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Grassroots Fundraising for Dollars and Engagement

For many community-based organizations, robust individual giving may seem like something only large organizations with wealthy board members can attain. On December 11, 80 grantees of eight foundations joined together to learn from their nonprofit colleagues who shared strategies for community-driven fundraising that brings in both dollars and engagement. Their work was based in practices of community organizing, advocacy and entrepreneurship.

In a panel moderated by Denise Beek of the Leeway Foundation, each presenter shared their strategy for generating income from sources other than foundations. Kirtrina Baxter from Soil Generation Coalition is experimenting with collective funding methods, including service and product fees as a supplement to foundation funding, representing people of color who are often under-resourced. Jonathan Bix from Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson (New York) built $200,000, 3,000-donor annual grassroots fundraising program in 5 years based on volunteer fundraisers making direct, personalized asks of their networks. Aarati Kasturirangan from the Bread and Roses Community Fund’s The Giving Project trained and supported five, twenty-person cross-race, cross-class groups in personal network-based, direct-ask fundraising resulting in close to $1,000,000 raised from 2100 donors since June 2016. Rapheal Randall at Youth United for Change trained and supported young people who conduct seasonal neighborhood canvassing efforts focused on identifying new supporters and monthly sustainers for community organizing groups.

While each had a different approach, there were some common themes:

  • each initiative involved extensive training to get at underlying issues with talking about or asking for money so that people instead felt that it is powerful and righteous to ask for money that benefits their community;
  • it was important to have leaders from within the communities they were serving, including young people, people of color; and coalitions of people with common interests;
  • conflicts arose and it was important that everyone was accountable and grew together through the process; and,
  • it was a time-consuming process that required keeping an eye on the prize – revisiting the intention as well as the outcome.

After the panel, participants had the opportunity to dig deeply into two of the initiatives, learning more about the nuts and bolts of implementation.  With the help of artist Rodney Camarce, we ended the day with a visual map of the conversation (above) that emphasized the loop of relationships and networks that led to success. 

Thanks to our colleagues who collaborated to provide this free professional development event including the Barra Foundation, Claneil Foundation, Douty Foundation, Seybert Foundation, New Century Trust, Nelson Foundation, Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation and The Philadelphia Foundation.

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