Reflections on the campaign to fund Black liberation

Reflections on the campaign to fund Black liberation
In the last year, the movement for Black liberation has grown at an exhilarating pace.  Even as the systemic violence against Black lives continues, this social movement has built tremendous transformative power nationwide.  In the late summer and fall of 2014, we in RG realized that our organization needed to find ways to support this movement.  As young people with class privilege committed to the redistribution of land, wealth, and power, the most direct way that we could do that was through leading a fundraising campaign to give the movement resources to continue and grow.  We are proud that in the last year, RG has evolved into an organization capable of moving millions of dollars to the movement for Black liberation.  After the one-year anniversary of the Ferguson Uprising, we – Resource Generation members Ollie and Jason – want to reflect on the achievements and the challenges of the past year and our commitments to Black liberation movements going forward.  Many of the insights below come from our fellow RGers.    
Campaign Timeline
In August, as powerful images of the Ferguson Uprising reached our screens, individual RG members began moving money to support the protestors’ needs. In October, RG staff and board members organized a national call to connect members and start the conversation about how we should respond as an organization.  At the Making Money Make Change conference in November, member leaders laid out a bold vision to move $1 million to Black-led organizing by the following spring.  By the end of December, RG members gave $200,000 to the incredible grassroots organizing in Ferguson, Missouri, led by a leadership group of four that included two constituent members (young people with class privilege), a board member, and an alumni advocate member.  In January 2015, RG expanded the work to fund groups nationwide and formed a larger national campaign team of staff and members to coordinate, support, and track giving.  All of this hard work paid off at the end of the campaign on May 20th.  RG members gave or fundraised $1.3 million and pledged $250,000 more to support organizing for Black liberation!  As far as we know, RG moved the most money of any organization to movements for Black liberation at a time when this financial support was incredibly needed.

Some keys that made this campaign successful

  • Leadership and encouragement from Black organizers: Black organizers, both members and allies of RG, were critical in instigating this project and keeping it effective.   Gratitude to Ingrid Benedict, Chad Jones, Nakisha Lewis, Maurice Mitchell, Monica Simpson and many many more people.
  • Responsiveness & speed: RG and its members followed the energy of the movement for Black liberation; we did not wait for other funders to move or for the most perfect and detail oriented proposals.  In fact,our actions inspired other funders to act more urgently.  
    • Specific, shared national fundraising goal: This re-engaged members, gave permission for members to practice fundraising each other & gave chapters a clear context in which to build relationships with local Black-led liberatory groups.
    • Guidance for Giving: The partial map of Black-led organizing and criteria for what do we mean by Black-led organizing for Black-liberation were a way to support members’ and chapters’ giving decisions.
    • Pre-existing relationships with local foundations and Black-led organizations.
    • Being transparent about what we didn’t know.
    • Learning & adapting along the way: Initially RG leaders hoped to organize a new pooled fund with giving decisions made by an advisory group of Black activists. We realized that wasn’t logistically feasible or timely and moved on to a model based on direct individual giving.
  • Sharing ideas across chapters: Member-leaders shared event agendas, motivational stories and more.

