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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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Blogs

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]

A QUESTION FROM AARON DORFMAN, president and ceo, NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR RESPONSIBLE PHILANTHROPY:
“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.

A QUESTION from DANY SIGWALT, executive director, POWER SHIFT NETWORK:
“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. 
A QUESTION FROM ANGELO DUNCAN & GLORIA SANDOVAL, DEVELOPMENT MANAGER AND POLITICAL ADVOCACY DIRECTOR, UNITE OREGON: 

“WHAT ARE WAYS YOU ENVISION THE PROGRESSIVE MULTIPLIER AMPLIFYING THE POWER OF BLACK, INDIGENOUS, PEOPLE OF COLOR, IMMIGRANTS, AND REFUGEES IN 2022?”

 

“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:

“What ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT WHEN YOU SEE HOW FUNDRAISING/RESOURCE MOBILIZING IS EVOLVING. Particularly for justice and movement organizations. wHAT ARE YOU MOST CONCERNED ABOUT?”

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:

“IN DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP WITH A PROGRAM OFFICER, HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD WITH BEING HONEST ABOUT CHALLENGES IN DOING THE WORK?”

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.

 

A QUESTION FROM VIOLETA BERMUDEZ, CHIEF STORYTELLER, PROGRESSIVE MULTIPLIER

“AS YOU STEP INTO THIS ROLE, WHAT DOES YOUR DREAM TEAM LOOK LIKE? WHAT’S YOUR VISION FOR LEADING AN AUTHENTIC TEAM THAT SHOWS UP EVERY DAY TO LIFT UP GRANTEE VOICES AND HELP THEM SCALE?”

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

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Four Reasons to Invest in Independent Revenue Generation

Originally published in the Johnson Center, 06/15/2021

What does liberation require of us?

At a conference I attended two years ago with Latinx, Black, Native American, LGBTQ+, and Asian American Pacific Islander leaders of state-based civic engagement nonprofits, the facilitator, Aida Cuadrado Bozzo, asked, “what does liberation require of us?”

I was dumbfounded both by the range of answers from these leaders and the lack of my own personal point of view on the question. That moment — filled with humility and hope — has since defined my work as a grantmaking intermediary.

Grantmaking intermediaries play an interesting role in the philanthropic ecosystem. To quote the MacArthur Foundation, “Working through intermediaries can facilitate collaboration with other funders and pooling of resources for re-granting to others. It also makes it possible for us to augment the efforts of our staff with those of individuals with specialized expertise… Effective intermediaries are well-run, knowledgeable organizations with the capacity to grant or invest our funds and oversee their use.”

In the case of Progressive Multiplier, the intermediary where I serve as managing director, our expert knowledge is to support specifically progressive nonprofits in fundraising and revenue generation. We find and fund, using resources from a range of funders and donors, scalable, repeatable independent revenue generation methods, and we share them with all progressive nonprofits through our online Center of Excellence, creating a community of peer learning and expertise. In this case, “independent revenue generation” refers to the methods nonprofits use to raise money outside of grants. That might be a monthly, small-dollar donor program, or a social enterprise, or membership dues. The possibilities are truly endless.

These revenue generation methods drive people and dollars that can be spent at the groups’ discretion to progressive nonprofits. In turn, these organizations grow stronger and can self-direct how they serve their missions. Simultaneously, our funders realize a high-leverage return on their investment that continues to build power for the movement (Our grantee partners are currently on track to earn about $6 for each one they’ve been granted!).

So, the keystone of our answer to what does liberation require? Independent, flexible revenue.

Our Partners: What Independent Revenue Generation Means to Them

Throughout the first half of 2021, I checked in with our grantee partners to see where revenue generation and self-sustainability fit into their vision and mission now that they had survived the multi-fronted turmoil of 2020 (while acknowledging that those crises largely remain unresolved). After we started having these conversations, it quickly became clear that 2020 showed all of us how critical independent revenue generation is for organizations to not just weather tough times but thrive during them.

