Events Uncategorized

Content Club: The Future We Need

On July 12th, we co-hosted our first Content Club with New Left Accelerator and The Workers Lab. The conversation was rooted in Erica Smiley and Sarita Gupta’s new book, The Future We Need: Organizing for a Better Democracy in the Twenty-First Century.

Listen in as we explore independent revenue generation as a lever of power in the fight for collective bargaining and a healthy democracy free of white supremacy and gender discrimination.

To learn more about Progressive Multiplier’s programs and projects, contact Polly Stamatopoulos, Senior Director of Group Engagement at [email protected]

Events Uncategorized

Environmental Justice Cohort – Class 1 Briefing

On June 15th, the inaugural class of our Environmental Justice cohort shared stories of their journey to strengthen their independent revenue programs to build more power and scale. Now, as the first graduating cohort, these five groups will pilot a peer mentor/participatory grant-making model at Progressive Multiplier, advising on what groups and experiments to include for the incoming cohort. 

This program wouldn’t be possible without our founding funding partner, The JPB Foundation, and our expansion partner NorthLight Foundation, which is funding the stipends for Class 1 to peer-mentor our next round of Environmental Justice grantees. 

Watch the panel discussion to learn more about the impact that investing in rev-gen has in fueling Environmental Justice work:

To learn more about Progressive Multiplier’s programs and projects, contact Polly Stamatopoulos, Senior Director of Group Engagement at [email protected]

Blogs News

Rev Gen and Democracy 2022 Briefing

Margaret Huang, President, and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, moderates a panel with Progressive Multiplier grantee partners: Living United for Change Arizona (LUCHA), Equality Florida, and For The Many, where they discuss Independent Revenue Generation, Democratizing Philanthropy, and how they use narrative to advance their mission.

Key questions for the panel included:

– How does this revenue generation work that you are doing, scale and strengthen  the rest of the movement that we’re all a part of? 

– Why do you think philanthropy hasn’t supported this kind of work [long-term sustainability in progressive nonprofits] the same way that it supports leadership development or other things that affect an organization’s sustainability and growth?

– How does the narrative shapes the opportunities and challenges of fundraising


To learn more about Progressive Multiplier’s programs and projects, contact Bethany Maki, Executive Director, at [email protected]

Events Uncategorized

Rev Gen And Democracy 2022 Vision Briefing

Margaret Huang, President, and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, moderates a panel with Progressive Multiplier grantee partners: Living United for Change Arizona (LUCHA), Equality Florida, and For The Many, where they discuss Independent Revenue Generation, Democratizing Philanthropy, and how they use narrative to advance their mission.

Key questions for the panel included:

– How does this revenue generation work that you are doing, scale and strengthen  the rest of the movement that we’re all a part of? 

– Why do you think philanthropy hasn’t supported this kind of work [long-term sustainability in progressive nonprofits] the same way that it supports leadership development or other things that affect an organization’s sustainability and growth?

– How does the narrative shapes the opportunities and challenges of fundraising


To learn more about Progressive Multiplier’s programs and projects, contact Bethany Maki, Executive Director at [email protected]


So, what do you want to know?

Shortly after our founder sent the announcement that I would be Progressive Multiplier’s new executive director, our Chief Storyteller, Violeta Bermudez, asked me to write a blog about my vision for the organization. Sure, it’s a reasonable request. But vision? My brain is more spreadsheet than blue sky. I am at my best when I’m knee deep in data, trend analysis and rigor. I like to find connections that answer “why” and point to “what” needs to be done. 


So, I’m turning Violeta’s assignment into data mining, and more importantly, an opportunity to listen and be accountable to the communities most directly affected by Progressive Multiplier’s work. 

Each day for the next week, I’ll add to this blog with questions sent in by our partners across the movement. Have a question you’d like to add? Reach out to me at [email protected]

“Foundations and ultra-high net worth donors play an important role in funding movements and progressive social change organizations. What’s your vision for how Progressive Multiplier will engage with and influence this set of donors?”

