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Fundraising For Radicals: An Introduction

on Oct 29, 2015

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If you believe that any form of grassroots movement can affect social change without first considering how monetary influence plays a role, you’re wrong. Change requires a shift of power, and money is the most powerful lever we have at our disposal to move, exchange or redistribute power.

Whether it’s cash, product, service or skill, somebody pays at some point in time. The change may come about on a macro scale, like electing politicians, eradicating stigmas, or enacting or redacting laws. Or, at a micro scale like paying forward a good deed, stocking a food bank’s shelves or planting trees – regardless, somebody pays.

Attempting to create positive social change is radical. But, we typically point to the end result – the art that was created, the cure, or the books on the shelf – as the indicator that progress has been made.

Fundraisers are great (I hope) at telling donors that their gift was the moment that dreams became reality. But what if the fundraiser never asked? Donors or potential donors often have an idea or intention smoldering away. They know they want to help, and they know they have something to offer. Great fundraising by great fundraisers should be like gas on a fire.

Fundraising is the first radical act because it makes donor’s dreams a reality, which in turn make big change possible.

Where do we go from here:

Picketing students in Montreal, Idle No More activists in Attawapiskat, law students in New Brunswick or a coder in Vancouver – these people are, and will continue to be at the leading edge of the next century’s social change movements. What they are not likely learning is how to raise money quickly, effectively, and ethically. If we aren’t offering to, or even recruiting them, for an opportunity to learn and practice fundraising fundamentals, we’re doing a disservice to our country, and the lives they could potentially change because a funded movement is significantly more likely to succeed than an unfunded movement.

Radical fundraising, to me, means harnessing the intense passion and emotion – anger, if possible – to propel forward action. Fundraising is a not-so-distant cousin of pickets, boycotts and sit-ins, and grabbing hold of that passion in your donors or the public is powerful if you can pull it off. And take my word for it – age is a variable independent of passion.

My submission is that fundraising for radicals is not a replacement of any best practice we currently have. It’s an expanded view that welcomes activism, protest, provocation, and anger into the fundraising toolkit alongside love and gratitude.

This won’t my last post on the topic. Follow me on twitter @brockwarner if you’d like to keep in touch, ask questions or share.

This post was by Brock Warner. Currently in Toronto, Brock works to foster and place value upon the act of philanthropy, no matter the size of gift. As a professional, he values the ‘how’ as much as the ‘how much’ and desire to see the fruits of my labour and energy be a catalyst for positive change. Connect with Brock on Twitter at @BrockWarner.

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