Policy work and the people associated with investing and believing in advocacy and policy work are typically people who understand or have an appetite for systemic change. They realize the implications of structural discrimination or systems that don't allow full participation or access to those who were intended to be served. Often there is a personal or a family experience of system failure or they have been a student of systems change. For many investors that I met at the Women's Sports Foundation, they had seen discrimination in theatre, construction, and business and saw sports as a place where a system was changing more quickly than their industry.
The Women's Funding Network defines five shifts in social change that can be measured and discussed to showcase to people how the work on an issue is moving forward. First, there may be a shift in definition where an issue has been named and defined in a more compelling way as something that needs to be recognized and addressed (naming sexual harassment). A second shift would be a shift in behavior. By doing some type of education or outreach work, there is a change in people's behavior (i.e. the green movement and recycling). The third shift is a shift in engagement where people are more actively engaged on an issue because something has been addressed or revealed in the system (i.e. voting outreach and voting rights). The fourth shift is a shift in policy; actually making change to policy or creating a policy (i.e Title IX). And the fifth shift is a shift in ensuring that a law or policy is upheld and/or enforced (i.e. Roe vs Wade being upheld).
It is important to educate people about the immense time it takes and the resources needed through historical examples. For instance, in the U.S. where it took 70 years for women to get the right to vote, there are still conversations about pay equity that have been on the table for 50 years and there is still racial injustice even though there have been laws on the books for 60 years. These issues have gone through some of the shifts but the fifth has not yet been achieved.For people to understand that the work you are doing will not be a “quick fix”, it helps to ask about the change THEY have seen happen in their lifetime and describe each of these intervening factors that made that change happen. Perhaps they can share their experience within grassroots movements or with policy change (i.e., participation in protest marches, petitioning, outreach, or other ways they may have been involved in taking action on an issue or topic). By engaging with them and having them reflect on their own experiences as an advocate, if you listen well enough, you will be able to find a way to make analogies to the work that you are doing, clearly portraying your work as reflecting a wise strategy and practices that are not only worthy of their investment but actions that are required for success.