Advocacy & Public Policy Grantmaking: Matching Process to Purpose

Published: August 2012

Type: Publication

How should foundations approach their advocacy and public policy grantmaking? This report offers three options and explores what it means for foundations to design grantmaking that builds the capacity and influence of an advocacy field. 

Tanya Beer

As foundations consider how to approach their advocacy and public policy grantmaking, an understanding of their options and the associated pros and cons can build on the lessons that already have been learned in the field.

Supported by The Colorado Trust, this report summarizes advocacy and public policy grantmaking approaches and their implications for grant portfolio composition and management, auxiliary supports, and evaluation.

Research revealed two approaches to advocacy and public policy grantmaking for which foundation practices and processes are fairly well established: a policy target approach to achieve the passage, implementation, or maintenance of a funder’s specific policy goal; and an advocacy niche approach to strengthen the presence or influence of a particular function within the policymaking process, such as policy analysis or grassroots mobilization. Research also identified an emerging approach that is less well defined: field-building to develop the stability and long-term adaptive capacity of a group, or field, of advocates.

While many funders choose a combination of these approaches, some prefer a single approach. These approaches are not mutually exclusive, and may even be mutually supportive; but each approach has unique implications for grantee selection, organizational processes, program officer roles and evaluation.

The options for each approach can help foundations establish a common language and understand the tradeoffs of different paths.