According to a new report from the University of Southern California's Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy, foundations have employed a broad range of communications strategies to advance their policy work.
The study, How Foundations Use Communications to Advance Their Public Policy Work (21 pages, PDF), found that foundations apply five strategies within their grants programs and five strategies outside their grants programs to move beyond "speaking through their grantees." The study, which builds on an earlier paper about how foundations organize and staff for policy engagement, examined twenty-five foundations with a known commitment to public policy engagement, such as the Atlantic Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Frequently used strategies included building communications support into the budget for a larger program, giving grants or contracts specifically for communications, and doing direct media outreach.
"Little is known about how foundations that play an active role in the policy arena successfully use communications as a strategy in their public policy engagement efforts," said Ferris. "This paper begins to close that gap in knowledge by analyzing how eighteen foundations are using communications to expand the reach and impact of their policy work."