Here are the four reasons why our grantee partners have made independent revenue generation a priority and are seeking a sea change in how philanthropy invests in it. 

1. Readiness

We’ve all heard the sayings. Chances favor the prepared mind. Catch lightning in a bottle. Nonprofits trying to generate their own revenue in the headline-rich year of 2020 proved these axioms again and again.

When the pandemic, uprising for racial justice, and an unprecedented focus on the November election intensified public interest in social, racial, and economic justice work, our grantee partners who were ready with ideas, staff, and independent investment dollars converted that interest into revenue and supporters for their organizations.

Photo: Erica SmileyJobs with Justice (JWJ), a workers’ rights and economic justice group, has prioritized creating independent funding through both donation programs as well as social enterprise and values-aligned investing for some time. When the crises of 2020 hit with a devastating effect on workers in this country, JWJ was ready to react.

“Having the plan ready to fundraise for a hardship fund for an economic crisis — like a non-strike strike fund — let us launch immediately. You have to be ready when the crisis comes, so investing in the development of frameworks that won’t have an immediate ROI is critical to long-term revenue,” said Erica Smiley, JWJ’s executive director, highlighting the importance of using independent revenue to support readiness. “The pandemic provided a rapid testing opportunity that we can now pivot back to our original concept, where workers can administer this kind of fund according to what members want and need.” 

2. Agility

Photo: Maria Tchijov“Pivot” has been the unofficial theme of the chaotic last year and a half. “The movement often needs immediate response, but philanthropy doesn’t move at that speed,” said Maria Tchijov, vice president of advocacy and membership at UltraViolet.

Despite an unprecedented outlay from philanthropy during the pandemic and uprising for racial justice, independent revenue allowed our grantee partners to pivot faster to crisis response than the speed of institutional funding often supports. 

“Having a sustainable, member revenue-generating system allows us to move … at the speed, velocity, and size that the moment demands.”

For UltraViolet, a national advocacy organization that drives feminist cultural and political change, one of these urgent moments happened on March 13, 2020 when Breonna Taylor was murdered. The group immediately began collaborating with Black Lives Matter activists in Taylor’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to demand justice for her — placing ads calling for the firing, arrest, and charging of the officers responsible for Taylor’s death and pressuring the area’s major employers to join the fight. Tchijov credits UltraViolet’s members with being able to help fund this collaborative work quickly. “Having a sustainable, member revenue-generating system allows us to move in those moments at the speed, velocity, and size that the moment demands.” 

3. Scale & Sustainability

The demand on nonprofits for mission delivery was unprecedented during the first year of the pandemic. While COVID vaccines and a rebounding economy have meant fewer news headlines about things like essential workers’ rights, the pandemic’s deep toll on women’s workplace equality, and more — the national crises around equity and justice have not gone away. UltraViolet needs to have 5x its current budget to meet the demands of fighting digital disinformation’s impact on women, advocating for sexual assault survivors, and working to defund the antichoice movement.

Photo: Andrew FriedmanAndrew Friedman, co-executive director of Center for Popular Democracy, is also focused on the need to scale to meet the demand. “We’re nowhere near our aspirations. Even when you have a robust organization, great staff, and a deep commitment, raising independent revenue is hard.”

Friedman’s team is dedicated to conquering the hard, blending tried and true small-dollar donor tactics with alternative revenue generation programs like the Litigation Partnership Project (LPP). The LPP aims to ramp-up and streamline litigation work with CPD/A affiliates, community-based organizations, and the private bar, in a way that will access justice for members, increase CPD/A’s impact, and increase capacity for organizing. “Scaling up investment allows us to have access to more independent revenue over time to have more agility to set the priorities for our work. With enough independent revenue, we don’t risk having a change in a foundation funder’s priorities reset the priorities of our work.” 

