Best Practices and Emerging Trends in Advocacy Grantmaking

Published: January 2012

Type: Publication

Foundations make many choices in designing and supporting advocacy portfolios. Best practices can guide this work. 

Tanya Beer

Advocacy grantmaking best practices aim to create the funding conditions under which advocacy organizations can perform at their best and increase their capacity for effective work over time.

Seven best practices for advocacy grantmaking include:

  1. Providing unrestricted general operating support.
  2. Offering multi-year grants and taking the long view.
  3. Funding at higher dollar amounts to build capacity.
  4. Looking for interim outcomes that signal progress rather than holding grantees accountable for a policy “win.”
  5. Creating flexible reporting requirements and timelines.
  6. Not applying traditional program evaluation models to advocacy work.
  7. Designing grantmaking and auxiliary supports that build advocacy capacity.

Funders should think carefully about the appropriate composition of a grant portfolio, the nature of the work program officers do to manage it, and what kind of outcomes to look for as signals of success. Different models for this include the:

  • Policy Target Approach
  • Network Approach
  • Social Movement Approach
  • Advocacy Niche Approach
  • Field Building Approach

The overarching question guiding funders’ choices is: What kind of foundation do you want to be?