Bridging the Gap

On May 20th I attended the North Star Fund’s forum for Resilient New York, a forum to advance grassroots organizing as a key strategy to protect the dignity and rights of all New Yorkers. The event was a call to community members, donors, grantmakers, and organizers to unite around a proactive shared vision to support the grassroots for the next four years and beyond.

I had the honor of participating in the closing plenary: Resourcing the Resistance, Building Power Over Time (recording available here). The other panelists were all incredible women of color leaders representing the perspectives of funders and grassroots organizers.

We didn’t plan it this way, but I was seated in the middle of the panel, between the institutional funders and the grassroots organizers. I thought that was a fitting metaphor for the role that Resource Generation plays as a bridge between these worlds.

Left-to-right – Moderator: Kevin Ryan (New York Foundation), Cathy Dang (CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities), Mo George (Picture the Homeless), Iimay Ho (Executive Director, RG), Tynesha McHarris (NoVo Foundation), Camille Emeagwali (New York Women’s Foundation)

 

Some highlights from the panel include:

  • Cathy Dang from CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities spoke about the importance of funders supporting “building power the right way” through funding long-term, general operating that supports logistics, capacity building, and political education.
  • Mo George from Picture the Homeless spoke about how frustrating it is to have to go back to foundations year after year to ask for money to make sure her staff can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.
  • Tynesha McHarris from the NoVo Foundation spoke about the continued importance and urgency of funding Black-led organizing, and pushed back against institutional philanthropy’s tendency of funding movement moments but not the long-term work. She also highlighted the need for staff in philanthropic institutions to take on the challenge of organizing their colleagues in philanthropy.
  • Tynesha and Camille Emeagwali from the New York Women’s Foundation uplifted the importance of funding organizations that both organize and support Black women and girls.

When it was my turn, I talked about how Resource Generation is an intervention; a wedge in the 1% to show wealthy people that there is another way forward in transformational solidarity with the 99%. I spoke about the importance of wealthy people leveraging their money, time, and connections to support grassroots community organizing and participating in campaigns for structural change. While on the panel, I was struck again by the unique roles we have to play as donors, amplifiers, connectors, and organizers.

Some questions the panel brought up for me where: how do we continue to position Resource Generation in a way that expands the conversation beyond the usual donor/grantee binary? As individual donors, how do we most strategically influence institutional philanthropy? As a “bridge” organization, how do we message our work in a way that can reach our peers, colleagues, and family members while not compromising our values?

I’m grateful to have participated in this dialogue with these brilliant leaders and look forward to making new connections and discovering answers together.

 

Iimay Ho is the Executive Director of Resource Generation.

Resource Generation

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