4. Accountability

Photo: Marilyn WillmothMitigating the risk of funder priority shifts is a welcome tradeoff for the accountability independent revenue generation creates with individual donors, according to our grantee partners. “We have thousands of members supporting us and that gives us the backing to [do] work aligned with our mission and withstand corporate influence,” said Marilyn Willmoth, membership organizing director at Corporate Accountability (CA).

Unlike most nonprofits in the progressive sector, CA is about 85% funded by individual donors and the group strongly believes that that is where the power is — with people who have invested in the fight. “We want our work to be people-centric and to serve the communities most impacted by corporate abuse, so we need to be accountable to people across all race and class backgrounds… Any gift amount is meaningful and power-building.” 

“At the end of the day, we are about building power, and when people are more closely connected to each other and our organization, we win.”

Photo: Nadine SmithNadine Smith, executive director at Equality Florida, the state’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ+ community, echoed Willmoth’s belief in the accountable connection between power building and raising independent revenue. “If you give $3, you’re in it. We take you seriously — you’re a shareholder and a stakeholder, so it changes people from thinking of us as ‘you’ to ‘we.’ At the end of the day, we are about building power, and when people are more closely connected to each other and our organization, we win.”

Photo: Julian WalkerPushBlack, the nation’s largest nonprofit media organization for Black Americans, wants to be accountable to the community it serves. Independent revenue generation is a priority tactic because it allows the organization to focus on what the community wants and is core to the organization’s philosophy of empowerment in the Black community.

PushBlack CEO Julian Walker said, “PushBlack is powered by generosity and has a diverse funding base. In order to maintain its editorial independence, generate unrestricted revenue, and be accountable to the community it serves, PushBlack has invested in growing its small-dollar donor program. In 2020, the organization raised $1.4M from subscriber donations.” 

What can philanthropy do?

Photo: Marcia Whitehead“They fund membership fundraising?! We were giddy.” This is what Marcia Whitehead, managing director of development at Corporate Accountability, recalled about the moment she found out about what Progressive Multiplier funds through the partnership of our funders. That’s a solid indicator of how under-resourced revenue generation is in the nonprofit sector.

Our grantee partners want philanthropy to invest more in the revenue generation work and infrastructure that enables readiness, agility, scale and sustainability, and accountability for groups like theirs. Beyond that, they want to see a more authentic way of evaluating investment in revenue generation. It’s not just dollars and cents raised within a grant period. It’s balancing short-term returns with investments that have a longer trajectory for greater revenue impact. It’s about having a harm reductionist model to capital. It’s about democratizing philanthropy to build a movement for and by the people it centers.

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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]

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Mass Extinction or Mandatory Evolution:

The toll of the now year-long pandemic on the people, institutions and fabric of this country is almost unfathomable. The last 12 months have been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced – as the caretaker of an elderly mother and severely immunodeficient partner. Or as a progressive woman. Or as a fundraiser.

I’m a pretty hardened fundraiser, 21 years into this calling of helping organizations grow in scale and self-determination, and I’ve come to know what to expect from presidential elections, shaky economies, natural disasters and all the other things that typically affect a nonprofit’s independent revenue. But these last 12 months felt like getting whiplashed every few weeks. Look at these headlines:

A new mission for nonprofits during the outbreak: survival. (NY Times, 3/27/20)

Charity is facing an extinction level event. (Inside Charity, 5/3/2020)

Half of charities expecting drop in donations in 2020 and beyond. (Association of Fundraising Professionals, 7/13/2020)

Nonprofits in trouble: One-third of organizations may not survive pandemic, recession. (Washington Post, 8/3/2020)

Racial justice giving is booming. (The Conversation, 10/5/20)

Hot Second Quarter Boosts 2020 Giving Past Last year. (The Nonprofit Times 10/6/20)

Year-end fundraising results were mixed. Digital outreach was critical. (Chronicle of Philanthropy, 2/9/21)

Fundraising revenues from the 30 largest U.S. P2P programs dropped more than $400 million last year. (Peer to Peer Professional Forum, 3/2/21)

The Progressive Multiplier’s portfolio of grantee and technical assistance partners is wide ranging in size and area of focus. Each organization felt the hallmarks of the last year – the pandemic and uprising for racial justice – differently. While their outlooks are now tinged with a hope they didn’t have at this time last March, all of our partner organizations are trying to define the best path forward in terms of revenue generation opportunities that will give them scale, sustainability and self-determination. We asked four groups to share their stories of fundraising through the last year and what they need to make their financial vision, and ultimately their ability to deliver on their mission, a reality in 2021 and beyond.