If you had asked me this question even five years ago, I would have answered it differently. I grew up professionally as a fundraiser for direct service organizations operating within current power systems, not direct-action movement groups shifting power. So, my vision for great fundraising was one of “donor delight” – connect donors to what they care about and give them the experience they want. Show them their impact and keep them engaged. While that version of donor stewardship is great for revenue, it perpetuates systemic inequity and paves the way for capture of the progressive movement by philanthropy from the frontline.

That being said, fundraising is not an “f” word and I strongly believe its core to the mission of any progressive movement group. Fundraising is a key tactic for mobilizing the mass base, that includes foundations and ultra-high net worth donors.

My responsibility is not to delight donors – it’s to engage them in building progressive scale and power in a way that ensures movement groups have a sufficient foundation of money they generate independently.

That means Progressive Multiplier’s donor engagement is rooted in sharing our grantee partners’ revenue generation projects in context of our value proposition to donors. They can drive their current strategies while making a high leverage investment in movement self-determination, scale and sustainability.  

My vision for engaging with and influencing this set of donors is to make an irrefutable data-driven case that investing in independent revenue generation in parallel to organizing and programming is the most efficient and sound way to achieve justice and secure our democracy. A dollar invested by a donor in program and twenty-five cents in revenue generation will yield two dollars to the mission. Our grantee partners are on track to raise $3.80 for every dollar we grant out.

One of our grantee partners turned an $18K grant into $108K in independent revenue and hired an organizer with it. Imagine the scale and progressive power we would build if we funded all 60 affiliates of the same network across 24 states to do the same. That’s what we mean by high leverage.

Check out this and some of our other grantee partners’ stories in our recent articles.

“I’d love to know about how your vision seeks to empower and grow leadership for the up and coming generation of movement leaders and what kind of cultural shifts you’re seeing and working towards to hold young future leaders in this work?”


As we’ve been recruiting for an open position on our team at Progressive Multiplier, this question of growing leadership for the up-and-coming generation has been at the forefront of my mind. We collectively aren’t spending enough resources on purposefully developing holistic movement leaders. I think that’s becoming more recognized and some great programs, like the SOCIAL CHANGE FELLOWSHIPS through THE LEADERSHIP CENTER FOR DEMOCRACY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE, are aiming right at the core of this need for young future leaders. 


At Progressive Multiplier, I’m focused on how we can be part of developing cross-discipline movement leaders who are well-versed in revenue generation and how we can directly develop young leaders specializing in independent revenue generation as integral to social change. For the former, we’re partnering with collaborators like THE RESILIENCE INITIATIVETHE LEADERS TRUSTSOCIAL MOVEMENT TECHNOLOGIESNEW LEFT ACCELERATOR and others to be part of their broader development offerings that seek to provide well-rounded training opportunities for emerging leaders. This is a good start, but I want to find a way to expand beyond one-and-done trainings and into ongoing development and support. This part of the vision for our enhanced Center of Excellence that we’re hoping to launch in 2022-2023 (working on funding for this as we “speak”).


Directly developing young leaders specializing in independent revenue generation for social change has become a bit of an obsession for me. Or at least figuring out how to do it well. Kristie Kimball of Build Power Strategies is getting the basic training right with the MOVE MONEY BUILD POWER ACADEMY, an anti-capitalist fundraising course for movement makers (100% free and tailored for those with under two years management experience – apply now!!)
I’ve worked in fundraising for over two decades. You know how many fundraising professionals of color I know well? Three. Revenue generation as a profession has traditionally been a white field. And many of the donor acquisition and stewardship practices that fundraisers are taught are steeped in white supremacy and patriarchal standards. As we evolve how to resource the base and fundraise in ways that align with progressive values as well as provide financial scale and sustainability, we in parallel must recruit, train and support a new generation of revenue generation specialists. In 2022, I am starting discovery on a fellowship/paid internship program for young movement leaders who want to specialize in revenue generation. The long-term vision is that this program would grow into an alumni network with support for movement fundraisers throughout their careers. 



“You’d think from conversations in progressive philanthropy that we all agree that there are two sources of power in democracies: organized people and organized money. You might also think that progressives’ commitment to engage in self-governance on any semblance of an even playing field is through organizing… under-funding organizing makes the long arc of history towards justice much, much longer. It results in organizations that are less able to focus on community-defined needs, to sustain the capacity that is required to win long-term campaigns, and to build a local power at scale.”


