Foundations: Why Advocacy?

Be a catalyst for change. Invest in advocacy.

Why advocacy?

Across the country, foundations are recognizing the power of advocacy to advance their missions. They understand that while direct services are critical to addressing immediate human and community needs, service provision alone does not create lasting, long-term solutions.

Investments in advocacy allow foundations to maximize their resources by working upstream to change the policies and systems that affect the issues they care about.

Is it legal?

Although the rules vary for public and private foundations, all foundations can support organizations that engage in advocacy activities. They can also engage in certain types of advocacy themselves, such as nonpartisan voter education, community organizing, and research on a specific policy issue.

Is it effective?

Yes! By supporting grantees that actively engage in public policy advocacy, foundations can both advance their missions and promote policies and institutional changes that address underlying problems in our society.

Advocacy stretches grantmaking dollars. A National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy report, which distilled findings from seven studies, documented a $115 to $1 return on investment for public policy grantmaking.

Evaluation and assessment play a critical role in the assessment of progress and determining if and when a grantee is meeting its advocacy goals. They also help to develop realistic long-term and incremental measures of success and progress, allowing grantees to identify and apply lessons learned.

Resources from Our Philanthropic Partners and Friends


New to grantmaking? Discovering a new role? Growing your skill-set? LearnPhilanthropy can help! LearnPhilanthropy exists to accelerate learning among newcomers to philanthropy and evolve how learning happens in the field. As a marketplace of knowledge and tools, it helps people overcome learning curves and discover concepts that are essential to effective philanthropy. Visit and Learn Foundation Law for more information!


Stand for Your Mission
The Stand for Your Mission campaign is a challenge to all nonprofit decision-makers to stand up for the organizations they believe in by actively representing their organization’s mission and values, and creating public will for positive social change. It provides a framework in which board members and trustees of nonprofits and foundations can have constructive discussions about the importance—and ability—of their groups to advocate for long lasting change. Complete with guides on how to begin a conversation about advocacy and why groups should get involved, the website  is a clearinghouse for useful information.