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New Hampshire Develops a Field Grant Program to Benefit Community Partners and Support Advocacy Efforts

When allies at New Futures in New Hampshire evaluated their early childhood coalition in 2019, they celebrated its growing diversification and representation of community members with lived experience. At the same time, they noticed that although many community partners attended policy updates and coalition meetings, few of them were engaging in the coalition’s advocacy and lobbying actions.

After digging deeper into this apparent contradiction, New Futures learned that many coalition partners did not engage in advocacy because many of their funding sources prohibited advocacy or gave unclear guidance on allowed activities. To overcome this barrier, New Futures developed their Advocacy Field Grant program with support from their Alliance for Early Success grant.

Although the specifics of the Field Grants have evolved somewhat since they were launched in 2020, the purpose has remained the same: to get more community members engaged in direct advocacy and lobbying efforts. 

With minimal application and reporting requirements, advocacy training provided by New Futures, and a menu of actions to choose from, the field grants have proven to be an effective way to remove barriers to participation and increase capacity for advocacy among grassroots organizations.

Additionally, the field grants have created good will with partners and have resulted in ongoing engagement after their conclusion. Organizations including child care centers, family resource centers, YMCAs, and others who work directly with parents and providers have received field grants to take on advocacy activities like writing letters to the editor, testifying at committee hearings, and participating in legislative breakfasts.

For state organizations interested in creating an Advocacy Field Grant program, Rebecca Woitkowski, New Future’s Kids Count Policy Director, recommends starting by identifying specific goals and existing gaps (regional, demographic, role, etc.) in your coalition. Talk to stakeholders to understand their barriers to engaging in advocacy and lobbying and decide the minimum amount of information you need from them to make a small grant ($2,500-$5,000). Next, states can create a simple process that will be accessible to people without extensive grant writing experience or capacity and be ready to help grantee partners understand potential uses of the Advocacy Field Grant funds (i.e. staff time, incentives, printing, meeting supplies.)

Managing the Advocacy Field Grant program does require some monitoring and oversight, but the benefits of increased advocacy for early childhood development and goodwill can far outweigh the costs.

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