It is a rare and wonderful pleasure to share these thoughts with an audience made up entirely of donors of color – those of us who have been closest to racial injustice, and have the collective power to move the needle towards greater racial equity. The current uprising for Black Lives has mobilized a vast majority of the country, in ways that we haven’t seen before. Some of the work I am most proud of is early backing of promising leaders who have gone on to positively impact the country, especially at this moment of racial reckoning. Leaders such as Jessica Byrd (chief architect of the M4BL Electoral Justice Project), Stacey Abrams (founder of Fair Fight after running for Governor of Georgia), Keith Ellison (Minnesota Attorney General), Michael Tubbs (Mayor of Stockton, California) and others. In reflecting on the kinds of support that helped support them on their journeys, I tried to distill some key lessons. While there is an outpouring of material support for Black equality at the current moment, in reflecting on this NYT article about the outpouring of financial support for the movement, here are some ideas about how to sustain this kind of support:
- Make MULTI-YEAR commitments and make them NOW – Major foundations, corporations, and wealthy individual donors can lead the way. These one-time contributions from major corps and billionaires (looking at you, Zuck) are a joke. 10 years, minimum.
- Strengthen the back-end of groups and the movement – Foundations and wealthy individual donors should also focus their attention on how to assist and strengthen the “back-end” of groups and the movement. Make multi-year commitments to a Development/Donor relations position so that groups can nurture and maintain these relationships while they continue to fight the fight on the frontlines. Provide funding for communications and Public Relations work so that the rest of the world can stay informed and abreast of what their work is, and why they are demanding what they are demanding (Defund the Police, and so much more);
- Back specific movement leaders – Those of us with networks need to intensify, formalize, and extend our commitments to specific movement leaders. We should engage in holistic, long-term partnership and friendship. Pick two to three specific people who you’re going to personally and professionally back and support for the next five years. On the personal front, check in with them, pay attention to their personal well-being (do they have vacations planned, do they need food dropped off, errands run). Politically, professionally, make a multi-month plan to introduce them to the people in your network. Schedule a Zoom call for 3 months down the road where they can share what their work is with the people in your network. Update the people in your network every quarter on what the good work the person you’re back in is doing. Schedule a call for August when you can help the leader step back from the day to day think through their own personal and career trajectory. Help them identify steps to take and people to meet, and then help them meet those people;
- All individuals can help, or become investors – I was particularly struck by how “just regular people” have jumped in to help. One person made a point to watch videos on YouTube that would generate ad revenue for groups/the movement. If you’ve given to a group or cause, go back and give again, and this time make it an ongoing/monthly contribution (just like a monthly bill this is a “social justice” “utility payment”). Start to see yourself as an “investor” in the group. Find out about its work (from the website, not from taking time from busy people) and share that with your own networks — family, friends, co-workers.
- Become a voice for accountability – In the age of transparency and accountability made possible by social media and digital tools, individuals can push foundations and corporations and wealthy individuals to do the things I talk about in the first couple bullet points. Pick a corporation or person or foundation and become a voice of accountability for that entity. Regularly ask them how they are sustaining their commitment and then tweet and post about what you are seeing and hearing about are they living up to their rhetoric;
- Intelligently channel massive volunteer energy – What creative person is going to create a volunteer clearinghouse for the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s too much for them, and it is not the work of the groups to organize and direct all of the interest and support that is out there. But in today’s tech-savvy, tool-laden world, surely someone can help create a resource or platform (Google doc??) that can help to organize and intelligently channel a lot of the volunteer energy and sentiment that exists.
These are just some initial thoughts. We should all stretch our creative thinking to explore what we can do to make this a course-altering point in the history of a country whose course desperately needs altering.
Note from blog editor, Nitika: We highly recommend Steve’s podcast Democracy in Color, and connected to this blog post, the episode from June 11: The Whole World is Marching. Check out the references at the bottom! They make for an enticing reading list, to which I would add these articles authored by Steve.