Part One of Three
Is fundraising for small grassroots organizations different from fundraising for a hospital, or college? How do you raise funds for organizations that challenge the power structure? GIFT – the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training has been growing and supporting grassroots fundraisers for over 30 years. They have a great on-line archive of resources. Their upcoming conference (August 10th – 11th in Oakland, CA) will provide opportunities for fundraisers, activists and organizers to meet, learn and collaborate.
"GIFT was started in 1996 by the Center for Third World Organizing and the Southern Empowerment Project, two longtime organizing training centers," Emiko-Boyden shared. "They believed that grassroots groups working for social change needed an organization to teach fundraising skills and support people of color to be fundraisers. The Grassroots Fundraising Journal was co-founded in 1981 by Kim Klein and Lisa Honig, who saw that most of the resources on nonprofit fundraising were not applicable to grassroots groups, especially those challenging and changing the status quo. GIFT and the Grassroots Fundraising Journal merged in 2008. The new organization continues to be called GIFT and the magazine it publishes is still called the Grassroots Fundraising Journal."
Our next question was a bit more provocative – isn't all fundraising the same?
Here's her response. "While it's true that all fundraising—much like community organizing—is about building relationships, the skills needed to be an effective fundraiser vary depending on the community and fundraising activity. At GIFT, we feel it is essential for grassroots groups to be supported by, and accountable to the communities they're serving; and that a broad base of individual donors is critical for their long-term sustainability. Accountability to the community is not built-in when you receive a foundation, corporate or government grant, for example. In those cases, you're accountable to the funder. Similarly, the skills needed to organize a special event or run a capital campaign are different from those needed to submit a grant proposal."
We asked her about the term "grassroots", and the impact of the recession. "The best way to describe GIFT's definition of 'grassroots' is 'from the community,' she replied. "So 'grassroots fundraising' involves building our collective resources; and 'grassroots groups' are those led by, and accountable to, those who are most impacted by the work they're doing."
"With government cutbacks and shrinking foundation dollars, we have sadly seen many groups forced to close their doors. Others have gotten rid of their offices or transitioned from paid staff to being all volunteer. A lot of groups have also intensified their grassroots fundraising efforts, having learned the hard way the perils of over relying on foundation or corporate monies." © Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw.
[Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions build and grow fundraising programs and campaigns. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.]