by Maria Nakae
When I think about all the conferences I’ve been to in my day, I can’t even begin to count them. I certainly don’t have enough fingers (or toes, for that matter!), and apparently my memory just isn’t what it used to be either. Like many of us in social justice movements, I’ve gone to so many conferences, given so many presentations, and attended so many workshops that they all become a blur in my mind. Conferences are really fun. You get to travel (sometimes to cool places), stay in a hotel (sometimes fancy ones), meet up with colleagues and friends you don’t regularly get to see and make new ones, and learn all kinds of new issues, analyses, and frameworks.
But I often wonder, at the end of the day, what tangible skills and information do I actually take away that is applicable to my work?
After the two-day Money for Our Movements conference organized by the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT), I have some concrete answers to this question. I learned how to build a robust direct mail fundraising campaign. I learned how to write an effective fundraising pitch for any event. I learned how to cultivate and upgrade existing donors. And these are all things that I will integrate into my every day work. In fact, I’m already doing many of them now!
GIFT believes that fundraising, social justice, and movement building are all connected, and works to support groups in developing strong individual donor programs so that the communities we serve are also taking an active role in supporting the work we do, which increases our accountability to our communities and builds community power from the ground up.
What an amazing concept! For someone like me, who used to be deathly afraid of asking people from money, getting individuals to make donations was never something that I equated with organizing. But once I understood how critical individual donors are to building strong social justice movements, it was like a light bulb went on in my head. And now I’m getting more and more excited about it. Money for Our Movements happened at a really ideal time for me, as a new Development staff at ACRJ who had done programmatic work before, who is trying to make the connections between program and development, between organizing and fundraising, and between sustaining our communities and sustaining our organizations.
Not only do I appreciate the concept of increasing our sustainability through a solid individual donor base and limiting our reliance on institutional funding, I wholly and truly believe that it is essential to the growth and longevity of our movements. After this conference, I am more excited than ever to hit the ground running with our grassroots fundraising work, and to be a cheerleader for ACRJ so that all staff can be a part of this inspiring process.
Now that I've answered my questions, here's one for you: Does your organization do any grassroots fundraising? If you do, that’s great! If not, what are you waiting for?!