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Advocacy can be a powerful tool for social change. Recognising this, from 2010 the JR McKenzie Trust (JRMT) decided to fund advocacy that aligns with their vision of “a socially just and inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.” 

Since then around 18% of their funding has been for advocacy on a wide range of issues, from drug and criminal justice reform, to the benefits of the living wage, to improving outcomes for children.

To help JRMT develop advocacy funding as an area of strategic support, the Trust commissioned a review from the Centre for Social Impact. CSI Associate Rachael Trotman examined what advocacy is, what funding advocacy involves, JRMT’s experience of funding advocacy since 2010 and strategic implications for JRMT.

“Looking into advocacy for the Trust is really important – to learn from our past, and inform our future strategy,” JRMT CEO Robyn Scott says. “The report from CSI confirmed the value of funding advocacy as a tool for social impact, from addressing a specific issue to influencing major systemic change.”

CSI’s review involved interviews with a range of funders and those involved in advocacy.

“We wanted to gain the voice of experience,” Rachael says. “I spoke with inspiring advocates nationally, including ActionStation, the NZ Drug Foundation, Just Speak and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. I also spoke with funders here and overseas including the Grace Memorial Trust in New Zealand, the Trust for London, the Reichstein Foundation in Australia and USA’s Tow Foundation, as well as JRMT staff and local philanthropic gurus Jenny Gill and Kate Frykberg.

“A rich picture emerged of the power and potential of advocacy to expose the root causes of social issues, and develop responses that achieve significant impacts for whole populations.

“A key message is that there are ways to support advocacy that can suit almost any funder - from funding research and evidence around an issue, to convening discussion, supporting policy development, funding community voice and organizing, to supporting coaching, mentoring and training of advocates.”

JRMT is now using this work to develop its future strategy around funding advocacy.