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Strength in Numbers: Brand New and Familiar

There’s an appointment on my calendar at the end of today that I’m dreading. “A Virtual Send Off for Our Founder & Friend” it says. There will be good food, great people, a lot of laughing and reminiscing about the last four years since Progressive Multiplier was “born” and there will be a very profound farewell. Phil Radford, the founder and friend our team is feting, will be taking his drive, intelligence and dedication to restoring our environment and democracy onto a new venture (side note – stay tuned, his concept and platform are unlike anything this fundraiser has ever seen and I could not be more excited.)

While Phil is only a text or IM away (he promises he’ll still answer ), Friday will see Progressive Multiplier step into a place both brand new and familiar. Independent of the people and organizations that incubated it and continuing to navigate what our team has come to call #IntermediaryLife for the movement.


As an intermediary, our job will always be to connect those who want to invest in the independent financial strength and subsequent power of movement groups to those that can leverage the dollars and our revenue generation expertise that multiplies them. But how do we do that and honor that most grantees want funders, intermediaries included, to be responsible with their power and put it in the hands of the frontline?


We have heard clearly from grantee partners that funders need to shift power and resources to grassroots groups. And intermediaries excel at flexibly getting dollars to where they are needed on the ground. But our particular intermediary model includes very high-touch strategic assistance. Think at least monthly discussions and a fair amount of digging through data together to see what’s working best to bring in new revenue. 


How can we be that hands-on with groups and deployed by our funders for our rev gen expertise and not create a power problem?

Thanks to USCAN, CJA, Power Shift Network, Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans, and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, we’re about to solidify how. These five groups have spent the last year and half, thanks to funding from the JPB Foundation, in the inaugural class of Progressive Multiplier’s Environmental Justice Cohort (If you haven’t heard about their independent revenue generation experiments, check out their panel discussion here).


Their next adventure is going to be piloting PM’s first participatory grantmaking/peer mentoring model as we bring on the third class of the EJ Cohort (Want to be a cohort member? Fill out the Letter of Interest here by 7/11!). 



The goals of this model are:


· To disrupt the expert/novice model. This participatory approach needs to go beyond “you bring your expertise, I’ll bring mine, and we’ll join them together”. This is about learning from everyone at every exposure.


· To co-create a cohort design and facilitation process that specifically addresses the needs of the EJ movement with regard to independent revenue generation. EJ groups are the ones who will most immediately benefit from the third class’s projects. So, they will decide the learning agenda. And they will drive the next iteration of Progressive Multiplier’s strategic assistance model so that it becomes an optimal fit for movement groups’ operational needs.


· To build peer community within the EJ movement. One of the things the first two classes of the EJ cohort have found most valuable is a safe space to talk shop. Not EJ shop per se, but how to fundraise, manage up, deal with organization silos, etc. Context matters and it’s been powerful to have a group of people with similar context problem solving for hurdles they share.


· To bring the “have you thought about…” perspective to the new grantee partners as they plan their projects. Progressive Multiplier’s program staff are great fundraisers. Yes, I’m biased, but our team is quantifiable awesome when it comes to rev gen. Our five grantees who just graduated are also awesome and bring the most relevant context to the incoming class. You want to plan a campaign where you’ll be asking activists to fundraise on the bus to an action where they have signed up to get arrested? USCAN is the mentor for you. You want to figure out how to sell green tours on AirBnB experiences? The Water Collaborative of New Orleans has Jedi level skills.


· To compensate people fairly. Maybe this isn’t really a goal, but something we’re doing. The five groups helping us pilot this model will receive a stipend funded by Northlight Foundation and a year’s worth of pro-bono strategic assistance to support their ongoing revenue generation projects from PM. (Interested in funding stipends or grants so we can expand this model? Please reach out, I’d love to discuss the potential.)


We’re excited to dive into this new model with these groups over the summer. So stay tuned to our social media channels throughout July and August to meet the new EJ Cohort members!