In the first article in this series on funders and public policy I suggested that the decisions made by policy makers matter a good deal if you are thinking about your approach and the outcomes you hope for as a funder. Think of reducing poverty, improving education, preventing illness or fighting climate change. Then think about how public policy shapes the context in which this work takes place. Clearly, it’s important. Policies on community benefits, child and family tax benefits, supports for social housing and tax benefits for the working poor, rights for disadvantaged populations, etc. All of this makes a difference in whether opportunity gaps can be closed.
There are many ways that funders can help to frame more effective public policies. And it’s not only about advocacy or raising a voice in the public arena. Before we get to advocating for policy, we have to help develop policy. PFC’s guide Funders Making Change: Engaging in Public Policy tells stories about the actions of funders to help develop policy in a wide range of areas. They convene dialogues, bring together issue experts, and operate their own programs. Many funders strengthen the voices of the community in the policy process or create spaces for dialogue and the expression of views. Some foundations do move into advocacy using their own voice to highlight issues in the public space.
If you are a funder who supports policy development, you can:
Here are some great current examples of Canadian funders who are pursuing these strategies:
If you are a funder who supports policy advocacy, you can:
Here are some more great examples of funders as advocates:
The diversity of the actions that foundations can take is remarkable. This is what the federal government calls “public policy dialogue and development” activity. And all of this public policy work is considered legitimate charitable activity by the federal regulator, if it is related to your purposes as a charity. That means “yes you can” fund public policy as a charitable funder.