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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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"The best thing funders can do is be clear from the beginning about their own specific policy goals or even about their general goals. Difficulties happen when funders keep their goals hidden, they ask us what our goals are and then decide whether it's a fit. It would be much more productive if we shared our goals and developed a common and realistic agenda."
— Ritu Sharma,
Women's Edge Coalition


Supporters of the third revision of the “African Growth and Opportunity Act” or AGOA III, demonstrated exemplary unity of purpose in their campaign around the legislation. Despite facing numerous hurdles — including the pitched political battles raging in Washington during the 2004 election campaign — the AGOA III Committee launched a concerted lobbying effort focused solely on locking in passage of the bill that year, and they were successful. Read more »

Discussing Advocacy Goals and Benchmarks

More productive relationships between grantmakers and grantees often come as a result of having a mutual understanding of the advocacy goals before the grant begins. While this might seem obvious, all too often grantees and grantmakers have different perceptions of the grant's goal and expected outcomes. When it comes to funding advocacy, the goal could be a very specific legislative outcome to be pursued over the upcoming Congressional session, or it could be a long-term, broader policy change that may not be attainable through a standard one- to two-year grant cycle. It is essential that grantees and grantmakers discuss the advocacy goal(s) for the grant well before the proposal is finalized.

Start by defining your own advocacy grantmaking goals
Even before you discuss the advocate's goals for a grant proposal, it is critical that you share with the grantees the scope of your own advocacy grantmaking to help them understand where they fit in your overall strategy and to clarify your expectations of their work. If you have a long-term theory of the expected policy changes you seek, this is the right time to share it with the grantees. The resources section on this page links to relevant reports to help you define grantmaking goals and outcomes.

SMART goals for advocacy
You should respect your grantees' expertise and ability to define their own goals and strategies, but encourage them to set advocacy goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible. The Goal Setting section of the Advocates Guide describes what it takes to set a SMART goal. Additionally, the goal should be accompanied by—and be consistent with—a thoroughly planned out theory of change. With these pieces in place, grantees and grantmakers will be in a much better position to determine an appropriate evaluation approach. The section on evaluation guidelines for grantees provides some suggestions on how to help grantees track their incremental progress towards reaching their goal.

The winning duo: advocacy goals and capacity-building goals
Consider organizing foreign policy advocacy goals under two categories: capacity building and advocacy progress. Generally speaking, grantees will be best served by including both capacity building and advocacy goals in their grant proposals. Capacity-building goals will help groups think about what skills, analytical competencies and networks they need to develop or strengthen to better respond to advocacy opportunities or to reach and engage a wider constituency; in other words, they need to know how to be more effective over the long run. Advocacy goals refer to the expected policy outcome the grant is seeking. While policy change by elected officials might be the desired ultimate outcome of many advocacy efforts, it is also true that advocacy grants will often help lay the groundwork for such change by developing the capacity for constituency building, research and media relations, to name a few.

By measuring both advocacy and capacity-building goals, grantmakers and advocates also acknowledge that many factors outside the grantees' control can hinder short-term advocacy success; but even a losing battle can build the advocates' ability to win another day. Measuring this can validate a longer-term perspective.

To measure progress towards the goal the grantees and the grantmaker will need two evaluation tools: benchmarks and indicators. Benchmarks are the milestones along the way, and indicators are the evaluation findings that keep grantees on track to achieve the next benchmark and towards their ultimate goal. Benchmarks and indicators can help advocates map progress and determine success in a short-term incremental manner while pursuing long-term advocacy goals. Tracking progress is especially important for shorter grants, where a concrete policy outcome would be unlikely.

Similar to goals, benchmarks for foreign policy advocacy can track two distinct forms of progress: capacity building and advocacy progress. Some grantees might find it difficult to identify benchmarks for incremental progress—be it capacity building or advocacy; they tend to focus on results or outcome benchmarks, to be tracked at the end of the grant. Others might have the opposite problem. You could help them sort things out by indicating what kind of information would be most valuable for you as a grantmaker. The section on Monitoring Benchmarks and Indicators gives you some suggestions.

Indicators are the road signs on the way to advocacy and capacity benchmarks and the ultimate goal. They provide the evidence you and the grantees need to know if they are heading in the right direction to meet or exceed their benchmarks. Indicators should not be complex; they are simple measures that show if the activities are on target. Indicators can help grantees adjust their plan and react to the progress achieved by their activities. If the indicators selected appear to show positive results, grantees are on the right track. If the indicators show unplanned or unpredicted results, they can adjust their strategy and still hit their benchmarks. This is called formative evaluation.

Early on in the grant design process, have an open conversation with your grantee about establishing a realistic set of benchmarks and indicators.


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  • Encourage grantees to group their goals under advocacy progress and capacity-building.
  • Use the SMART test for each of the grant's goals—it really works!
  • Value your grantees' expertise when it comes to defining the advocacy goals.
  • Focus on the incremental steps when helping grantees develop policy benchmarks.
  • Too many indicators can be unwieldy. Help grantees determine which indicators will be most helpful in directing the future course of their advocacy efforts.
  • Remember: you want goals, benchmarks and indicators that are realistic and meaningful.
  • Help grantees go beyond 'the easy measures.' While counting the number of e-mail recipients, Web site visits, and petition signatures is very informative, these indicators may not be as useful as looking at some qualitative measures. What was done with the e-mails received? When people landed on the Web site, what did they use the site for? What happened after the petition was received by the president's office?
  • Encourage grantees to claim results for capacity building and advocacy benchmarks! While capacity building might not have an immediate effect on policy outcomes, it is essential for strengthening the field and achieving your long-term goals.
  • Benchmarks are easy to develop if the grantee has a clearly defined and detailed theory of change. Benchmarks should match to the assumed outcomes in the theory of change. If there is a disconnect, it should be revisited.