How to talk with philanthropists about civil legal aid

August 16, 2017 - 6:02 pm
This summer two important new pieces of research yielded fresh guidance on how to communicate about civil legal aid in a way that builds lasting support. This posts focuses on how to communicate effectively with the philanthropic community.

Last month we shared with you the heartening results of Voices’ latest round of messaging research, conducted by Lake Research Partners (LRP), funded by the Public Welfare Foundation.  Today, we are excited to share more new research, also conducted by LRP, for the National Association of IOLTA Programs. This research looks at communicating about civil legal aid with a specific key audience: the philanthropic sector.

This qualitative research, made possible by the generous support of the Public Welfare Foundation, consisted of seventeen interviews with philanthropic leaders.* The interviews were designed to help develop insight and direction into an important question: what would make these leaders more supportive of prioritizing funding for civil legal aid?

Their responses varied, but suggest several important takeaways:

  1. Philanthropists are willing to help, but need to be made more aware of and educated about civil legal aid.
  2. Emphasize human examples and outcomes and show foundations how funding civil legal aid serves their own programs and constituents.
  3. Tailor “pitches” to each foundation’s unique priorities. Every foundation is different, so there’s no one size fits all approach.
  4. Find the right messengers. Enlist people to reinforce the importance of supporting civil legal aid that will resonate with the foundation (suggestions include: clients who can tell their stories, politicians, celebrities, and other foundation leaders).

You can take a deeper look at the findings from this research, as well as Voices’ new messaging research with likely voters, on our website.  And for further guidance on how to talk about civil legal aid to philanthropy, make sure you’ve read and are using with funders  Natural Allies: Philanthropy and Civil Legal Aid from the Public Welfare Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.