Giving Compass' Take:

• Vu Le, writing for Nonprofit AF, discusses how and why funders can support systems change work by funding advocacy and community organizing alongside direct service efforts. 

• What barriers stand in the way of systems change funding? How can donors adapt to unlock funds for both direct service and systems change? 

• Read about collaborative funding for systems change. 


Over the past few decades, the invasive brambles of injustice and inequity have taken root in our world, watered by racists and xenophobes. Direct service is like cutting down the leaves and stems: the results are immediate and visible, it feels good, and it does slow down the plant’s growth. Advocacy and systems change work, the digging out of the roots, is the opposite: It takes 10 times longer, you get injured and dirty doing it, it is aggravating and frustrating, and possibly leads to extreme cussing that may be heard by your small children while they are on a break from crisis-home-schooling.

But if we are going to make a dent in creating a more just world, we need to continuously do the hard and time-consuming work of advocacy, community organizing, and systems change.

Unfortunately, not only have progressive-leaning funders severely underinvested in these areas in the best of times, but now in the worst of times have decided to cut back on it. Some funders are diverting funds from advocacy and organizing to crisis response. Not only that, I was on a virtual panel where it was brought up that some funders are now encouraging advocacy/organizing nonprofits to shift their missions to do more direct service work.

All of this is incredibly short-sighted and one of the biggest reasons we continue to struggle as a sector to make progress on a host of issues.

Many advocacy and community-organizing nonprofits are on the brink of extinction, even as the pandemic has made it is so glaringly obvious how important their work is. Funders, I am begging you again to increase your payout so you can fund both direct service and systems change.

Read the full article about funding advocacy and community organizing by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.