October 28, 2019
In this post, we’ll be taking a closer look at what advocacy work is and how it can complement direct service work, some of the challenges involved in fundraising for advocacy, and best practices for preparing compelling requests – all of which will help you find, pursue, and win more grants for your advocacy activities.
The Alliance for Justice defines advocacy as any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others. Advocacy is a powerful catalyst for change that can improve the laws, policies, and systems that impact entire communities. For the purpose of this article, we think of advocacy as systems change – in particular, policy change.
On the other hand, we define direct service as the provision of resources, programs, and benefits that work to address the symptoms of social problems and meet the immediate needs of your target population. Some common examples of direct services organizations include health clinics, food pantries, soup kitchens, and organizations that provide services like individual skills training or education, mentoring, or case management.
For direct services agencies, the most common types of advocacy are:
There are many funders who recognize the synergies between direct service and advocacy, but there are many more (particularly at the local level) who are not well versed in the relationship between advocacy, direct service, and their own philanthropic goals. For this reason, fundraising for advocacy has several built-in challenges that are helpful to be aware of from the start.
For instance, local funders and foundations that are used to funding direct services may not always have the staff or the bandwidth to discuss specific proposals and advocacy strategies, to learn more about how an organization’s advocacy work aligns with their impact goals. Relatedly, these funders often shy away from funding advocacy because they conflate advocacy work with lobbying.
On the other hand, while there may be fewer funders willing to fund advocacy activities compared to direct services, the good news is that the funders who do fund advocacy often offer larger and/or multi-year grant awards, more general operating support, and a different (and often less-intense) focus on outcomes during the grant period – because they understand the nature of this type of work.
Of course, to win grant awards to support your organization’s advocacy work, you’ll have to prepare a persuasive proposal that makes a strong case for funding.
When it comes to drafting a strong proposal, knowing how to frame your outcomes, goals, and objectives in the context of advocacy is often a major stumbling block. It may help to think of them as follows:
If we zoom out one step further, here is an example of how to approach some other key sections of your grant proposal when you’re requesting support for advocacy activities:
In short, your objective in your grant application should be to clearly illustrate the change you’re hoping to achieve, how you expect that change will play out over time, and the role your organization will play in producing that change.
Join Eric and Noura at the GPA National Conference in November, for a panel discussion for nonprofit professionals on how to make the case for advocacy funding! To learn more about the topics that other Elevate staff will be presenting at the conference this year, stay tuned for upcoming blog posts.