My 2018 Money for Our Movements Conference Notes
This past weekend I attended my first Money for Our Movements Social Justice Fundraising Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my stories throughout the weekend. However, I know the few moments I did capture cannot fully depict how powerful this experience was for me and many others.
From Asking for Money, Towards Mobilizing Our Resources for the People’s New Economy
There were so many great presenters and a lot of information. I couldn’t attend every session but this post is a summary of my experience and what I learned at the 7th biennial Money for Our Movements: A Social Justice Fundraising Conference. As an activist/organizer, I like many others, was making the mistake of not viewing myself as also a fundraiser. Fundraising and organizing are often seen as separate but we do our work and organizations a disservice when we don’t recognize that fundraising is a piece of the broader work of resource mobilizing.
Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training also known as G.I.F.T. presented this years’ conference introducing it’s perspective “What happens when we stop asking for money and start mobilizing our resources?” This question was challenged by some attendees, arguing that money or some other form of currency is in fact a resource. I heard opinions across the spectrum about this concept of “asking” for money, and what resonated with me were these three things:
- We must have a real dialogue about our relationship with money. Think back to your oldest memory of money. Has that shaped how you feel when you give money? Does that impact how you ask for money? If money has been used to oppress you or your experiences with money have been around a struggle, you may have a strong desire to skirt around asking for it. This will commonly show up when you appeal donors as a fundraiser. Whatever your relationship to money is, you must acknowledge that and then make a decision over and over again about how you will allow it to show up in your life. Share your money story with me in the comments section.
- Language used to talk about money matters. It became clear to me that people who had done their “self-work” around money spoke very differently about it. At the opening plenary, Mary Hooks of SONG said that she is not walking into a room begging for anything. That those who don’t want to give, simply won’t be able to claim that they were a part of the story. Veronica Garcia of Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee spoke of fundraising as a negotiation process for reparations and returning resources back to our communities. I noticed this language garnered different reactions from the audience.
- The “ask” is not about you! When you show up in a space to fundraise for a cause, you show up with all of the people who benefit from the success of the campaign. You have to get over yourself, let your fear take a back seat and say it with your chest. It may take some time to sike yourself into making a major ask to a prospective donor, but all of those feeling are truly a distraction. Don’t make fundraising about you, make it about the donors ability to move the needle on issues they truly care about.
As you can probably tell from these three take aways alone, the conference was intense. But experiencing this conference was so much less about our feelings about being fundraisers, and more about how this part of our organizing work helps get us the liberation our people deserve. I left this conference ready to hold myself and others accountable for collecting coins for a cause!
4 Ways to Make Money for Our Movements in 2018
RAPID RESPONSE FUNDRAISING IN A CRISIS
What is a Rapid Response moment? It happens when a crisis is dominating the national or local media. It requires immediate action and usually produces an emotional or moral response from the general public. A benefit of hosting a fundraiser during a rapid response moment is that this type of fundraising can grow your brands profile, increase your human resources and potentially generate a lot of money for your movement. Here are a few principles to keep in mind: 1.) You must trust your instincts. If a you see the topic or story shared on social media several times in a short period of time, chances are it’s going to be big. 2.) Experiment during calmer moments. You only rise to the level of your training. So when you are not operating in crisis mode, you need to attend workshops, try reaching a target audience via a new method and focus on developing a new skill. Your Rapid Response moment is not the time to play around with Facebook Ads. You should already know what works. 3.) Remember that time is of the essence. It is a crisis and you need to respond usually within a 12 hour time span. A week later is too late. You want to be one of the first, if not the first to speak out on the issue and take action so that you can be seen as the authoritative source. 4.) Amplify your work by making it visible. Diversify your media-worthy tactics. Utilize Facebook Live. Reach out to your local news reporter that specializes on this topic and go on the record with journalists. 5.) Saturate people with opportunities to contribute to the moment. Ask for money early, often and repeatedly. Create ways for new supporters to engage. It is best practice to anticipate and prepare for Rapid Response moments by developing a timeline in advance of when it would be an appropriate point within the crisis to ask for money (i.e. Release of breaking news or times of arrest). Be sure to optimize your donation page for mobile devices. Most folks will be following the news and hopefully you’re campaign, you will want to direct them to a place to take action. Make sure the language on the donation page is easy to understand, timely and meaningful. Throughout the campaign, be sure to follow through and report back to your supporters. This again, is another opportunity to ask for money. (Read this article to learn more: Foundation Donors, Which Marketing Channel is Your Best Source)
DONOR VISIT DRIVES
