Challenges

  • 3kidsCalifornia’s election and tax laws create significant barriers to raising revenue for a specific cause. For instance, special taxes require a 2/3 vote and there are numerous constraints as to when and how revenues can be voted on. (Read white paper on revenue options by Orrick Finance Group.)
  • Advocates for children’s services are not used to raising political money. Campaigns require significant resources. This means developing new skills and new alliances.
  • No matter how well-crafted or supported a measure is, there will be opponents – often unexpected and often noisy opponents. Competition over resources is fierce, even when the recipients are young people.
  • Community-based non-profits must be a core party to this work, but they are inexperienced, often reluctant, unaware of their legal options and sometimes fearful of retribution by public funders.

Lessons

  • There is no linear path to creating dedicated funding for children and youth, and every community is different. But basic activities are: Building the case; Building a base; Crafting a strong policy; and Negotiating with policy-makers.
  • There are important intermediary steps that can be taken before delving into planning a ballot measure – particularly annual advocacy in the local budget process. (link to On Becoming a Champion for Children – in resources under Tools)
  • The primary activity involved in passing a measure for funding children and youth services is outreach, communication and organizing. While research, planning and policy development are essential, they should not over shadow the importance of what it takes to build a base of support.
  • Engaging youth as partners in creating and passing a measure can be powerful – and can change the process. Same with grassroots parents.
  • An effective approach to decision-makers requires both persuasion and pressure. Advocates for children and youth expect only persuasion to work. There are many voices in the policymaking arena. Elected officials respond to pressure, even though it is uncomfortable for many who are inexperienced advocates. (link to paper on Pressure vs Persuasion under featured info, midway)
  • This is a marathon, not a sprint. Putting a measure on the ballot without the proper vetting and base-building can be a mistake. But if you wait too long to get started, you will never do it.
  • Elections are powerful – they not only create a mechanism to institutionalize funding and policy; but they are a platform like none other for communication to the public and to decision-makers.
  • Most leaders of efforts to get measure on the ballot say that it is harder than they anticipated, but also more exhilarating and they learn much more than they ever could have expected.

Learn more:
Creating a local Children’s Fund – a power point providing an overview of lessons learned
FNG February 2017 newsletter – a summary of 5 2016 campaigns
Creating a local dedicated funding stream for kids – our first-ever “how-to” manual

Next Steps

  • Provide technical assistance, including mechanisms for information-sharing and group support, to the growing number of coalitions in cities and counties in California which aspire to create dedicated funding streams for children, youth and families, particularly those who are most disadvantaged.
  • Focus on the benefits of moving resources from punishment to prevention and opportunity.
  • Assist city and county-wide coalitions in becoming more multi-cultural and multi-racial, and more reflective of a broader segment of the community.
  • Develop and implement strategies that encourage active participation of non-profit service providers in creating local funding streams, as well as the engagement of the participants in their programs.
  • Work with state policymakers to find solutions to the legal barriers to passing funding measures at the local level.

Learn more:
FNG Goals and Strategies for 2016 – 2018

Are you ready to explore a dedicated funding stream for your community?

Download: Community Discussion Guide

  • Is there an organization with community credibility that will convene the planning meetings?
  • Do you have staff support for the planning and organizing?
  • Is there a coalition or network that can work together toward the goal of dedicated funding?
  • Does your community have data about the needs of children, youth and families, and the gaps in services?
  • Is there a respected elected official who will be your champion?
  • Does your community have a civic culture that supports kids?
  • Are there potential donors to a campaign?
  • Do you have the passion and willingness to take risks – and run the marathon?