Our founder Phil Radford, wrote this in an article for The Forge and it captures the why and what Progressive Multiplier is doing to build progressive power this year. We fund progressive direct-action groups that run campaigns, organize, litigate, and do civic engagement as well as public education and mobilization to achieve justice for and with marginalized communities. 


I don’t believe we amplify the voice or power of Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Immigrants, and Refugees. We help multiply the independent financial resources of groups led by and serve them to have even more power, reach and impact. Forty-eight percent of our grantee partners are BIPOC-led movement groups. Those partners are working in immigrant justice, environmental justice, corporate accountability, LGBTQ2S+ justice, mass incarceration, racial justice, economic justice, reproductive rights, and gender justice. 


In 2022, I am committed to growing that percentage so that frontline groups have the resources they need to shorten that arc.

A QUESTION FROM Jesse beason, president & ceo, northwest health foundation
“What do foundations often get wrong when it comes to supporting independent resource generation?

The short answer: 


Most foundations do not equate generating independent revenue with building power, so they don’t fund it as such.


The long answer:


My partner has an acquired brain injury that permanently impaired his executive function and short-term memory. He’s on long-term medical disability. When I helped him apply seven years ago and during each annual review process, we were asked if he can lift thirty pounds.


Sure, he’s a physically strong retired Marine. He can lift three hundred pounds if you ask. But he won’t remember that you asked unless you stand next to him and remind him to do it until it’s done. The disability insurance system is set up to investigate gross physical injuries, not nuanced cognitive ones.


That’s how I feel when applying to some foundations for independent resource generation (IRG) support. In general, philanthropy doesn’t have a refined understanding of IRG, so foundations are rarely set up to investigate a proposal in a way that will actually demonstrate its effects on the foundation’s mission. 


Many foundations that are interested in revenue generation, never start because they’re not clear about what their grantees want or need. Some funders, like Northwest Health Foundation, NEO Philanthropy’s Four Freedoms Fund, and Rosenberg Foundation, have partnered with the Progressive Multiplier to do deep discovery and consultative work with their grantee partners to design grantmaking solutions that included IRG training and strategic assistance specific to what groups need.


Foundations also struggle with where to house and how to support IRG projects from intermediaries like Progressive Multiplier because their portfolios don’t provide an easy fit. Independent resource generation is often housed in capacity-building portfolios or special projects. Both, unfortunately, put financial caps and too early expiration dates on support for projects that strengthen the foundation, scale, and agility of the movement.

Foundation program staff are often given the mandate to solve a societal problem, but are rarely given concrete, due goals of solving an issue and strengthening the organizations and leaders that they fund. This makes getting IRG work funded from program portfolios created to support realizing democracy, restoring the environment and achieving justice inherently difficult. Where we’ve found a home with program portfolio, again, we’ve been able to form strong partnerships in service of movement groups. Program Officers at JPB Foundation and Ford Foundation have made conscious decisions to approach their work with dual goals in mind: making an impact leaving the movement notably stronger in terms of resources that can be deployed as power over time (not only IRG, but people, relationships, capacities, etc) The David and Lucille Packard Foundation is a real bellwether here, both with providing resources to all program officers to fund organizational development work, and with their investments in the Leaders Trust and Resilience Initiative in coordination with their direct grantmaking.

I think the other critical point in time for funders to consider is leaving the movement notably stronger in terms of capacity is when they are planning to spend down or limited initiatives. This kind of thinking is one of the reasons Progressive Multiplier exists today – the civic participation Action Fund’s spend down grant funded our first grants as an intermediary. Wallace Global Fund has shown similar vision early in its spend down. We also recently partnered with the Southern Poverty Law Center to support their Vote Your Voice partners. In year two of this ten-year program, SPLC has engaged us to make sure when the VYV program ends in 2033, participating movement groups can make the money they need to continue voter outreach and civic engagement in the Deep South.

I’d love to see funders engage intermediaries more around revenue generation support like SPLC has.  When movement groups are directly funded to do IRG projects by their existing funders, they struggle because they don’t have the strategic or technical assistance they need to execute and grant funds are rarely flexible enough to hire fro that expert support. Intermediares like Accelerate Change, the Progressive Multiplier, and others are doing phenomenal work to help groups build sustainable capacity. 

