Collective Grantmaker Advocacy in Action Model: Building Research and Supporting Advocacy
The Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (“TEGAC” or the “Consortium”) is a funders’ collaborative that works to protect, promote, and improve public education in Texas from cradle to career through effective public policy and advocacy. TEGAC 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 education policy decisions that are made at the state level. Since 2012, the Consortium has worked to mobilize Texas education grantmakers (family, community, and corporate foundations and United Ways) to protect and improve public education in Texas through effective policy and advocacy.
The Consortium's work is changing public education policy in Texas and, maybe even more importantly, changing how philanthropy more broadly approaches public policy. Over the last six years, the Consortium has become the largest grantmaker advocacy coalition in Texas history and perhaps the largest grantmaker policy coalition in the U.S.
The Consortium does three primary things:
- Provide objective data to policymakers on important public education policy issues;
- Channel/pool funds to provide grants to effective education advocacy and policy groups across the state, with an emphasis on the dissemination of relevant, credible research; and
- Mobilize grantmakers around a shared policy agenda.
Texas policymakers need objective, high quality data to make informed decisions about public education policy but often have a difficult time accessing objective data they can trust. The Consortium works primarily to fill data holes related to critical public education issues by providing objective, high quality data to Texas policymakers. Because the Consortium is seen as a trusted resource without a specific political agenda, it serves a unique role in public 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 TEGAC 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. The Consortium bridges the gap between pragmatic advocates and impact-oriented foundations by supporting the infrastructure of the advocacy ecosystem to protect and improve public 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, the Consortium’s most valuable contribution to public education policy is that it mobilizes grantmakers to serve as public 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 TEGAC’s work focuses on educating grantmakers about what is possible in the policy 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.
Collaborative Grantmaker Advocacy in Action:
Participating Foundations Determine Focus
Foundation Becomes a Work Group Funder
Policy Work Groups Identify Credible Research Partner to Conduct or Compile Politically Relevant and Objective Research
Evidence-Based Policy Recommendations Produced
Policy Work Groups Select Unusual Advocacy Partners to Promote Policy Recommendations (Advocacy Mini-Grants)
Texas Legislature and Policymakers Respond to Revenue Neutral Proposals
New Legislation Implemented