Skip to content

Community and Connection - Lessons from the Changemaker Skills Camp

This is the second in a series of blogs written by our staff ahead of our new growth strategy rollout. Last month, Johanna Olivas wrote about the upcoming changes to our organizational structure.  At Progressive Multiplier, we've been self-evaluating how to structure our work to best serve the organizations we work with and the progressive movement as a whole. As we shape our role as facilitators in the knowledge-sharing of organized money, Valeria Sosa Garnica's role is key. As the Director of Program Learning and Evaluation, she is charged with leveraging and sharing the knowledge we see daily from our grantee partners regarding independent revenue generation.

In this reflection, Valeria writes about her experience co-facilitating the dev track at the Changemaker Skills Camp (CSC), a 2.5-day regional training intensive co-hosted by State Voices and The Movement Cooperative for the progressive community. In a space designed to discuss the intersection of tech, ops, and digital practice for nonprofit professionals, they discussed money and its complicated relationships in our movement.

In a room that feels like a mash-up between a military tribunal and the panopticon, color pencils, bright stickers, and fidget bubble poppers litter the tables. Chart paper covers most of the walls, and cutely personalized envelopes straight out of a summer camp craft class dot the space in between. This room held the Development Track of last month’s Changemaker Skills Camp (CSC) hosted by The Movement Cooperative (TMC) and State Voices in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The development track was a last-minute addition to the 2.5-day event – the CSC Development Curriculum Committee hustled to get out the word over the next couple of weeks, praying that we would at least have some attendees. To our surprise, our track had over 30 registrants, about the same as the other tracks. 

In designing the training curriculum, we made choices that diverged from the traditional path – no virtual/hybrid option, no technology for the actual training  (aside from a Polaroid camera to take fun photos during breaks), and absolutely no slide decks.

We thought hard about how to design a curriculum for progressive development staff that would range in experience and organization size. 

In my work at Progressive Multiplier, there are a few common challenges I see fundraisers from our grantee organizations face: 

  1. Lack of confidence in their ability to try something new or advocate for scaled fundraising infrastructure 
  2. Isolation and lack of community both within their organization and in the greater progressive ecosystem
  3. Limited trust and restricted imagination when it comes to breaking fundraising norms - like collectivizing the fundraising work within your organization or even collaborating across organizations

As a group of progressive fundraisers ourselves, we decided to focus less on how to appeal and appease donors and more on applying a progressive political analysis to the practice of fundraising and connecting with each other as peers. This was an experiment to bring community, care, and fun to a group of practitioners that often feel like they carry the weight of their organization's survival on their shoulders alone. 

I wanted to share some of the feedback we heard from participants, as well as some of my own reflections on the event: 

“Learning and hearing from others how NPIC [non-profit industrial complex] can affect an organization has opened my eyes to some of the difficulties that are happening within our own organization”

One of the sessions I led at the Changemaker Skills Bootcamp was “Understanding the Role of the Nonprofit Industrial Complex in Development.” To my surprise, despite the diversity of experience and organizations, less than half of the people in the room had ever heard of the Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC). I think we often take for granted that everyone either has the same definitions for jargon, or even knows it at all. 

I watched several lightbulb moments as folks made connections between the excerpts from The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex and their lived experiences in the nonprofit sectors. I overheard discussions where ideological differences were passionately explained and interrogated. I saw an unleashing of creative energy: 

One group created an interactive art display where development became community care, and fundraisers became facilitators of time and care. 

Another performed a skit where we (the audience) were dues-paying members of the People’s Church celebrating the wins we achieved through collective action in the last year.

Yet another group proclaimed that they did not think it was possible to do what they do outside of the NPIC and choreographed a dance that represented how that made them feel. 

The creativity of each group made what could have been a demoralizing discussion into a catharsis of laughter and joy. 

“We shared some very personal experiences and were vulnerable about things like job security and varying skill sets. We shared ideas and personally connected on a human level. Nothing felt transactional.”

Sometimes trainings use activities that expose participants’ trauma to create a rapid sense of intimacy and bonding. Instead, we created opportunities for vulnerability and openness. Trust is hard to come by, especially for development staff. Some may have past (or current) toxic work environments, but also, the way traditional fundraising operates forces us to be distrustful of those who would otherwise be our partners in the work. We are told to keep cards close to our chest and not share information about our funders. Over those couple of days, I saw walls come down and shoulders begin to loosen. 

“[I learned that] I'm not alone in this work. A lot of the struggles that I thought were just mine, are shared struggles.” 

This feedback kept coming up again and again as I read through surveys. Fundraising can be incredibly isolating – it is easy to assume your organization is the only one struggling when we are disconnected from a larger progressive fundraising community. As development becomes a more diverse field, traditional structures of support are insufficient (and for progressive fundraisers, almost nonexistent). 

We need more intentional spaces that help build up the skills we need to transform progressive  fundraising. We also need the opportunity to build up the relationships needed for ecosystem-wide collaboration and power-building. Most importantly, we have to break free of the tired power dynamics within the progressive philanthropic landscape. In order to do this, the first thing that must happen is a shift in the connections between movement organizations – we need trust, we need care, we need community. 

Training and skills-building are critical for long-term infrastructure and power building. A huge thank you to TMC and State Voices for including development in their Changemaker Skills Camp. The experience was transformative—it showed me that progressive fundraisers are not only willing to participate in nontraditional skills training and community-building but also strongly desire more. 

I am eternally grateful to Andrea Catone, Chiamaka Ede Ifeobu, and Haley Bash for organizing this space and inviting me in, as well as to the other development curriculum planning committee members, Neal Hussein and Ron Goines. As someone who spent her early years volunteering at elementary schools and youth centers, it was an absolute joy to work with a team that understands the importance of collaboration and incorporating playfulness and care into learning.

Progressive fundraisers deserve joy and care. At Progressive Multiplier we know and believe that progressive fundraisers deserve community.  We look forward to building these spaces for our fundraisers and the wider progressive ecosystem. Be sure to keep an eye out for exciting updates on this front over the coming months. 



Valeria (she/her) currently serves as Director of Program Learning for Progressive Multiplier Fund. Prior to joining the team, she bridged gaps between philanthropy, capacity building, and movement infrastructure as philanthropy manager for Cooperative Impact Movement. Valeria also worked as a fundraising consultant for Abundance Strategies, where her portfolio included democracy, organizing, and economic development progressive nonprofits. 

Born and raised in North Carolina, Valeria is proud of her deep roots from Oaxaca, Mexico. She received her bachelor's degree from Williams College, where her study focused on racial geographies and social movements. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. and is excited to continue serving the progressive movement by building power through independent revenue generation.