Advocacy & Coalition-Building

The Marillac Mission Fund supports advocacy as an investment that can lead to systemic, long-lasting change that can affect large segments of the population within our core focus areas (Older Adults Living Independently, Immigrants & Refugees, Human Trafficking Prevention, or Veterans) over the long-term. Nonprofit organizations offer unique credibility to the policy process by their essential, non-partisan representative role in the community, and their unique expertise of the issues and public vision. 

“Through their unique ability to care for, engage and empower people to be active

on their own behalf, nonprofit organizations serve as catalysts for positive, substantive

change in conditions that improve the quality of life and empower individuals

 and communities to advocate for themselves.”      MMF Theory of Change.

By using techniques to inform public opinion, build support, and encourage policy change, advocates and coalition builders are uniquely positioned to address problems or issues in the community. Advocacy efforts can amplify the voice of those experiencing poverty and vulnerability, who are too often overlooked in the policy process or remain silent on issues that most affect their lives.

Advocacy is defined as any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others.  Advocacy involves three tenets:

·         Advocacy empowers citizens or a group of people as a collective body

·         The collective body being represented or organized represents those in positions of relatively less power than those typically crafting policy

·         Advocacy is a deliberative process, crafting policy or action

The term “advocacy” encompasses a broad range of activities that can influence public policy. From research and public education to lobbying and voter education, advocacy is about using effective tools to create social change. Recognizing the importance of these tools, advocacy is an effective strategy for bringing about systemic, long-lasting change that can affect large segments of the population for long periods of time.  Strategies of advocacy include:

1.      Issue Advocacy: Enhancing a democratic environment

2.      Legislative Advocacy: Apply public pressure

3.      Political Campaign Activity*: Influencing decision makers

4.      Direct reform: Demonstration, boycotts and litigation

5.      Implementation change

*This does not include supporting or opposing a candidate for public office.


A coalition is a union of people and organizations working to influence outcomes on a specific problem. Coalition building is the process by which parties (individuals and organization) come together to form a coalition to provide leadership and guidance as well as coordinate efforts to avoid duplication, mixed messaging and low return on investment on deployed resources. Coalitions are useful for accomplishing a broad range of goals that reach beyond the capacity of any individual member organization ranging from information sharing to coordination of services, and from community education to advocacy for major environmental or policy (regulatory) changes.

Central to coalitions are their ability to accomplish objectives beyond the scope of any single organization. The broader purpose and breadth of coalitions give them more credibility than individual organizations. In addition, coalitions reduce suspicion of self-interest. Coalitions provide a forum for sharing information, staff and resources to work for change.

Advocacy and Coalition Building

Motivated by community benefit, a coordinated group of organizations with a focus on advocacy can collectively accomplish the following and more:

1.      Build public and policymaker awareness of policy issues.

2.      Strategically build networks to engage those likely to have an impact on policies affecting its constituency.  This includes building alliances and collaborative endeavors by reaching out to a broad range of groups and sectors. 

3.      Successfully convenes and mobilizes its network and other interested individuals and organizations to share information, binds multiple organizations with a single voice, and respond to unexpected events bringing attention to its core public policy issues.

4.      Periodically asks its network to take specific action in support of its issue priorities and advocacy objectives

5.      Regularly provides formal activities to educate and build the advocacy capacity of its network, using approaches such as skills training and/or leadership development, and provides training based on needs articulated by its network

Success can be demonstrated by obtaining results related to progress made on key activities accomplished and/or by obtaining results (complete or incremental) on one or more of the organization’s individual goals and objectives.  See the MMF User's Guide for more information on the outcomes and indicators required for this focus area.  You should also refer to the Advocacy & Coalition-Building sections of the Creating a Strong Proposal for Marillac Mission Fund document.


Eligible proposals must align with one or more of our primary focus areas (Older Adults Living Independently, Immigrants & Refugees, Human Trafficking Prevention, or Veterans).  Funding is determined by the likelihood of the project's ability to accomplish either outcome:

  • Increased awareness and advocacy for social change or
  • Increased collaboration for social change through coalition-building.  

To determine if your organization is eligible to apply for an Advocacy Grant, and to understand all funding restrictions, you must contact MMF staff at 314-733-6500.  You can also schedule a 30-minute virtual call with an MMF Program Manager (Emily or Katy) using their calendar links.

Click here for additional resources.