The Foundation believes that funding advocacy is critical to achieving its mission. Inequities in health are created and reproduced by policies and systems. Advocacy for local, state, and regional policy change and systems reform is essential to achieving meaningful changes in access to quality health care and improvements in the health status of underserved communities in the metropolitan Washington DC region. The laws, regulations, and programs that govern state and local institutions – governments, hospitals, schools, businesses, communities, and nonprofit organizations – affect the health of our area’s residents.
Funding advocacy is also about impact. Changes in policies and systems can affect the lives of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of consumers. It can also have positive impact on the service delivery programs that many funders support. The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has also recently released a report, Leveraging Limited Dollars: How Grantmakers Achieve Tangible Results by Funding Policy and Community Engagement, showing that every $1 grantmakers invest in advocacy produces a $115 return on investment.
To build community support, consumer engagement in advocacy is essential. The Foundation believes that the voice of those who are directly affected by health policies and programs must be heard by policymakers and consumers should be involved in decision-making processes. Informed and empowered consumers and leaders are in the best position to advocate for themselves and their communities.
No single organization has all the capacities to be an effective advocate. Advocacy requires partnerships. The Foundation values alliances and coalitions that are working together to achieve health equity. Developing a system of advocacy requires the engagement of organizations that are involved in community organizing and mobilization, education and research, policy analysis, communications and media outreach, coalition building, and leadership and resource development. Direct service providers and other health professionals also have a role in advocacy. Because of their interaction and relationship with patients, providers understand the issues they face and can recommend policy or program changes to improve the lives of their clients.
Advocacy involves innovation and shared learning. The Foundation supports creativity and a learning community. The process of influencing policymakers is not always straightforward. Advocates face challenges and barriers that may require innovative approaches. By sharing lessons learned from their work, advocates develop an informed and empowered community.
Evaluating advocacy grants is a challenge. Advocacy is a long-term process and requires many years of funding before an outcome is achieved. It is important for funders and grantees to agree on the short-term and long-term indicators in evaluating the work. These indicators are both quantitative (for example, how many policymakers were educated, number of educational activities, or media coverage) and qualitative (such as the response or commitment made by the policymaker, strategies which were used and were most effective, or policy changes which were achieved).
The impact of successful advocacy work has been significant. Although it is difficult to attribute the final outcomes solely to advocacy or to specific grants, there are linkages that can be made. For example, advocates have helped increase budgets or stop huge cuts in funding of government programs that serve low-income families. Advocates have worked on expanding coverage of public health programs and improving the quality of health care. Others have advocated for job training and employment, access to higher education, and better community infrastructure which are all factors that affect one’s health. By funding advocacy, foundations are able to leverage their resources, create greater impact, and reach out to more communities.
Funding Health Advocacy, Issue Brief No. 21, Grantmakers in Health – provides information on the legal framework for funding advocacy, why funding advocacy is important, challenges and solutions, and strategies for effective advocacy.
Investing in Change: A Funder’s Guide to Supporting Advocacy, Alliance for Justice – provides information on the laws governing advocacy grants provided by private and public foundations, grant agreements, and strategies to build the advocacy capacity of grantees.
Consumer Health Advocacy: A View from 16 States, Community Catalyst – focuses on the importance of consumer health advocacy, the need for funding to build the advocacy capacity of organizations, and cases studies of health advocacy in 16 states.