Movimiento Cosecha (Cosecha)


All aspects of Movimiento Cosecha’s work were completely shifted by the pandemic. Cosecha is a diverse, decentralized nationwide network of organizers fighting for permanent protection, dignity and respect for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. During the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of those in Cosecha’s network were labeled essential and forced to work under dangerous conditions to sustain the economy. Many others lost jobs and sources of income. At the same time, they were denied access to even the most basic government aid, such as health insurance, unemployment benefits, or stimulus checks. “On the ground organizing is what we fundraise around and that shifted drastically because our leaders and base were affected so deeply by the pandemic,” said organizer, Christine Miranda.

Cosecha leaned into its guiding principles to meet the moment – rapidly responding to the needs of the immigrant worker community with a solution designed by the community. The Undocumented Worker Fund was launched in March 2020 to support immigrant families with direct cash assistance. Cosecha redirected its Progressive Multiplier grant from a general Facebook advertising fundraising experiment to support donor acquisition to the Fund. “Once we were able to recalibrate our internal goals and priorities to launch this effort, the external context of the pandemic actually created conditions that boosted our fundraising reach and potential. For instance, federal $1,200 stimulus checks — and public discourse about the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from this government relief in the early days of the pandemic — impacted at a mass scale many people in our target audience’s intent and ability to give.”

From its $5,000 (c)(4) grant and technical support provided by the Progressive Multiplier’s team, Cosecha generated over $50,000 in donations from more than 500 individual transactions, which were redistributed to 173 immigrant families across the country who applied for COVID-19 relief. In total, the Undocumented Worker Fund raised over $2 million, with about a fourth of all donations coming directly from Facebook ads optimized by what was learned through the funded project. Facebook ad fundraising enabled the organization to expand and sustain a two-month window of a very high volume of donations, which allowed it to redistribute funds to over 3,000 additional families. “Having an investment that allowed us to raise independent (c)(4) revenue for the Fund felt wonderful and freeing in this pandemic moment. It allowed us to make the choice when we were structuring where to house the Undocumented Worker Fund. Ultimately, we chose to house it within Cosecha’s 501(c)(4), because this tax status gives us the most flexibility in what information we must collect and share about individuals receiving direct financial support.”

The Undocumented Worker Fund not only provided direct material assistance to thousands of families affected by COVID-19 it also built key leadership development opportunities for Cosecha immigrant leaders who created and administered the infrastructure to operate the fund. Leaders and volunteers reported feeling empowered and connected by their role in this project; it gave them a sense of agency and mutual support as the pandemic was affecting them, as individuals and organizers. Likewise, the administration of the fund helped local organizers connect with hundreds of new people in their communities, who they then followed up with to participate in other Cosecha campaigns and projects.

Miranda believes that the power built through the Undocumented Worker Fund campaign will translate to Cosecha’s larger fight for permanent protection, dignity, and respect. “The conditions exposed by the pandemic uplift Cosecha’s message and goals – our meta vision is around the labor power of immigrant workers that is constantly exploited but can be organized as the greatest antidote. This is a moment for national mobilization,” she said. On May 1, 2021 – in conjunction with International Workers Day and the completion of President Biden’s first 100 days in office – Cosecha will be launching a national campaign to ensure the promise of immigration reform by this administration is fulfilled.

Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE)

(an affiliate of Industrial Areas Foundation)

Going to your synagogue, mosque or church. Going to school. Simple things we took for granted and built our life and social networks around. And in Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement’s case, built an organizing powerhouse around. VOICE is a non-partisan coalition of over 50 faith communities and neighborhood organizations that work together to transform communities and build local power. Power, as senior organizer James Pearlstein shared, is organized people, who have a focus, and organized money. VOICE has been organizing both person-to-person for thirteen years. When that kind of interaction ground to a halt in March 2020, Pearlstein was in uncharted territory for VOICE. “We had capacity to work in the digital space, but our work is based on the belief of meeting in person, especially when organizing across lines of difference. And also, when you’re organizing low income and working-class people, it is essential to meet them where they are and be on the ground. That respect and acknowledgement is deeply embedded in our culture.”

Some VOICE leaders transitioned to meeting in-person, outdoors, then evolved to fully virtual organizing. They spoke with 2,500 people around the Northern Virginia region to understand what was going on in their lives, asking the question, “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 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. “Their gift was going toward the most serious need in this moment. And in this time when people were so deeply separated, it made people appreciate what VOICE has meant in their lives, a chance to create something better and more just. This past summer’s racial justice protests again reinforced desire to see something new in the community and not repeat the same pain – our work around evictions was centered in a reckoning on race,” Pearlstein said.

As was the case for many nonprofit organizations not doing direct service work, VOICE found it’s hard to expand its base during the pandemic. “Our experience has been you can maintain existing relationships but it’s hard to expand over Zoom. So, we took the 13 years of organizing we’d done, and those relationships and collective understanding of systemic injustice got really tested,” Pearlstein stated. “What worked was that those relationships intersected with this sense of crisis about the worst public health crisis to hit the country in 100 years. It was new to everybody and that made a difference in how people felt called to dig deeper. We spent 13 years making sure VOICE is a trusted organization to make real change and that mattered deeply in this moment.”

An element of what makes VOICE’s relationship with its members so strong is how it funds its work. VOICE supports its work primarily through membership dues and individual donations, relying very little on institutional support. 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.” He credits the grant VOICE received from Progressive Multiplier with helping VOICE be able to meet the moment of the pandemic housing crisis in Northern Virginia. “The funding support 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. The kind of support that Progressive Multiplier is trying to do is so absolutely essential if we want local and state organizations to have real power. The infrastructure it takes to run campaigns and expand into unorganized places takes this kind of investment. We have a new standard to meet that will allow us to do more at this critical time in our history.”

Abortion Care Network (ACN)


Brooke Thomson, Development Director for Abortion Care Network, got the call at the beginning of the pandemic no fundraiser wants to get. A major institutional donor told her they were going to cut their donation by 30% because of the unstable stock market. Down a major donor and sitting on a 2020 fundraising goal that had been expanded to accommodate the demand for ACN’s services by its independent member clinics – that often serve individuals and families with the fewest resources and in the most rural parts of our nation – Thomson looked to quickly evolve fundraising to meet the moment.

The COVID-19 crisis brought two needs into immediate light. Not only had the country gone virtual practically overnight, ACN’s member clinics were besieged with new challenges to providing care – like staff reductions, travel restrictions and anti-choice state politicians exploiting the pandemic to further restrict abortion access through executive orders. For Thomson, this meant putting the organization’s Keep Our Clinics campaign (KOC) out front and in a virtual spotlight. KOC provides funds directly to member clinics to pay for things like equipment and services that preserve patients’ access to care as well as legal costs associated with complying to state executive orders. A successful all-day all-star Instagram Live at the end of April started the KOC campaign on its path to eventually meeting its budgeted 2020 fiscal goal.

Unfortunately, during budgeting the previous year no one could have anticipated the need the pandemic would cause, and the clinics’ application for funds outpaced revenue available six-fold. The demand for KOC funds rose again seven months into the pandemic with the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. Independent clinics lead multiple legal challenges to medically unnecessary abortion restrictions at every level in the court system – and any day now, one of these cases could be the next abortion case brought in front of this Supreme Court. By the end of February, states had already introduced 384 anti-abortion measures and enacted eight abortion laws.