Achievements and Challenges
As this campaign progressed we saw RG members taking risks by stepping into new roles, trying out new organizational structures, and pushing their giving and fundraising to new levels.  All of this resulted in a ton of growth and learning!  These take-aways will be essential as we plan our next campaign and support Black liberation going forward.      
National Level Achievements
RG member-leaders joined with staff to build the national fundraising effort.  Members and staff revised RG’s solicitation policy, a long-standing part of RG and a barrier to full-fledged fundraising work in the chapters.  Dedicated RG staff time was a key factor in success to the “It Starts Today” campaign team, which was made up of member-leaders, staff and board members.  The team formed committees to provide invaluable resources and direction for chapters.  In order to guide giving, the campaign team developed a fundraising toolkit and a partial map of Black-led organizing with input from the RG community and beyond.   Team members provided language and framing for the campaign, worked individually with chapters, tracked giving, and did outreach and publicity, which led to multiple articles that recognized RG’s efforts and highlighted the importance of funding the movement.  Their efforts united chapters from around the country in communication and relationship building around a common goal.  
Chapter Level Achievements
“…during a time when I was really confused about how to support Black Lives Matter and related work around the country I knew I could turn to RG. I did, and I found people asking questions I was asking but I also found people who were moving money and showing up at actions and writing about their thoughts and feelings and it was amazing to feel that kind of solidarity…”
– Erica, RG member
Each RG chapter took on the task of designing a fundraising effort that made sense for them. Through house parties, community conversations, and lots and lots of personal communications, RG members on the local level pulled together donations from nearly 200 total individuals.  Ten chapters organized fundraising work, 7 chapters hosted events, and RG members living in areas without chapters participated with support from the national campaign team. Some chapters, like Philadelphia and New York, leveraged existing relationships with social justice foundations to guide giving to racial justice funds.  Others, like Seattle and Minneapolis fundraised for specific local organizations.  This campaign engaged and built leadership in our chapters and spurred further action to mobilize for visible protest and invest in Black communities.  Young people with wealth in RG know that the time is now to be bold and take risks to challenge white supremacy.  We value our community because it pushes us forward and helps us build the skills to do so.  
It is exciting to see that this campaign engaged a wide range of donations.  The chart below shows that RGers gave, or mobilized others to give, across a spectrum of levels.
“This campaign anchored me in my feelings of fear, anger, and gratitude and provided me an outlet to act in community as part of this movement for Black liberation. Though there were plenty of moments during the campaign when I had no idea what I was doing, I found courage, camaraderie and support from RG leaders all across the country.”

  • Katherine, RG Member

This new style of campaign came with challenges.  We hope we can turn these challenges into discussion and learnings.
Changing RG’s solicitation policy was an amazing step that allowed us to make this campaign work.  Incorporating direct fundraising work into the culture of our RG chapters and relationships is still an important task.  How do we motivate each other to move large amounts of money while maintaining RG’s traditional strength– fostering relationships that mobilize our members to show up in movements in the long-term? Answering that question was not always easy or clear in the campaign but it is an essential and exciting step for our community.
Other challenges arose in the fast-paced nature of the campaign.  On both the national and local level, RGers are committed to being responsible and responsive donors who make clear commitments, spread decision-making power, build relationships, and follow through.  In that vein, the campaign’s leadership initially set out to create an advisory team of Black leaders to guide giving. But soon they responded to a consistent voice from movement leaders: move money now, they said, the people and organizations on the ground need it urgently.  That spurred us into a much more streamlined approach that emphasized total number of dollars moved over process.  One challenge is to act with urgency while still maintaining our commitment to learning and honing good donor practices and developing strong relationships both within our organization and with leaders in the movement.
Still, RG’s timeline did not always match up with the needs of local Black-led organizations. Many RG member-leaders also felt their capacity stretched thin as they added fundraising work to their ongoing local initiatives.  Integrating local and national communication about goals will be a continual project.
Next steps
In this final section, we wrote questions because we would love to dialogue with you about your answers in the comments section.
Empowered relationships: One of the biggest assets of this campaign was that we built on existing relationships at every level – with movement organizations, foundations, loved ones & more.  Collective power. It’s real, and it takes work.  How can RG chapters and members build deeper relationships with these key allies so that our next fundraising campaign will be even stronger?
Sustained giving: Many of us took new risks in our giving and our fundraising in this campaign.  Now is the time to support each other to build upon that boldness and giving and follow through on our multi-year goals.  We have some great tools to do that: written giving plans, 5-10 year giving commitments, giving circles, and more.  How can we as RGers join together to ensure social movements for Black liberation are resourced for the long-run?
Political education: How can we orient political education in our chapters more towards developing skills, commitment, and leadership for racial justice fundraising campaigns?
Next campaign: In the coming months, RG aims to create a clear and compelling campaign vision that will mobilize leadership of the multi-racial base in RG. All RG chapters will be going through a campaign assessment toolkit, so get in touch with your local chapter leader about how to get involved!
Jason is a chapter leader in Minneapolis and served on the leadership team for this campaign.
Ollie is a chapter leader in New York City and worked on his chapter’s fundraising team.  
Thanks to:
Katherine Wolf, Kaitlin Gravitt