Advocacy is the act of using one’s voice to shape a debate. Within philanthropy, defining a mission, vision, outcomes, and goals are choices that influence how and where we invest our resources. Despite the confusion that persists about how much charitable organizations may participate in our democratic process, philanthropy may take an incredibly active role in shaping the outcomes of policy debates: directly lobbying the legislature, interacting on ballot measures, supporting efforts of advocacy organizations, and using board and staff leadership to advance the organization's mission on behalf of their grantees and our communities.
Many funders are highly skeptical about engaging in advocacy, revealing a high degree of discomfort, incorrect information, and disengagement related to the political realm. Yet our government increasingly relies on nonprofits to deliver services, shape public policy and relay valuable information on how programs and policies are impacting people on the ground. Because of this, our sector cannot treat advocacy as an optional activity.