This initiative is a project of the National Human Services Assembly and is generously funded by The Kresge Foundation and Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Bringing the Public into Budget Conversations
This time of year finds the human service sector focused on engaging the public around budget decisions taking place in statehouses and in Washington, DC. We all know that rallying public support for budget priorities can be tricky. Luckily, research from the FrameWorks Institute can help us be more intentional in how we go about navigating conversations about funding.

In an investigation into how to help Americans think more productively about public budgets, FrameWorks found that people default to little-picture, short-term thinking. Shifting the perspective to a longer-term view is therefore a key strategy.

In particular, FrameWorks recommends:
  1. Using the themes of Responsible Management and Prevention to make the case for funding priorities: the responsible thing to do is to take steps today to address needs we can see ahead.
  2. Take the time to define a “good” budget. Convey that a sound public budget looks ahead and helps a community plan and prepare for the future, as well as meet current needs.
  3. Maintaining an explanatory tone. We know you’ve heard this from us before, but it is worth repeating. There are times and ways that policymakers need to be held accountable, yet it is also important to avoid reinforcing dominant beliefs that the government is wasteful, inept, or corrupt.
In addition to applying the Building Well-Being Narrative to advocacy communications, we recommend incorporating FrameWorks’ extensive guidance on engaging the public on budget and tax issues. You might want to get started by reading "The Case against Rainy-Day Framing of Budgets and Taxes," in Nonprofit Quarterly.
Following are some examples of budget advocacy communications that FrameWorks reframed for us incorporating their findings on human services and on public budgets. We encourage you to borrow language from the reframed examples in your communications.
Example 1
Example 2
The National Reframing Initiative team’s recent mobilization efforts included:
  • Nonprofit leaders in Illinois are putting their heads together to address the state's lack of a budget (for over 18 months!). We had our sixth workshop in the state to help provide them with the tools they need to build broader public awareness of the importance of the sector and why a public budget is critical. 
  • Our friends at FrameWorks Institute presented the Building Well-Being Narrative in Hawaii, at an event sponsored by the Hawaii Leadership Forum, and in Canada, to the ImagineCanada Sector Champions Roundtable. 
If you’re interested in bringing a reframing presentation, workshop, or webinar to your network, contact Ilsa Flanagan, Director of the National Reframing Initiative, for details.
We have a robust set of free tools to better equip you integrating this new narrative into your communications strategies.
Contact Us
For more information on how your organization can join the reframing mobilization, please contact Ilsa Flanagan at
For any questions about this newsletter or the online tools or website information, please contact Bridget Gavaghan at

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