Advocacy is a truly terrific way to help people. It tackles the root causes of people’s problems in a fresh and innovative way. It involves its users at every step of the process, drives system-wide change and is delivered by a deeply committed workforce.
But it’s not getting the number of grants it deserves. Even though it can reduce service dependency and save local authorities a tonne of money, funders don’t yet get its value.
Let’s see what we can do about changing that.
Are you with me?
Great, let’s do it.
Here’s five reasons why advocacy is so fundable. Use them in your grant application to show why you believe advocacy is the best approach to the problems your clients face. Use them to convince funders of the wider benefits of supporting your proposal.
1. It tackles root causes
Funders don’t want to fund salves or sticking plasters. They want to stop problems at their root. Advocacy wants the same thing. It wants to remove the barriers that violate people’s rights and create their problems in the first place.
When it removes that barrier it empowers people to take control, choose their own future and move beyond the causes of their problems. It creates sustainable change for people. Funders love this because they want to see their money create lasting change that prevents the situation recurring.
Funders want to see that people’s problems won’t simply reappear when your service has gone. So show off your best case studies and show them how advocacy helps people to move beyond the causes of their problems.
2. It drives wider service improvement
Advocacy’s benefits aren’t only limited to the people who use its services. When you collect data on the most recurring issues that your advocates encounter then you’ve got some brilliant campaign fodder. This can be used for driving systemic change and challenging power imbalance between users and professionals.
Funders will often ask you how your project will support systemic change. Both the Paul Hamlyn and Esmee Fairbairn Foundations are keen on this. If presented right then advocacy is attractive to them because it delivers impact at a broader level than just the individual. Through touching the life of one person it can go on to change the experiences of others who would otherwise run into the same problem further down the road.
So when you’re describing the benefits of your proposed service and how you’ll achieve them always include the wider impact for those users you’ll never meet.
3. It’s user involvement, with knobs on
One of grant funders’ most important criteria when selecting services to fund is how well they involve service users. Some, like the Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities programme have very specific questions about it and state that they won’t fund projects that don’t involve their users. Most advocacy organisations are already ahead of the game on this one.
Sure, I bet you’re saying we’re not as good at it as we should be. But we have ever such high standards. Our advocacy values wouldn’t let us have it anyway. Trust me: most of us are already involving our users within our leadership, management and delivery much more than most non-advocacy organisations.
Just don’t do your bid a disservice by not showing all the great user involvement work you do.
4. It’s still the new kid on the block
Advocacy is still a fresh approach to old problems and it’s still hanging tough.
Young and cool enough to appeal to funders who want to try out different approaches to recurring societal problems. But rooted enough in the timeless values of social justice to strike a deep emotional chord with them too.
I’ve seen advocacy work wonders for people with OCD and change the lives of people lacking emotional literacy. We’ve not yet tapped all the problems that it can tackle.
What are you waiting for? Find an old problem and work out how advocacy can tackle it. Then make a case and win some new funding. Believe and do it.
5. It’s delivered by highly motivated and passionate people
Why does advocacy work so well? Whats the secret of its success?
I’d wager that part of the reason is the passion and commitment of its workforce. Only people who are ready to take a stand for what they believe in are attracted to being an advocate. You can’t be an advocate and not care deeply about the rights of people. Advocacy is so driven by its values and they are so matched by its workforce that it’s chances of success are massively increased.
Grant makers want to fund passionate organisations with strong values. They want to see it in your application. So tap into your workforce’s passion and commitment and show it to them. Unleash it!
Did you enjoy this post? Do you agree with it? Do you think I’ve missed anything out?
Let me know in the comments below!