One of the key challenges and opportunities that philanthropy serving organizations face as we help funders distill ideas, seed innovation, and demonstrate impact is managing and leading effective collaborations. This includes making connections among funders pursuing similar objectives or working in similar regions as well as supporting the coordination and alignment of investments around identified areas of interest.
Since 2011, Economic Opportunity Funders (EOF) has been working to increase public support for state EITCs through the EITC Pooled Fund (The Fund). We provide a table around which multiple funders can align support to work on an area of mutual interest, and a mechanism by which funders can quickly and collaboratively deploy funding to help meet the needs of the field. Coordinated efforts, like The Fund, are critical for taking advantage of limited foundation resources to leverage greater public, private, and philanthropic investment to improve the economic well-being of working families and children struggling to make ends meet.
Three funds are offered to support efforts to protect, expand, and create new state EITCs.
- Rapid Response: The EITC Rapid Response Fund (RRF) was established in 2012 and focuses on quick infusions of support to help an existing effort overcome a communications challenge or opportunity. Awards are made on a rolling basis and range from $7,000-$30,000.
- Policy Development: In 2015, Fund leaders established the EITC Policy Development Fund (PDF) to provide multiyear support to state-based policy groups laying the groundwork to develop or improve state EITCs. Awards are made in the early fall at $75,000 a year for two years. Awardees may be eligible to apply for additional support at the end of their two-year contracts if funds are available. To help maximize impact, learning, and shared experiences, the PDF focuses on selecting participants from southern states.
- Campaign: Rapid Response awardees engage in a wide variety of strategies to raise awareness of the importance of strong state EITCs, not all suited to the short timeframe the RRF supports. As such, a Campaign Fund was created in 2017 to support yearlong efforts where a window of opportunity to promote or defend a state EITC seems possible. Awards are made on a rolling basis and range from $30,000-$50,000.
The state EITC policy and advocacy field is changing fast and making informed decisions can be a challenge. The Fund is guided by an advisory group where trust has been built and relationships are strong. Advisory group members include three national funders, staff from EOF and the EITC Funders Network, and two recognized national field partners, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and The Hatcher Group. National field partners work collaboratively to prepare a scan of the state EITC policy field that is essential in developing The Fund’s collective understanding of opportunities and challenges faced by the field. Funder partners bring their knowledge of the field, efforts to support similar efforts in the states, and lessons learned to the discussion. National field partners also provide direct technical assistance to awardees and ensure that learnings are widely shared and leveraged across states.
Each year, The Fund considers ways to increase the capacity of the state EITC policy and advocacy field. The Fund has worked to seed innovation in several ways.
To date, $2,478,500,000 has been awarded to 26 state networks by the EITC Pooled Fund.
- The Fund has provided rapid allocations to help support the work of policy and advocacy groups addressing threats to state EITCs or working to create or expand state EITCs. Awardees report that these quick infusions of support allowed them to experiment with new policy and advocacy strategies such as creating videos, storybanking, and direct constituent outreach efforts. This experimentation helped advance their campaigns and expanded the tactical repertoire for advocates to draw on in the future.
- It has evolved to include larger awards and multiyear support in recognition that policy conversations in some states need more development and time to come to fruition. The creation of the Policy Development Fund enables state-based policy and advocacy groups time and resources to create plans, develop capacity, and prepare local collaborators to engage in state EITC policy work. This “no strings attached” award allows groups in areas with very nascent EITC policy work to innovate and develop locally specific strategies, including building alliances with new, relevant audiences (in one location the new ally was health service providers whereas in another it was bankers).
- It supported communications research and data tools to help build a stronger evidence base. The Fund supported new EITC communications research in 2012 and 2015 and an update of the EITC Data Interactive in 2018. EITC research findings have been used to support messaging and communications TA with awardees and shared more widely through field-wide webinars and meetings. The EITC Data Interactive is an online tool for funders and grantees seeking to better understand the reach and impact of the federal EITC in local communities across the United States (https://tpc-eitc-tool.urban.org).
Since its inception The Fund has been dedicated to documenting investments and creating a culture of learning. An online map is updated regularly to visually illustrate the reach and outcomes of The Fund, annual summaries provide additional details on outcomes and learnings, and periodic webinars are held featuring the work of awardees. The Fund also supported a retrospective evaluation of the Rapid Response and Policy Development Fund during 2016-2018. Findings were used to help shape and inform The Fund and resulted in new strategies. For example, The Fund refined the scope and range of support offered, is working with awardees sooner in the planning cycle to support tactics that require more in-depth planning and execution time, and is working to provide greater transparency as to when funds are available. In addition, The Fund is exploring how investment in community mobilization via a grassroots partner could help bolster EITC policy development efforts in PDF sites.