This evaluation of Atlantic’s grantmaking to support the economic security of low-income elders identifies elements most likely to help advance a policy agenda when working in a politically charged environment:
- Use a state-by-state approach and target multiple levels of government to show incremental progress for national results
- Invest in research to create the foundation for effective advocacy and communications strategies
- Use strategic communications to change the narrative
- Ensure the voices of the grassroots are heard in policy debates
- Support for capacity building should focus on filling gaps needed to achieve a goal rather than trying to bolster weak organizations
- Work still needs to be done after winning a change in policy to help ensure implementation of a “new normal”
The evaluation examined five projects that comprised a multi-pronged effort to improve the financial resources of retired adults. Goals included boosting enrollment in an array of social safety net programs and protecting and strengthening retirement policies. To achieve their goals, grantees used a mix of research and data, advocacy, communications, grassroots training and mobilization.
Over the course of their work, grantees connected elders to available benefits, promoted state-level reforms to retirement programs, changed the narrative on social security, and exposed the gap between the cost of living and actual elder incomes.