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The Power and Potential of Advocacy

As I approach my two year anniversary as Vice President of Programs here at Brooklyn Community Foundation, I’ve had the opportunity to not only lead our programmatic work, but also reflect on what is the true power and potential of Brooklyn Community Foundation. 

While grantmaking seems like the obvious answer, as I consider all the tools in our toolbox, the use of advocacy emerges as one of the most important levers that we have as we strive to make Brooklyn fair and just. 

Our grantmaking is critically important, but the goal of our grantmaking is to not only support community efforts, but to also learn from that work to ensure that it is in service to our advocacy endeavors. And as a community foundation, we have the ability to go further than our private foundation peers with advocacy and we strive to maximize our work in that space.

Over the course of the last year, we followed the lead of grantees within our Invest in Youth initiative’s Youth Justice portfolio and advocated for Raise the Age legislation and the #CloseRikers campaign.  Within our Immigrant Rights Fund portfolio, we added our voice to protecting “DACA-mented” youth and undocumented immigrants. And within our Girls of Color Fund, we launched the Reproductive Justice Activists initiative to seek advice on our long-term strategies.

To that end, I'm please to share our newly created Advocacy Statement that encapsulates the way we think about our advocacy work. We owe much gratitude to our Racial Justice Council who actively engaged with us in examining and refining the statement, and to the Program Committee and our Board of Directors, which approved our goals around advocacy and ways of doing the work.

As we move forward, we hope that this statement will provide clarity on how we approach our advocacy work and push us to go as far as we can with our advocacy efforts. 

Brooklyn Community Foundation Advocacy Statement:

We choose pressing and timely issues that meet two criteria: be intersectional issues of racial justice and impact the most vulnerable constituencies of Brooklyn. In addition, we prioritize issues that connect with our core grantmaking portfolios, as our work with grantees allows us to learn and more deeply understand the issues and potential impact. Therefore, within our grantmaking portfolio, we strive to have a balance of direct service, advocacy support and organizations that combine the two.

We determine our strategic areas of advocacy annually, in consultation with our Racial Justice Council and Board of Directors. We also retain the flexibility to respond to timely and relevant issues, as there is a strong desire to scout for opportunities and remain responsive.

Finally, we hope to take a leadership role that extends beyond our financial assets, drawing inspiration from our mission to mobilize people, capital and expertise for a fair and just Brooklyn. Our advocacy strategy allows us to make use of the full spectrum of options to work towards a fair and just Brooklyn, specifically tapping research, convening, and policy actions to augment our grantmaking.

As I consider all the tools in our toolbox, the use of advocacy emerges as one of the most important levers that we have as we strive to make Brooklyn fair and just.