Evaluating Advocacy and Policy Change: The Funder’s Perspective

Published: October 2009

Type: Publication

Funders with experience in advocacy evaluation have found that getting buy-in from grantees and other funder staff can be challenging. This brief offers responses.

As more foundations embrace advocacy and policy change, a greater demand for accountability and measurement to determine their effectiveness and impact has emerged. The tension between funding services to meet immediate needs versus investing in advocacy to ultimately help a greater number of people through policy change demands that funders demonstrate that policy-related grantmaking pays off.

This trend has led funders to want to know:

  • Is the overall strategy to advance policy appropriate, realistic, and generally sound, and will it produce the changes funders seek?
  • Is the advocacy work that funders support, particularly the organizations they invest in, high quality and strategic?
  • Will the policy changes funders seek make real and meaningful differences in people’s lives?

These questions can be difficult to answer given that actual impacts of advocacy support often will not be felt for years after a policy is adopted, and achieving a policy change can be a long-term endeavor. Nevertheless, evaluation built on a sound theory of change can help funders connect the dots between their grants and the long-term impacts they seek.

New evaluation tools and methods have been developed to help answer these questions. Funders are using them to design evaluations that are appropriate to grantees, their overall strategies, and the resources available. But there have been several challenges in moving toward an increased emphasis on advocacy evaluation.

This brief explores approaches to overcome two particular challenges around obtaining both grantee and foundation staff engagement and buy-in. It offers ten tips for communicating with grantees about advocacy and policy change evaluation.