So Your Grant $ Don’t Go Far? Then be little but loud! Using your voice with people of influence can move others to action. Be they business, foundation or policy makers; you have credibility (earned or not) just by virtue of being a foundation. You can provide a stronger voice for the cause represented by the nonprofits that do the work you care about.
That voice can be through social media, through newspaper editorials, through presentations to civic groups, etc. You can involve volunteer spokespersons, training and supporting them in their role as advocates. Thus you engage expertise and influence on behalf of your cause.
Business leaders needs to understand the economic implications of issues. Local and state policy makers seek solutions to challenges their constituents face. The general public needs both facts and stories that help them support evidence-based programs rather than ones based only on emotion or politics. You as a small –staffed foundation or donor are perfectly positioned to step up and fill these needs, often when no one else will.
We, at the Potts Family Foundation in Oklahoma, find the impact of advocacy is maximized when we have business leaders speak with business leaders and legislators with legislators and folks who have overcome difficulties with those experiencing the same.
We have been convening experts and learners around greater investment in early childhood education for six years now. In the process, we’ve planned annual conferences, civic group speaking engagements and legislators reading at child care and Head Start centers.
Most recently we’ve begun organizing free showings of a documentary film on resilience to over 2,600 viewers statewide. Each showing concludes with an inter-disciplinary panel sharing how attendees might work together to address (ACEs) Adverse Childhood Experiences/trauma (ex. child abuse or neglect) in their communities. Our goal is to reach a variety of entities within ten communities in the next two years with this combination.
One example of our role as a catalyst is taking the initiative to create the Raising Resilient Oklahomans! virtual community on the ACEsConnection.com global website. Following our extremely successful conference in March of this year, we realized the need for a way to connect groups and individuals from across the state who were each about the work of preventing ACEs, healing trauma and building resilience in their various communities. Using this resource, along with the 500 contacts we made at the conference, we are in the process of doing just that.
More importantly, it is all part of an effort to raise our state from near bottom to among the top 25 states in markers of early childhood well-being by 2025. Progress is being tracked on an annual basis and some 60 organizations are part of a coalition working to make that happen. We call this the OK25by25 Early Childhood Coalition.
Working with Oklahoma State legislators who are members of our Early Childhood Legislative Caucus, representing legislators on both sides of the aisle and in both houses, we were able to secure passage of legislation creating a task force to make recommendations on best practices to mitigate the impact of trauma on Oklahoma children and advance hope-centered therapy and coping skills.
As one might guess, we feel our most important role is not as a funder but as an advocate, convener, and catalyst. Foundations -- including those with small staff like ours -- have reputation, access, voice, convening power, and passion. Let’s use them to move people to action!