A GIFT Alumna Reflects on Grassroots Fundraising

Two RG’ers discuss grassroots fundraising and RG. Re-posted from Theo’s new column at GIFT Exchange, the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training’s blog.
Greetings! This is my first official post to the GIFT blog and I am grateful and excited to be writing here. In this post, I interview Monica Raye Simpson about her experience with the GIFT Internship for people of color.
Monica is a skilled grassroots fundraiser, facilitator, board member, performance artist and mentor. She is Development Coordinator at SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective in Atlanta, GA. SisterSong works to amplify and strengthen the collective voices of Indigenous women and women of color to promote reproductive justice through securing human rights. Monica also serves on the board of Resource Generation.
How did you get involved with the GIFT internship?
GIFT reached out to organizations in North Carolina in an effort to further their work in the South. I was excited to have an opportunity to gain more knowledge and gain a support system of mentors in the field. I gained the skills I was looking for as well as a peer network of other fundraisers of color.
Did you learn specific skills or philosophies that have had a lasting impact on your work?
The internship stresses the importance of raising funds at the grassroots level. I understand the need for receiving grants, and I appreciate the many foundations that are dedicated to social change work, but as a fundraiser of color who believes that so much of the work done in this movement directly affects people of color communities, it is important to me that the individuals in the affected communities understand the importance of giving of one’s time, talent and treasure to make change happen.
What skills do you see as useful for raising money?
As a fundraiser, one of the first things that GIFT teaches you is that fundraising is organizing. Therefore, like with organizing, the most important skill to have is the ability to create relationships with people.
Tell me about your work now as Development Coordinator for SisterSong.
Even though I have been called a Southern Belle with an edge, I never thought I would move from North Carolina and go deeper South! But there was an opportunity to do development work with a woman of color led organization and I thought this was just too good to be true. I feel lucky to do development work in the South where I feel it is especially crucial considering its history of racism and oppression.
This is the first time I have worked for an organization that has an active membership program, so I have been working to create a development plan for SisterSong that continues to increase our membership base, but also allows space for a thriving base of individual donors who give above their membership dues. Managing a membership base and an individual donor program can be tricky. There will be some folks who are not interested in membership, but are dedicated to the cause, and there may be some folks who feel as if their membership dues count as their donation for the year and see no need to give more. My desire is to show our donors that it is possible to be a member and a donor, and there is a need to support in both ways to build a sustainable organization.
What projects are you currently working on for SisterSong?
I am fundraising for our “Let’s Talk About Sex” Conference that will be held in Miami from July 14-17. This four day conference includes topics such as birth control, senior sexuality, gynecological health and wellness, erotica, youth sexuality, and more. In order to help spread the word about the conference I am organizing local parties called ForePlay with fiery performance artists.
That sounds awesome. So you are on the board of Resource Generation. What is this like for you?
Sometimes I sit and ask myself, “How did I get here?” I feel very fortunate to work with so many amazing young donors who really are dedicated to social change. I may not have the financial wealth or class privilege that many young donors have access to, but we are both equally invested in moving resources to empower grassroots organizations.
How does work with young people with wealth connect to grassroots fundraising?
Young wealthy people have the ability to not only contribute individually, but Resource Generation is creating a movement of young wealthy people for social change, potentially multiplying the power of grassroots fundraising.