New Study: Illinois Grantmakers Engage in Advocacy to get the Most Bang for their Buck

Friday, October 15, 2010

4619893377_5a23d04ae3_m[1] 3742117588_2aa62404b2_m[1] Public policy grantmaking has been described as "one of the most powerful tools available to foundations for creating real change."A new survey, conducted by Donors Forum and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy confirms that many Donors Forum Members are using this funding strategy to maximize impact and outlines ways for more foundations to get involved.

Donors Forum distributed a survey to 191 of its grantmaking Members to learn more about their approach to policy engagement. As we continue to broaden the dialogue among funders and between funders and grantees about the value of engaging in advocacy and supporting the policy interests of nonprofits seeking to improve their communities, we wanted to have a baseline understanding of what foundations in Illinois are doing.

Here are the five main findings.  To see the rest of the report, click here.

1. Eight in ten of the grantmakers surveyed reported active involvement in policy outreach and advocacy-related activities, both directly and through their grantees.

2. Two-thirds of respondents provide funding support for policy advocacy-related activities.

3. One-fifth (21 percent) report allocating at least 25 percent of their grant dollars to advocacy-related causes.

4. Board interest or encouragement was the factor most likely to motivate grantmaker advocacy funding.

5. Familiarity with advocacy laws and practices correlates with likelihood of funding advocacy.

As shown by the survey, grantmakers can advocate in a number of ways:

  • Convene stakeholders;
  • Commission policy research;
  • Foster public awareness using media;
  • Provide leadership development to community members;
  • Mobilize citizen participation;
  • Meet with elected officials;
  • Testify before a legislative committee or body.

It is well documented that funding advocacy is a strategy with a high return on investment and one of the most effective ways to bring about positive social change.  We are encouraged to see so many of our Members engaging in this work and will continue to provide information, resources, and opportunities for dialogue to facilitate wise decisions by funders about whether and how to fund advocacy.

 1Alliance for Justice (2004). Investing in change: A funder's guide to supporting advocacy. Washington, DC. Author, pg 1.

~ Laurel O'Sullivan, Vice President, Public Policy

Photo 1:  via Creative Commons.

Photo 2: via Creative Commons

*A special note to public and private foundations.  Make sure you know your rights when it comes to lobbying and advocacy.  For more information: Public foundations, go here and here.  Private foundations, go here.