I firmly believe that what’s “wrong” now when it comes to how foundations support independent resource generation is rooted in caution. IRG is a newer discipline for the movement, it exists to build power and that usually means multi-entity tactics, it’s really hard to measure direct mission impact during a single-year rant term, etc. 

Part of Progressive Multiplier’s job, or more specifically my job, is to advocate for a shift in how philanthropy invests in power building through IRG. It is THE linchpin for sustaining the capacity required to win long campaigns and building community power at scale. Alex Gomez co-executive director of LUCHA said recently at our 22 briefing, “… rev gen is allowing us to build an agenda to thrive while a lot of our funding focuses on how to defend.” That’s the pivot we need to make to address what some foundations are getting wrong – prioritize (in your systems, support, funding, and measurement) what it takes for movement groups to thrive. 


A QUESTION FROM paula morris, director, resilience initiative:


I start almost every public revenue generation presentation I do with a poll. The answer choices are anonymous direct quotes from some of our grantee partners

How much do you dislike fundraising on a scale of 1 to 4?

1. Fundraising IS mobilizing!

2. Fundraising is what it is, just part of the job.

3. I don’t mind picking the pockets of the wealthy.

4. It’s gross that we have to beg for the spoils of colonization. 

When I started at Progressive Multiplier. I’d say the average poll score was 2.5. I’d say now we’re at a solid 1.5. The progressive culture change around rev gen excites me the most!

Our grantee partner CASA, is on a great evolution when it comes to considering fundraising as donor organizing. Senior Director of Development Jesse Steele said, “There can be a temptation among movement organizations to think of donors and other organizations as externalities. We encounter so many well-meaning and dedicated folks every day in our work – we ask them to be ‘supporters’ but the only way they can support is another donation. Over time, this can tempt movement organizations into thinking of their development shops as a necessary distraction and their donors as simply ATMs. But the truth is everyone we encounter in our work is valuable to the struggle: whether they are potential members, potential allies, or potential external partners. At CASA, our members and their dreams, struggles, and ambitions are the sole focus of our work, but understanding that we have the capacity (and maybe even the duty) to organize these non-members as well – whether with us as allies or in coalition with us as partners – means that we can build power across new dimensions we might have interested in donors. We’re interested in donors. We’re interested in organizing lifelong allies who will show up in solidarity with our members. That re-framing has sparked change organization-wide.”

What’s better than that?!

Though I’m concerned that Philanthropy and intermediaries aren’t evolving quickly in how they support this culture shift as movement groups need them to. As groups embrace independent revenue generation as part of building power, they are deploying multi-entity strategies. Funding and technical/strategic assistance needed to support multi-entity work and not just be limited to c3 only.

A question from erika oseguera, director of planning, grants, and administration, the education trust-west

“What is one of the challenges that you foresee nonprofits facing over the next year where philanthropic partners/donors can play a key role addressing?”

Some of the challenges nonprofits face today are universal, and some are very specific to certain sectors. Each organization we work with as a grantee partner felt the hallmarks of the two years – the pandemic, uprising for racial justice, and threats to our democracy – differently. But the universal challenge that I believe philanthropic partners and donors need to support nonprofits in facing is The Great resignation. 

Nonprofits aren’t immune to the current labor shortage . According to the National Council of Nonprofits, the sector is down about 500K employees over the last two years. This is not a time when the sector charged with providing for our society’s social safety net and safeguarding our democracy and restoring the environment can afford to shrink. 

Groups need to be able to offer competitive compensation and benefits, in addition to safe and supportive workplaces and a path for career growth. Nonprofits being “scrappy” or hand-to-mouth can’t be a source of chagrined pride for our sector – under-resourced just won’t cut it anymore if we want progress for society. These staff members are doing valuable work and groups need general operating support from all donors to create better employee experiences.

Our people aren’t “overhead”. They are the ones who deliver our mission and there is no more important investment. 

