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The Strategy Behind the Design of Advocacy Communications Support: Lessons for Foundation Program Officers from The Atlantic Philanthropies’ Advocacy Grantmaking

February 1, 2017

Foundations that fund advocacy increasingly understand the important role communications play in advancing policy. But foundations big and small often have limited communications capacity – and what communications expertise they do have isn't always integrated into their advocacy grantmaking strategies. Strategy Behind the Design of Advocacy Communications Support is a resource for foundation staff who are grappling with how to design and implement effective communications approaches into their advocacy grantmaking.

Case Studies: Considering Starting a 501C4?

February 1, 2017

Deciding whether—or when—to establish a 501(c)(4) organization is never an easy decision. Questions about purpose, scope, funding, perception, timing, and legal compliance all come into play. There are few definitive "right" and "wrong" answers. Each group needs to determine what is right for it. These case studies describe how three different groups, with different structures, needs, and pressures, answered the questions for themselves.

501C4 Strategy and Discussion Guide

December 1, 2016

This Strategy and Discussion Guide has been developed for individuals, organizations, and funders interested in starting 501(c)(4) organizations. It discusses the strategic questions that must be considered in determining whether, when, and for what purpose(s) to create a (c)(4). 

No More Half Measures: Five Ways Funders Can Better Support Policy Campaigns and Build Lasting Advocacy Capacity

October 1, 2016

The report makes the case that by funding policy campaigns and advocacy capacity-building together, funders can achieve policy wins and create the advocacy infrastructure to defend these wins in tougher political climates. The publication draws on examples from the fights for children's healthcare, immigration reform and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' State Priorities Partnership.

Primer on Social Welfare Organizations: Using 501C4 Organizations for Good

September 1, 2016

501c4 organizations remain a vital tool for nonprofits and foundations seeking to shape policy outcomes that benefit constituencies and communities that too often go unheard. This publication explores the special role 501c4 groups can play within the nonprofit and philanthropic communities, and within our political system, and has been written to dispel myths and encourage their thoughtful use within the democratic process.

Stepping into the Fight: A Funder's Guide for Understanding and Supporting Legal Advocacy

August 3, 2016

As part of the Atlas Learning Project, an effort of The Atlantic Philanthropies, this paper examines the role of legal advocacy as a tool in the social sector for advancing issues of justice and equality. The primary audience for this paper is funders who are interested in enhancing their advocacy or other program work by supporting legal advocacy.  The paper will serve partly as orientation to legal advocacy from a funder's perspective and partly as a guide to effective approaches and practices for supporting legal advocacy.The Atlas Learning Project is a three-year effort supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies to synthesize and strategically communicate lessons from the advocacy and policy change efforts that Atlantic and other funders have supported in the U.S.  The effort was led by the Center for Evaluation Innovation, which commissioned various researchers to probe into questions about advocacy work and how funders support these efforts. 

Stepping into the Fight: A Guide for Nonprofits to Understand and Engage in Legal Advocacy

August 1, 2016

Through the Atlas Learning Project, an effort of The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Center for Evaluation Innovation commissioned various researchers to probe into questions about advocacy work and how funders support these efforts. The Atlantic Philanthropies have been long-time supporters of legal advocacy and wanted to draw out lessons related to the way legal advocacy works and how funders can best support these efforts.This paper examines the role of legal advocacy as a tool in the social sector for advancing issues of justice and equality in the United States. The primary audience for this paper is advocacy organizations – mainly those which are not yet involved in legal advocacy but which are open to considering using legal strategies or want to better understand how to work with legal advocates. Advocacy organizations that already use legal advocacy as a strategy may find some of the framing and insights helpful as well. This paper is one in a series that includes others addressing how funders can support legal advocacy and how to evaluate legal advocacy as well as a more technical paper focused on the status of the U.S. court system for addressing issues of social justice.

Beyond the Win: Pathways for Policy Implementation

January 5, 2016

When it comes to policy, a lot of attention is given to "the win." Whether it is something new and big like the Affordable Care Act, a piece of legislation in a large federal omnibus bill, or inclusion of critical language in a state policy, seeing the fruits of advocacy efforts put into law makes advocates and champions feel that their hard work, often many years in the making, has paid off.However, in reality, "the win" is just the beginning -- a necessary first step in a much longer and equally as fraught process of policy implementation. Once a policy is created, there are numerous factors that shape and determine how that policy is implemented -- and ultimately, the impact it will have -- regardless of how well the policy is formulated. Some of these factors include rulemaking, funding, capacity of local implementing agencies, and fights to repeal or modify wins, among many others.And, just as in the case of "the win," advocacy plays an important role in shaping implementation whether in advocating across these factors or participating in ongoing monitoring over time. Interestingly, while the role of advocacy in agenda setting, policy formulation, and policy adoption has been widely explored in theory and practice, the role of advocacy in the policy implementation process has received less attention in the literature.To learn more about the role of advocacy at the policy implementation stage, ORS Impact spoke with organizations that engage in, or provide funding for, advocacy efforts at the state and/or federal level. We focused on the following questions:When had advocates played a positive role in policy implementation?When had implementation not gone as well as expected, and what did advocates take away from that?Our conversations yielded important learnings about the unique characteristics of, and range of approaches to, advocacy efforts during the implementation phase. The two following scenarios illustrate some of the different types and levels of advocacy intervention, as well as the results they produce, to demonstrate the ways advocacy can play out when shifting from policymaking to implementation.

Evaluating Legal Advocacy: A How-To Guide for Evaluators, Funders, and Advocates

January 1, 2016

This guide introduces funders, advocates, and evaluators to thinking about evaluating legal advocacy work. In addition to legal impact, we explore how to measure the quality of the work and how to measure impact outside of the legal arena.

Tilling the Field: Lessons about Philanthropy's Role in School Discipline Reform

July 15, 2015

Anyone concerned about how the futures of millions of children are jeopardized because of discipline practices that unfairly exclude students from U.S. public schools will be heartened by this story about how transformative change can happen.It's a story of how students and parents, civil rights advocates, academics, policymakers and government came together -- with help from philanthropy -- to advance reform.The linchpin was a four-year, $47 million school discipline reform initiative that Atlantic launched in 2010 to promote policies and practices that would keep vulnerable children in school and on track to graduate and go on to college, rather than on the path to prison.We hope this report will be useful to all who might benefit from our experience:For funders -- to inform strategic choices going forward, to anticipate future challenges, and to consider potentially powerful responses.For grantee and government partners -- to celebrate successes as well as to consider options for refining strategies and tactics going forward.For students of movements that protect the vulnerable -- to understand the complex arc of advocacy as shaped by intentional strategies and tactics as well as history and on-the-ground realities.KEY INSIGHTS1. When philanthropy and the public sector work together, a foundation's role should be more than just paying for a government-initiated project. Philanthropic leaders can add value by helping to define a shared goal and develop a structure for ongoing dialogue and decision making. 2. Philanthropy can help create opportunities for policy change through a strategic combination of investments designed to (re)frame the problem, identify and lift up viable policy alternatives, and apply pressure for change. 3. Grassroots organizing by parents and young people can play a major role in advancing changes to local and national educational policy -- and that impact is amplified when grassroots movements receive philanthropic support.

Toward a More Just Justice System: How Open are the Courts to Social Justice Litigation?

January 1, 2000

This piece, written by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, explores the legal context around pursuing legal advocacy, including factors that favor and obstruct legal advocacy, key strategies to think about while engaged in legal advocacy work, and recommendations for funders and litigators involved in the field.