I’ve worked in non-profits and charities for decades. I’ve never found a good answer to, “How Do I Write A Policy Brief? (for a charity or a non-profit)” So here is a template structure you could use to write a policy brief.
Template for a Policy Brief
Specifically, the elements you want to include in your policy brief are:
- Intro: Summarise the situation. Try to avoid making too many assumptions about the decision-maker’s level of prior knowledge. You may be the first to raise the element of the issue you’re campaigning on.
- State the problem. Why is it a problem? Who is affected by the problem?
- Make it explicit who is responsible. Outline the key stakeholders involved, and the impacts now or in future.
- Clearly state your key ask here as well, which is what you think the solution is.
- Main content: Build your case with citations (footnoted if useful). Here you outline the reasons why your campaign is important with simple, compelling and factual statements.
- Answer why this is urgent. Why does it need to be dealt with now?
- Conclusion: What does success (or a good resolution) look like? What will the impact of doing this be? And what does it mean to people?
- Specifically what can the person you’re writing to do about it?
- Even if they can’t directly affect the change you want, what action do you need them to take to achieve the desired outcome.
And of course the step before writing this is agreeing your policy position as a group / organisation. Essentially you’re laying out your vision as a policy brief for your target decision-makers or power holders. It’s good to be creative with how you communicate your campaign. But even if you get your key messages across via shadow semaphore projected onto your parliament building (if you do this, please let me know!) you also need a simple brief that decision-makers can refer to.
As shown above, this is one approach, and it isn’t exhaustive. But hopefully it’s better than starting with a blank piece of paper! As for length, assume your reader is busy. A well designed side (or two) of A4 is ideal, with no fonts below 11pt!