A QUESTION FROM George cheung, director, more equitable democracy:


This is one of the few areas where having no professional background in institutional philanthropy before joining Progressive Multiplier actually helps me! I worked at large fundraising and marketing agencies supporting nonprofit clients for the last ten years. Every client had a contract that made very clear their investment level, the results they expected from me and my team as well as the assumptions baked into the results to which we committed. 

While this is far more transactional than our relationship with funder partners,I’ve approached building relationships in a related way. The key for us has been the upfront conversations about the assumptions that the results of our proposed project are predicated on  – we have to either have a good sense from movement groups of what they need, or we have to include a request for resources to discover them in our proposal. 

Once the project is underway, I report back on results but also on which assumptions are holding and which aren’t. Grounding in the data this way takes a lot of the anxiety out of the conversation because I can point to why something didn’t work and what we’re doing to follow where the results data tells us to go. This is the same approach we take with our grantee partners as well. As long as we fail forward and the project gives us the data to know where to invest the next dollar to advance the mission, I think we’ve been ethical stewards of the money and partnership.




There are many scholars and human resource experts I could reference here abut what makes a high functioning team. But I’m an unabashed Shonda Rhimes fan. Any self-described chubby geeky introverted child who grows up to build an empire that ensures someone sees people who looks like them and loves like them in mainstream media that lifts up stories so everyone can recognize themselves in people who don’t look like or love like them? YES!

In her book, Year of Yes, Shonda said, “I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass”

My dream team is made up of badasses who want to build progressive power so that injustice can be realized for all people.

Everyone on my dream team shows up human, every day. They have blunt conversations with our partners about the white supremacist legacy of ‘donor delight’. They try to answer with our grantee partners how one can be an anti-capitalist fundraiser. They acknowledge that we’re a three-year-old organization working imperfectly through our equity statement and how to be real and not performative when it comes to JEDI. They fail forward – as teammates, as storytellers, as grant makers and grant seekers. They bring drive, collaboration, and a “figure it out-ness” to the work at hand, every day. They honor the amazing opportunity we have to be part of a sea change in philanthropy and to grow progressive power.

This dream is being fulfilled. We have a couple of new badasses joining us to focus ono building partnerships across the movement and scaling our programs for groups. We’ll be introducing them in just a few weeks, stay tuned to meet them

Blogs News

What (Economic) Liberation Requires

The Problem

You’d think from conversations in progressive philanthropy that we all agree that there are two sources of power in democracies: organized people and organized money. You might also think that progressives’ commitment to realizing democracy for every American would come with the following realization: that the only way for many communities of color and low-wealth communities to engage in self-governance on any semblance of an even playing field is through organizing. Unfortunately, philanthropy invests a fraction of one percent of its giving in organizing. To make matters worse, progressive organizing groups lag behind almost all other sectors in the nonprofit space in scaling independent revenue generation programs to fill the void. 

In 2003, I was hired to build Greenpeace’s grassroots department. My ambitions far outstripped my $20,000 annual budget. I knew that philanthropy barely funded organizing. If I wanted to scale Greenpeace’s organizing work, I needed to scale my team’s independent revenue. Our first organizing program invested in student leaders and was substantially funded by the Greenpeace Semester, a tuition-based, semester-long training program. Our field organizing program was funded largely by the canvass that my team started, which raised about $25 million of unrestricted 501(c)(4) donations per year from dues-paying members. All told, we raised about one quarter of a billion dollars of unrestricted 501(c)(4) funds from my team’s programs over my tenure. This gave us independence, the (c)(4) resources to do candidate work and direct action, and a member oriented mindset.

Most progressive local, state, and national organizations don’t have the resources to invest in such programs. They don’t have reserves to finance their proven revenue generation projects. And while philanthropy provides some general support, that general support is often restricted for work on a set of issues.

There is a role for philanthropy to play, not only to fund more organizing but to provide catalytic funding to achieve what Jason Garrett, long-time organizer, entrepreneur, and now program officer at the Ford Foundation, calls the 50/50 rule: fifty percent of organizing groups’ funding should come from philanthropy and fifty percent from their base and businesses.