As the need for ACN’s services grows, Thomson is making two shifts to her fundraising approach. After a deep dive into 2020’s revenue performance, she identified that one-time and major donor retention were surprisingly stable. Where ACN took a hit to their independently raised revenue was from sustaining donors canceling their monthly gifts because of personal budget crunches during the pandemic. So, Thomson plans to re-launch ACN’s sustainer program with a lower dollar ask. Community-centered and collaborative fundraising will provide the second pillar of ACN’s 2021 fundraising strategy. “We’ve been so accustomed to living in a scarcity mindset that it feels weird coming into it from a perspective of abundance. But we actually have a lot of allies and our partners in the movement are relying on each other to find funding and raise money for the critical work we do together – this is how we’re trying to replace that 30%.”

Marked By COVID


“The coronavirus has made it clear that there are two Americas, the America that Donald Trump lives in, and the America that my father died in,” Kristin Urquiza said during her speech at the Democratic National Convention in August of last year. She lost her father, Mark Urquiza, to COVID-19 just six weeks earlier. To honor his life by continuing to fight for others affected by COVID-19, Kristin co-founded Marked By COVID with her partner, Christine Keeves.

“We have first and foremost been really focused on doing the work. What we mean by that is that there is an acute need to support budding COVID activists and no one else is doing it. The overwhelming amount of people coming to us we had to absorb through action,” said Urquiza. Marked By COVID has been doing actions centered around its Five R Plan. This policy platform – centered around response, recovery, restitution, resiliency and recognition – lays out a comprehensive short and long-term pandemic response and prevention plan that they intend to implement with elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels.

Urquiza sees the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on communities of color in their activist universe. “The majority of people we work with are people of color. As a person of color, it’s amazing to work with so many people who have never thought about activism as a mechanism to see their power,” she said. “To get to see that development happen knowing that this is such a healing way for people to deal with losing loved ones and expand their agency to tackle more systemic issues in their communities is amazing. This is why it’s important that we stay connected to the activists and respond to their needs.”

The challenge to having prioritized the work to meet the moment over building capacity and infrastructure is financial stability. Keeves, who also serves as Marked By COVID’s chief of communications, added, “We started doing the work that needed to be done – we didn’t pause and talk to foundations before we got up and running.” This creates a very hard scale and sustainability challenge for nascent groups like Marked By COVID. “We’ve been reactive to a very fluid environment throughout the pandemic and the reckoning for racial justice in order to give the activist community the tools it’s asking for. All of that means there isn’t a roadmap for organizational development. To secure institutional funding you need that, but to meet the moment for activists we have to center on what the community needs and be opportunistic.” Urquiza added, “There will come a point where we can more acutely describe thematic elements institutional funders need in a case for support, but we’re going to have to rely on small dollar donors to prove our concept and get to that point.”

Urquiza and Keeves share a concern that this post-election year will see waning donor interest in their organization. “Back in August and September, I naively assumed that because Joe Biden found me, institutional funders would find me too. But beyond Progressive Multiplier, they haven’t,” Urquiza said. “Our activists have been there when called to help flip Arizona blue, and speak at the DNC, and mobilize people. We want to ensure that impacted people who so often are looked at in elections and shoved aside when it’s time to make policy have a seat where the decisions are being made that effect their lives.” Keeves added, “The people who were outraged six months ago…have disbanded and a sense of complacency is taking back over again. These gaslit COVID activists who haven’t felt heard by the government are now feeling that from community members who are generally on their side. We have to be on the frontline to keep these supporters from checking out, rallying them around a much more nuanced policy platform versus a single point like an election.”

