In a way, we did things in reverse.

Compared with how funders usually enter into policy work, our order of operations was the opposite. In the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s work on substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery, we did not start by funding pilot projects and community work and then (acknowledging that changing policy was the best way to address problems at their roots) start funding advocacy.

We started by funding advocacy.

I had not yet joined the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation in 1997 when Oliver Hubbard, a chicken farmer and poultry breeder from Walpole, New Hampshire, made the first part of a multi-stage, $43 million gift to shape public policy in the state as a means to combat addiction.

I was working in substance use prevention at the time. And I remember the reaction among people in that field — it was something akin to rage. What do you mean this huge windfall of money will not immediately fund programs and services?

But Hubbard, dismayed by a lack of state leadership and funding for this issue, had made the gift to make a difference at the public policy level, and in turn make lasting and meaningful change on an incredibly complex issue.

One significant complicating factor, though, was that there was no nonprofit policy shop working on substance use issues in New Hampshire.

So the Charitable Foundation — with counsel from an advisory group that included the state attorney general, experts in prevention and treatment, physicians, people in recovery, legislators, and a consultant from the nation’s largest public-health philanthropy — launched  an organization called New Futures.

Over two decades, New Futures has increased understanding, shaped public policy, transformed the way services are funded, and helped save lives. The organization played a key role in the passage of Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire, which gave more than 50,000 people access to health insurance that included coverage for addiction treatment, while also playing a pivotal role in the creation of a dedicated state funding stream for treatment, prevention, and recovery.

Read the full article about shaping policy through advocacy by Tym Rourke at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.