Many foundations and philanthropists understand the importance of organizing: Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, to name a few. But fundamentally, philanthropy writ large has failed to embrace power building through community organizing as a key tool for change, relying on a theory of change that is rooted in research, analysis, and communications. According to an analysis provided for this article by the National Council on Responsive Philanthropy, “grassroots organizing” funding only made up about 0.1 percent of total grantmaking from 2014-2018. Among the few funders that do believe change happens because of organizing, many focus on a narrow portfolio of issues; they are willing to support base-building to win victories on that issue but not to build power more broadly.  

Under-funding organizing makes the long arc of history towards justice much, much longer.

In her book, The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty, Erica Kohl-Arenas showed how grassroots groups morph their work into “nonthreatening service or ‘civic participation’ programs in keeping with [philanthropy’s] current funding priorities,” crippling progressive organizations’ ability to focus on community-defined needs that would build their base and credibility. Kohl-Arenas rightly argues that “this model…doesn’t produce permanent community-based power or the capacity needed to sustain it.”

We in philanthropy rely on organizations with organizing capacity to exist for the times when our strategies require that capacity. But we fail to invest in the long-term base building necessary to maintain it. We see this in the boom and bust cycles of civic engagement funding and with each strategic shift to new issues within each foundation. This kind of inconsistent investment means that — at the moment when we need power on the ground — progressive groups have often been starved of resources. If good strategy is what you do with your resources to achieve your goal in a changing world, then we’re neglecting the very foundation of good strategy: the resources and capacity of the movement. 

Andrea Serrano, executive director of OLÉ New Mexico (one of my organization’s grantees), explains the damage election-based investment can cause to organizations on the ground: “When you’re knocking on someone’s door in an election cycle, they’re like, ‘Great, you’re just here because you want my vote.’ But when you’re talking to someone in the middle of April, off cycle, and you’re just asking that person, ‘What’s important to you?,’ that creates a different kind of relationship with our community.” Serrano is prioritizing non-institutional funding efforts this year so that her team is “resourced to have these conversations daily.”  OLÉ’s membership has been fighting for permanent funding for early childhood education in New Mexico for eleven years.  The state legislature recently approved a ballot measure for a constitutional amendment that would guarantee a right to education to children younger than five years old, thus diverting money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to provide a consistent stream of funds to offer universal preschool for three and four year olds, improve childcare and enhancing home-visiting programs for new parents.

Eleven years in the making. Thousands of door knocks. This kind of long-term work to build infrastructure and move issues requires long-term support.

All politics is local. Federal change happens when we’ve built enough power locally. Ending police violence will take organizing town by town to pressure police departments, mayor’s offices, and district attorneys. On climate, there’s plenty of money for clean energy on the table from the federal government, but there are 30,000 people serving as mayors, school board members, city and county councilors who also need to be pushed to actually switch to the clean energy, electric buses, and green buildings that the Biden Administration is championing.

So, What Do We Do?

Philanthropy should do more to fund organizing capacity, full stop. But that is not the entire answer. At the Progressive Multiplier, where I serve as CEO, we work to provide financial and technical support to organizations developing scalable models to fund organizing, supporting organizing groups to achieve scale, self-determination, and sustainability. This is an incredibly high-leverage approach: for every one dollar we’ve granted to groups, they’ve raised $5.85. I’m privileged to have a bird’s eye view of the creativity of groups on the ground working with the PM and our allies in Accelerate Change, Worker’s Lab, New Media Ventures, New Left Accelerator, as they tackle the challenge of building revenue generation models to fund organizing. Here are a few examples that illustrate the types of work movement leaders are doing across the progressive movement: 

  • Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) has a vast number of students who go through its rigorous political education courses.  The group is formalizing its curriculum to offer it in a traditional charter school. This will create revenue streams from the state, which pays $5,390 per enrolled student, as well as from donations to the school. Other organizations, like Texas After Violence Project, turned its training program to reduce the trauma associated with the criminal justice system into continued learning education credit courses that attorneys and social workers pay to take to remain professionally accredited.
  • Citizen Action of Wisconsin pioneered an incredible model where each organizer spends their first three months on the job recruiting 250 monthly members, who fund the majority of that organizer’s salary. Citizen Action in little time hired six year-round organizers, and a membership in which 65% of the dues paying members volunteered each month, and 82% were still contributing at the end of the year. 
  • Nobody Leaves MidHudson (NLM), a community organizing group in upstate New York, is leveraging its leaders’ organizing skills to create independent revenue to support organizing.  Using the  snowflake model, NLM is empowering member leaders to organize teams to directly ask their networks to donate during a membership drive. NLM is on track to raise $340,000 on a $25,000 investment from the PM. This pilot can be scaled to raise far greater sums of money and replicated across many organizing groups. 
  • Organizing Networks are working successfully to create replicable revenue generation models that can serve as plug and play programs for their grassroots partners or affiliates. U.S. Climate Action Network (USCAN) is training its partners to have their activists do peer-to-peer member recruitment while taking part in actions, recruiting people who can’t be there with them in the action to be there with them as a member. The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and People’s Action are leveraging their email lists to recruit supporters to become planned giving donors. With a $25,000 budget, People’s Action was able to secure $413,000 in bequest commitments. With an $8,300 budget, CPD secured over $650,000 in bequest commitments.

None of these pilots can be tested without funding, and none can scale without financing. Transforming the capacity of the movement requires a combination of technical and financial support for such pilots, shared learnings across the movement, and a sizable pooled recoverable grant fund to finance successful organizations.

None of this, like in organizing, is easy. For progressive nonprofits, building scalable revenue programs requires a team leading the work that is more outcome oriented than process oriented. A team that is  driven, rigorous, passionate about constant improvement, and accountable to very measurable outcomes. It requires an openness to experimentation and failing forward fast until you succeed. A culture that celebrates tests failing as long as the team executed the test well enough for real lessons to be learned. It requires getting out of old mental traps of being risk taking or risk averse, and instead learning to manage the risks we choose to take so that you can succeed.

For philanthropy, we can no longer assume that someone else will fund the groups we stop funding to maintain their capacity for the next time we need that group’s capacity. We need to invest in the leaders on the ground building the power that makes all of our hopes possible.

We all need to stop putting policy ideas before power, program strategies before the people who we need with us.

At the onset of the pandemic, organizers at Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE – an affiliate of Community Change) asked 2,500 people around the Northern Virginia region “If you could change one thing to make life better, where would you start?” People shared heartbreaking stories about being on the verge of eviction. So the organization centered its work there and did the critical advocacy work of keeping people in their homes, asking their members and friends of VOICE to step up around what would make an immediate and significant impact on the community.  VOICE can truly serve its community because they are primarily funded through membership dues and individual donations. Senior organizer James Pearlstein believes, “We’re accountable back to local leaders and that makes everyone’s investment run deeper. It changes the nature of who feels ownership of the organization and its responsibility to create something better in the community.” 

Interestingly, Pearlstein credits the fact that he received a peculiar type of funding from philanthropy to meet the moment of the pandemic housing crisis in Northern Virginia. “[philanthropic support for fundraising] was critical in that it gave us the ability to invest just in fundraising itself – we didn’t have to do it “on the cheap” like we usually do. We turned an $18K grant into $108K – that’s a 6:1 return.”

What did the $108K in revenue allow VOICE to do?  What they have done again and again with the dues they raise: hire yet another organizer.


To learn more about Progressive Multiplier’s programs and projects, contact Mina Devadas, Director of Strategic Partnerships, at [email protected]

Blogs News

The Next Evolution of Fundraising: A Discussion

Discussion with National Immigration Law Center – Immigrant Justice Fund (NILC-IJF), Organizers in the Land of Enchantment (Olé) and UltraViolet as they discuss the next evolution of fundraising after coming off of a boom year and pandemic.

Key questions for the panel include:

  • How is the shift from fight mode to work mode post-election affecting how you view your priorities and the revenue they require in the next year?
  • Throughout the pandemic and election season, many small dollar donors gave as rapid response or emergency donors. What are the opportunities and challenges to building a relationship with them? What support do you from philanthropy need to capitalize on the opportunities?
  • We’re in a new reality with this chapter of the pandemic. What are the long term impacts of the last 12 months on your work and your organization? What support do you need to navigate the new landscape?


To learn more about Progressive Multiplier’s programs and projects, contact Mina Devadas, Director of Strategic Partnerships, at [email protected]