Strategy Behind the Design of Advocacy Communications Support

Published: May 2017

Type: Publication

How can foundations best support grantees’ advocacy communications? This brief offers lessons based on the experiences of advocacy grantmaking initiatives.


Foundations that fund advocacy understand the critical role communications play in policy change efforts. As such, they seek to integrate communications expertise into their work. But efforts to integrate communications are not universal. Nor do they universally work well.

Some foundations have a communications team or a lone staff person focused on organizational branding, reputation management, and publication development and dissemination, yet many do not include communications staff as part of the change strategy. And despite a decade of appeals in philanthropic literature to integrate communications into strategy development, some of the largest foundations with dedicated strategic communications staff still struggle to embed this expertise into advocacy grantmaking.

Even for a foundation with a large budget and dedicated communications staff with advocacy expertise, too often there are too few communication staff to support every initiative or program area.

This requires program officers to do their best—and then hope for the best—when it comes to decisions about advocacy communications. This brief is intended to help. Its target is not foundation communications officers and consultants who already are well versed in advocacy communications.

This brief aims to serve foundation program or communications staff newer to advocacy who are designing advocacy grantmaking initiatives and struggling with questions about how to best support grantees’ advocacy communications.

It draws on lessons about advocacy communications support from the experiences of four advocacy grantmaking initiatives.