-sector approaches, and more. The curriculum is modified each time based on emerging developments in the field.