Fundraising is Organizing

You may have heard whisperings from DJJniks involved in grassroots fundraising efforts that fundraising = organizing. Here's a deep dive on what that means, and four concrete ways to plug into this important work.

“I am not in this fight for money.”

As a part of a growing, intergenerational, regional community, DJJniks have endless passion for intersectional, coalitional campaign work. Metro Detroit’s struggle for water justice, affordable and comprehensive transit, quality education and so much more are massive, interconnected, urgent challenges facing our community -- particularly for our most marginalized and vulnerable neighbors. Three and a half years ago, we banded together to build a Jewish voice in the progressive community and a progressive voice in the Jewish community; to create expansive, moving, spiritual, Jewish holiday programs imbued with deep justice messages; to organize with the fiercest community leaders in Detroit to stop water shutoffs, end illegal tax foreclosures, speak truth to power, and shift that power for the long haul. Meanwhile, someone else, probably the Executive Director, maybe the Treasurer, worried about how we would afford the string lights at the Hannukah party and the paint for signs at the rallies downtown. We joined this group to organize, not to fundraise. But we contend that the two are actually the same thing.

I am not in this fight for money. I’m a music educator who plays Roller Derby and invests my time, talent, and treasure in DJJ because I believe in this work and feel deeply accountable to the racial and economic disparities of my community. Here is the reality of the place I call home: Wealthy newcomers live in the lap of luxury downtown while 1 in 10 Detroiters got their water shutoff in 2017. Wayne County accepts that the majority of foreclosed homes had illegally assessed property taxes and still asks victims to fork out $1000 to buy back their homes. There's deep, intergenerational, coalitional work (that we're a part of!) being done on both fronts, but our wins haven't begun to outweigh our losses. In a time when the wealth gap is so massive, it may be hard to understand why I, who so fervently declare “people over profit” along with my fellow DJJniks, need to be concerned about the financial bottom line of DJJ.

When I was asked to join the fundraising committee my initial mental response was, “Hell NO!” because I felt that I was a part of DJJ to do the work, not to beg rich people for money. There was something in the idea of fundraising that I found completely out of step with my values and antithetical to my goals in being a part of this organization. Doesn’t there need to be a clear separation between the anti-racist, equity-centered work I want to be doing in Detroit and the capitalist concerns of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC)?

“Tools of organizing are also the tools of fundraising”

DJJ’s innovative funding model strives to temper the demands of the NPIC (such as extensive grant reporting and tax-deductible status maintenance) by encouraging the progressive Jewish community to be either giving to or getting others to give to our work. We want to be self sustaining by empowering community members with the opportunity to fund work they deeply believe in, as opposed to relying on often elusive foundation funding. As former Executive Director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice Dove Kent said, “The only people who are going to fund the progressive Jewish movement are progressive Jews.” While our fundraising strategy also can’t solely depend on our friends and family, including them in the task of funding this work is not only justified, but necessary.

To do this, we seek to fundraise the way we organize. Transformative, coalitional, intergenerational organizing envisions a just and equitable world, tells a compelling story, leverages that story to build relationships, and harnesses the power of relationships in order to move hearts, minds, votes and purchasing power closer towards our vision. These tools of organizing are also the tools of fundraising: When the fundraising team connects with a prospective donor, we’re visioning that just and equitable world, articulating it in a compelling story, building relationships based on that shared vision, and making financial asks that allow us to meet our budgetary goals and continue organizing.

“Fundraising among our leaders needs to be part of the conversation”

Because of the demands of our lives -- the jobs, families, and derby teams to which we devote our time -- we’ve chosen a semi-professionalized model. This allows DJJ to invest about 80% of our $190,000 budget in 3 highly experienced staff people who love their jobs, dedicate themselves deeply to DJJnik leadership development, and are empowered to organize their heart outs while being supported to avoid burnout. The other 20% of our budget allows us to rent and stock an office, cater events, and organize rallies, workshops, and holiday programs. In order to maintain this growing and thriving community that carries out our shared values, fundraising among our leaders needs to be part of the conversation.

Each of us has more work to do in unpacking our personal relationships to money. This can encompass a lot of feelings: guilt, shame, anxiety, anger. Our class of origin, current class positionality, race, gender, and other identities, inform how we relate to money. When I committed to raising $500 for DJJ’s grassroots fundraising campaign last year, I had flashbacks to being a kid, asking my mom for field trip money, feeling anxious and afraid that I would fail, or worse, impose on my family and friends. Despite my reservations, I decided to take the approach of sharing what DJJ means to me with folks close to me, and gently asking if they would support our work. I talked about the loving community I have found in DJJ, the family of people I know I can turn to when I need guidance, and the fierce, unapologetic political home I had made for myself among others who lifted me up. With just a few emails and facebook posts, I reached and exceeded my goal. In fact, I cultivated the most new donors out of anyone else who was committed to this end-of-year fundraising project. The experience was powerful not only because it took me out of my comfort zone but also because it made me feel more deeply connected to the work and mission of DJJ. I fundraised, and I felt like I organized.  

I read the thing! I’m down! What now?

The end of the Gregorian calendar year (11/27 - 12/31) is the most important and lucrative time for non-profits to fundraise, and we’re gearing up for a crucial push! Here’s how you can plug in:

Dreidel With Us

We’ve got four tracks for engaging with grassroots fundraising this December:

  • Shin: Raise $500 from your family and friends between 11/27 and 12/31
  • Gimmel: Be featured in fundraising-related social media
  • Hei: Make a low-key ask of family and friends by forwarding e-mail fundraising appeals
  • Nun: Share, like, & comment our year-end fundraising-related social media

Each level of engagement will help us meet our year-end fundraising target. The best way to build your skills during this time is to join the Shin team! We’ve got 10 Shin slots to fill. Each Shin is expected to come to two trainings. The first part is open to everyone in DJJ: Our upcoming grassroots fundraising training on October 16th at 6PM in Oak Park. Click here to get more details and RSVP! The second part of the Shin training is only open to folks who commit to the goals of raising $500 -- more details coming soon!

How will you leap into our end of year grassroots fundraising campaign? Fill out this interest form before October 16th to let us know how you want to get involved.  

Have any unanswered questions? Click here to shoot me an email. 

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.