By Hannah Hill, Program Associate, Women’s Foundation of California
What is the rate of return for every dollar invested in advocacy work? You’ll never guess. Every dollar invested in advocacy work yields $91 in benefits according to a recent report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Research was focused on 15 community organizations engaged in advocacy work in Los Angeles County.The results are staggering and deeply gratifying and confirm what I’ve always known to be true.
I coordinate the Women’s Policy Institute at the Women’s Foundation of California. The Institute is a fellowship program that trains community leaders in policy advocacy so that public policy can more truly reflect the needs of all Californians and not just the privileged few. Over the years, I’ve seen the transformational effect the program has had on the lives of fellows, their organizations and the communities they serve.
In 2006, Institute fellows passed SB 1569 into law. Because of their hard work, California now provides all victims of trafficking, domestic violence and other serious crimes, whether they are citizens or not, access to critical services like refugee cash assistance, Medi-Cal and employment services.
Institute fellows were instrumental in the passage of SB 484, the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005. This bill protects human health by requiring cosmetics manufactures to disclose any ingredients in their products that cause cancer or reproductive harm.
Others fellows like Suguet Lopez from Lideres Campesinas, an advocacy organization by and for farm worker women, helped launch a modified version of the Institute tailored to the needs of the farm worker community. Suguet has given the Institute a life beyond the fellowship and opened the door for others to participate and create social change.
To date, we’ve trained over 185 women in policy work and passed 11 pieces of legislation. The benefits of their work will be felt for years to come. I’ve always known that policy advocacy work changes lives and now I have the numbers to prove it.
Making a Difference through Public Policy – watch video on the Women’s Policy Institute
The Power of Public Policy – short video clips of 2009-10 fellows speaking about the fellowship