One of the most intimidating settings for fundraising has to be in someones home, but once you master how to make an ask during a Donor Visit Drive it is possible to bring in major donors and possibly turn them into reoccurring donors. The key is to remember what’s at stake. Dondy Marie Moreland and Mary Grace Wolf of People’s Action Institute presented on this topic at the conference and reminded the audience that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has 5 million dues paying members that raise 5 million dollars per year. That’s a lot of money that I wish was going to support gun violence prevention policy and programming. This really drove home the importance of asking powerful people for money. We must get better at telling our stories. Here’s how you can kick off your Donor Visit Drive: 1.) Identify a target list from people who have given previously or from people who are prospects that you believe should be giving. 2.) Send them a letter. Snail mail, although a bit old fashion, works best (You can send an email, but know that this is something you would send to a segmented list of donors). The name and address should both be handwritten. Use a real stamp. Remember, this is not for solicitation purposes so do not include an envelop. Instead, talk about the great things you’ve done and let them know that you’ll be calling them later in the week to set up a visit with them. 3.) A week later make the call. Keep it short and ask them if they received the letter you sent them. If they don’t recall seeing the letter, give them a brief refresher and share it’s highlights. Ask for their availability for an in-person visit. Don’t say “meeting” because this language may cause stress. Instead use the term “visit” which sounds very casual. 4.) Have the visit. Assume their home is the best location to meet for them (if this is something you simply don’t feel comfortable doing, ask if you can meet at their nearest coffee shop). Don’t be apologetic! By the time you arrive for your Donor Visit, there should be no question that this visit is about money. Start off with a time check and express both of your expectations about time. The visit should be around 30 to 45 minutes. Don’t be weird, have some small talk in the beginning to warm each other up to the conversation and to learn about anything that may be a red flag. Red flags are things you’ll want to avoid around their political persuasion. After that you can quickly move into your Personal Story. Your Personal Story is how you are connected to the movement. Remember that this visit is not about you, so keep your Personal Story short (approx. 1 min). Then you will want to share two campaign stories. The first will be your Victory Story. Your victory story should be a success story, one with a beginning, a middle and an end. The second, an Unfinished Story, one where you are currently seeking support. The Unfinished Story should have a beginning and maybe even a middle, but no ending, at that point you will be making an ask. You can make your ask as a statement or a question. After you make your ask, it’s very important that you don’t try to fill the space or you could talk your donor out of giving. Get the money before making any other asks around donor engagement. Have contribution forms on hand or be able to walk them through submitting their payment online or with a hand held device. Write their information on the form for them so that it is legible to you. After the transactional piece of the visit is complete, it is appropriate to ask who else in their network would be able to give at that same level and if they would be willing to make a personal introduction to 1-5 people.
SUSTAINER OR MATCH GRANT PROGRAMS
Sustainer or Match Grant Programs are given by community organizations who focus on giving to organizations that build through grassroots fundraising. Organizations like National Farm Worker Ministry and Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods) have had great success with Match Grant Programs. They started collecting small donations and individual gifts, but were able to garner matches for those gifts when they began to have listening sessions and and relational meetings with other stakeholders. They started fundraising through printed newsletters, e-appeals and newsletters to garner support at the individual level and then were able to bring in larger amounts through launching campaigns where each individual gift was matched it’s first time by larger foundations through their Match Grant Program. DrumCan successful fundraising has brought them reoccurring donors through dues paying membership program and new collaborative partnerships which help to sustain their work. If your foundation focuses on Peer-to-Peer fundraising or individual gifts, this is something you should look into. Although the Fund 4 Democratic Communities will be sunsetting their organization, they encouraged attendees at the conference to use their proposal template to encourage their local organizations to create sustainer or match grant programs for their communities. Email Mildred Powell with Fund4 Democratic Communities at Mildred@F4DC.org for a copy of the proposal template.
Planned Giving is when someone bequeaths money or their belongings to your organization. This can feel like an insensitive inquisition to make to someone, but it doesn’t have to be. The California Community Foundation, which recently had a house bequeathed to their organization, has a toolkit accessible on their website to help you make a Planned Giving campaign. This ask is one where you can make an ask during life moments when they are updating their will. A Planned Giving ask typically takes place at the time your donor is purchasing a new house, getting married or at the birth of a new baby. It doesn’t have to occur on someones death bed. This does not have to be an ask of guilt, but rather a decision made in someone’s 20’s or 30’s. Have a brochure with a photo of the good work you’ve been doing or plan to do with their gift, not their last will and testament. It is very common for people to give of their estate, property and even money from their life insurance policy.
There was a wealth of knowledge and information shared at the Money for Our Movements Conference and I couldn’t possible share everything. I myself was also excited about having the opportunity to share my money story, desire for justice for my cousin Emmett Till and what I knew about tech that could help social justice organizers and fundraisers in my presentation Change Agent, Give Yourself a Break: Systems and Resources to Run Your Life and Business on Autopilot. The highlight was having my mom co-present with me. We were a riot! If you missed the conference, you’ll have to wait 2 years for the next one, but I pray these notes will bless you and your foundation’s bank account in 2018.
If you didn’t catch my presentation, no worries. I’ll be hosting it as a webinar with JP Higher Ed. Click here to stay tuned for the details.