A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Leading the Way on Advocacy


Advocacy is a powerful tool to utilize in the work to end and prevent homelessness as it can educate, engage, and build essential relationships. And as funders, we can, and should, be a leading example. 

If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no. 

This is an old community organizing tenet that all nonprofits need to adopt. And one, that as a funder, I continuously remind my grantees on why they need to have bold advocacy plans.

I am relatively new to the foundation world. Prior to my time at the Campion Advocacy Fund, I worked for the United States Senate for over a decade. In that time, I came in contact with hundreds of organizations looking for resources from the federal government to help with needs in their community.  Even with federal budgets shrinking during the recession, there were opportunities to identify local projects and match them up with federal grants and other funding.  

As funders working to end homelessness, we know that our organizations don’t have the resources to give a home to everyone who needs one, or fix every problem that puts people at risk of experiencing homelessness. We need to partner with governments at the local, state, and federal levels and encourage them to do more if we are going to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time. Our elected leaders are often confronted with the false refrain that homelessness is an inevitable fact of life in our communities. It is our responsibility to encourage them to come to the table with a renewed sense that together, government, philanthropy, service providers, and local communities can get people off the streets, out of shelters, and into permanent and affordable housing.

This is where advocacy comes in. If we ever want to increase the money government is spending on the problem we all want to solve, we need to start encouraging and funding organizations to advocate on behalf of homeless programs. Advocacy is not only an essential function to ensure our grantees have sustainable funding, but it is also a key component to a broader solution and response system in our communities. 

YouthCare, a Campion Foundation grantee, is an excellent example of how important it is for nonprofits to participate in advocacy. YouthCare provides a broad range of services to youth ages 16-24 who are experiencing homelessness in Seattle, including shelter, education, job training and counseling. In 2014, 59% of its revenue came from government sources. A strong advocacy agenda allows YouthCare to inform decision makers about the work that they are doing and what else is needed for them to be successful. As a funder, how can I not pay attention to an activity that protects over half of my grantee’s work?

Not only does advocacy help maintain funding for the work YouthCare is already doing, it also leads to new opportunities. Last year, YouthCare’s youth advocates successfully lobbied the City of Seattle to create a preferred hiring program for the graduates of its YouthBuild program, employing alumni in city infrastructure projects. Partnerships like these create better outcomes for our programs and open new pathways for youth to succeed. Without the additional advocacy effort, partnerships like these may have never happened.    

As a funder, I want to invest in nonprofits who are both innovative and fiscally sound. Advocacy is a critical tool for organizations to demonstrate both of those traits. However, many nonprofits are afraid to ask for advocacy capacity and don’t want it to interfere with their general operating support. I encourage you to start the conversation with your grantees about their needs to conduct advocacy on behalf of their organizations. 

Finally, I challenge other funders to educate themselves about the legal scope of advocacy. The Funder Toolkit on the Funders Together website provides a dedicated section to advocacy for funders, including a resource on Legal Limitations on Lobbying. Furthermore, there are fantastic resources available for foundations and nonprofits from the Alliance for Justice, including those through the Bolder Advocacy Project. They have tools to help us navigate the rules around advocacy and suggestions on how our grantees can effectively incorporate advocacy into their work. 

Advocacy is an incredibly important tool for nonprofits and foundations alike. Let’s help lead the way!  


Sheila_Anderson_photo.jpgSheila Babb Anderson is the Homelessness Program Director at the Campion Advocacy Fund in Seattle. Sheila is responsible for overseeing all advocacy and philanthropy efforts to end homelessness in Washington state for both the Advocacy Fund and Campion Foundation.  





Photo by Alan Cleaver

We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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