Advocacy is an important tool for family philanthropists seeking to address mounting issues of inequality or for those who recognize that funding direct services alone is not enough to create lasting change.
Advocacy, including grassroots organizing and policy advocacy, involves efforts to change the law or how the law is applied in order to address an injustice. Advocacy can support the democratic process by including the voices of those who are historically marginalized and facilitating their participation in the democratic process.
In addition, successful advocacy efforts can change public opinion, defend existing rights or benefits, or make a compelling case to reverse or correct a situation.
Although recent events have galvanized many new funders to engage in funding advocacy, it is by no means a new strategy for family foundations. America’s philanthropic families have a long history of supporting advocacy work.
In fact, the efforts of the country’s first family foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, contributed to the creation of regulations that ended 12-hour work days and 7-day work weeks for steelworkers in Pittsburgh. This ultimately contributed to national protective working regulations, many of which endure more than 100 years later.