Options to enhance a civil rights organization’s litigation impact

I was asked to review the role and policy influence of a multi-issue civil rights organization’s litigation project. In addition to interviewing the organization’s key staff, national-level colleagues, and local partners, I researched leading works on the roles that litigation can play in supporting community mobilization for policy change outside the courtroom. My evaluation report discussed how colleague litigators viewed the quality and value of the client’s litigation, and the function that its litigation played within the civil rights movement. I also suggested ways that the client could more effectively leverage its litigation investment to increase its policy influence with elected officials, the media, and affected communities.

Recommendations to balance competing demands confronting a civil rights leader

The client is both a policy-advocacy leader and a highly valued provider of technical support to its nationwide field network. Some of the organization’s staff proposed reducing time and resources spent on technical support to permit a deeper concentration on policy innovation and leadership. Efforts at restructuring the work had stalled due to internal staff disagreement, and the objections of some influential stakeholders. Working with a colleague, I gathered input from Congressional offices, national and state-level policy advocates, think-tanks, service providers, and the organization’s staff and board of directors. Our report identified for the board’s strategic planning process a range of options that could capitalize upon the group’s unique value to the field and promote its continued leadership.

Assessing a grantmaker’s contributions to racial justice leadership

A racial justice funder commissioned an analysis of how their work assisted community organizing groups across the country to achieve policy-reform goals, and helped additional funders to enter the sector. I interviewed grantees, funders, and racial justice leaders, and reviewed numerous grantee, campaign, and academic sources on racial justice organizing and advocacy. My report identified grantees’ policy accomplishments, and discussed challenges that some grantees face in working within the larger racial justice field. I analyzed how the client’s funding and capacity building work helped emerging organizations to become leaders in their localities and regions. The report also illustrated the client’s successful efforts to attract additional funders to the sector, and recommended ways to enhance the client’s influence within the philanthropic community.

Analyzing grantees’ policy influence in a complex environment

A national funder sought a developmental review of grantmaking that helped state and local groups to respond rapidly and decisively to a state’s adoption of sweeping anti-immigrant policies. The funding initiative supported advocates and organizers ranging from community-based start-ups to a prominent statewide policy think-tank. I worked with an expert facilitator to engage grantees in-person data-gathering and data-analysis sessions where they jointly identified ways that their diverse activities contributed to power-building and policy change across the state. In addition to producing insights for the client funder, this process helped grantees to learn more about their colleagues’ strengths and goals, and introduced some to potential collaborators. My evaluation report also helped foundations from outside the affected region to better understand the strategic opportunities that grantees’ work offered, and to identify opportunities to invest in the work effectively.