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Our Model

Collective Philanthropic Advocacy in Action Model: Building Research and Supporting Advocacy

Philanthropy Advocates is a funders’ collaborative that works to protect, promote, and improve public and higher education in Texas from cradle to career through effective public policy and advocacy. Philanthropy Advocates was created in 2012 to unify grantmakers around a multi-year effort to build support for and improvement in public education in Texas in response to the historic cuts made to public education by the Texas Legislature during the 2011 session. Texas foundations understand that our work is directly impacted by public and higher education policy decisions that are made at the state level. Since 2012, we have worked to mobilize Texas education philathropists (family, community, and corporate foundations and United Ways) to protect and improve public and higher education in Texas through effective policy and advocacy.

Philanthropy Advocates' work is changing public and higher education policy in Texas and, maybe even more importantly, changing how philanthropy more broadly approaches public policy. We have become the largest grantmaker advocacy coalition in Texas history and perhaps the largest grantmaker policy coalition in the U.S.

We do three primary things:

Texas policymakers need objective, high quality data to make informed decisions about public and higher education policy but often have a difficult time accessing objective data they can trust. Philanthropy Advocates works primarily to fill data holes related to critical public and higher education issues by providing objective, high quality data to Texas policymakers. Because we are seen as a trusted resource without a specific political agenda, we serve a unique role in public and higher education policy conversations.

We also work to disseminate this data to as broad an audience as possible through our statewide networks and partnerships with both traditional and unexpected advocates. Often, good data is trapped in what Philanthropy Advocates likes to call “a three-ring binder prison” and is never shared and/or used to inform policy debates. Moreover, traditional advocates often work in isolation and with insufficient resources to be effective. Philanthropy Advocates bridges the gap between pragmatic advocates and impact-oriented foundations by supporting the infrastructure of the advocacy ecosystem to protect and improve public and higher education in Texas. Much of this work is done by coordinating and convening advocates to share objective data, align messaging, and coordinate advocacy activities.

Arguably, Philanthropy Advocates​' most valuable contribution to public and higher education policy is that we mobilize grantmakers to serve as public and higher​ education advocates themselves. Many foundations do not understand the rules and regulations related to grantmaker participation in policy advocacy, and their trustees are skeptical and/or risk averse to policy work in general. Much of Philanthropy Advocates' work focuses on educating grantmakers about what is possible in the policy and advocacy space and helping grantmakers feel comfortable with their role in the process. We often talk about the grantmaker policy continuum. There is a place for every grantmaker along that continuum, from funding research to funding direct advocacy – and everything in between. By adding policy advocacy as one of several grantmaker strategies or “tools in the toolbox,” Texas philanthropy can leverage their grantmaking and have much greater impact in addressing overwhelming societal challenges.


Are you a foundation looking to invest and engage in public and higher education research and advocacy?

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