As Marked By COVID works rapidly to attain the next level of program and funding maturity a year into the pandemic and the organization’s existence, the team looks to its independent revenue generation to fund the work. Urquiza said, “Our small donors have been keeping us afloat. They are engaged on actions and organizing money, and with the Progressive Multiplier’s grant, we’ve been able to test out and optimize our fundraising tactics. We are humbled by how generous this list – many of whom have been directly impacted by COVID – is.” Keeves echoed Urquiza’s respect for the people Marked By COVID serves, saying, “We will never be willing to deprioritize this community’s needs. We are experiencing social disruption at an unprecedented degree and this is the moment to try out new ideas to serve new needs.”

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

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Meet Our Environmental Justice Grantee Partners

I can’t think of a better way to start my work as Progressive Multiplier’s managing director than by welcoming five amazing grantee partners to our inaugural Environmental Justice Cohort.  This cohort was supposed to be our primary focus in spring 2020 when we were planning it back at the end of 2019.  2020, as we all know, had other plans. 

The Progressive Multiplier team’s March 5th trip to our founding EJ funder partner’s office to kick off this program was the last any of us would take in 2020.  Just two short weeks later, we had pivoted our attention to respond to the revenue crisis facing the nonprofit sector because of the COVID-19 pandemic.   Over the past year we’ve had the privilege of working with all of our grantee partners, including the first wave of recipients of Progressive Stimulus Project grants,  to evolve or launch their grant projects to meet the challenges and opportunities of fundraising through a pandemic and uprising for racial justice.

As that constant fundraising strategy evolution became our normal by early summer, we were able to refocus on preparing to build the EJ cohort, researching common revenue generation needs among groups.  The JPB Foundation focuses its environment grant making in low-income communities and underserved communities of color.  These communities have borne a disproportionate burden from environmental injustice and racism, and the frontline environmental justice organizations working to address these problems have suffered chronic disinvestment. Through its partnership with The JPB Foundation, Progressive Multiplier aims to build financial strength across the environmental justice movement by investing in groups’ testing, replicating, innovating and scaling mass market revenue generation techniques to accelerate the growth of unrestricted, flexible funds available to them.

The following organizations are testing revenue generation techniques that, once proven and distributed, have the potential to make a real impact on the sustainability of the environmental justice movement.  We congratulate these groups in their creativity, rigor and drive to scale their independent revenue and share their learnings with the sector.

Climate Justice Alliance:  CJA is working on a lead generation to donor conversion project that aims to grow their email audience and cultivate them into EJ activists and small dollar donors helping frontline communities build the regenerative economy.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth:  KFTC wants to continue to shift the narrative about what’s possible in Kentucky, and through this grant project, test into what types of messages inspire people to see themselves in the work and to actually take action through advocacy and small dollar donations.   

Power Shift Network:  Through quarterly prospecting events, PSN will build a large major and mid-major donor program.  The group will be testing different follow up communication tactics and offers to its potential donors, defining what yields the most revenue to support mobilizing the collective power of young people to mitigate climate change and create a just, clean energy future.

US Climate Action Network:  USCAN has launched Arm in Arm, a peer-to-peer fundraising program that couples grassroots activism and revenue generation, to ignite a transformational era that ends the climate crisis by centering economic and racial justice.

The Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans:  TWC is launching Water and Climate Tours, dedicated to the historical and future relationship New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana has with water, climate, and the built environment, and how it shapes the city’s culture, traditions, and attitudes. The education should bring a focus on equitable practices to sustainably live and thrive in this and other coastal communities effected by environmental injustice. 

 

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Meet The Progressive Stimulus Project’s Grantee Partners

Decades of organizing efforts deserve a great deal of credit for the new chapter we started as a country last week. Among vital lessons learned in 2020 is that strengthening groups focused on systemic change is essential to forging pathways to power. For the Progressive Multiplier, it reaffirms our commitment to building a sustainable, self-determined progressive movement with the scale to win. As we enter the new year, we are energized to start a new chapter for our organization as well.

These nonprofit organizations have begun working on independent revenue generation experiments through the Progressive Stimulus Project. We are thrilled to be partnering with these grantees as they navigate fundraising challenges and opportunities that are unique to their organizations during this uncertain economic time: