What is donor organizing, anyway?

By Jessie Spector, Thousand Currents Director of Donor Organizing

Jessie Spector, Thousand Currents’ new Director of Donor Organizing

There is no denying that dollars are one key way to support social transformation. We should know – Thousand Currents is a public foundation, after all!

But Thousand Currents does more than just write a check to our grassroots partners every year. We try to learn from our partners on effective ways to support the frontlines, and manifest those teachings in our own practice and priorities. This is precisely the rich, broad, engaging philanthropic experience that we desire for our donors.

What we’ve heard from our partners time and time again is this fundamental principle: engage and organize your community!

Organizing our community of donors and philanthropic partners is not only a mandate from our partners, but a call to action demanded in this political moment. We have an opportunity to harness the amazing energy that is surging in response to the rise of extreme Right-wing fundamentalism: millions of people are activated and realizing the scale and scope of injustice, often for the first time.

Organizing donors and philanthropists can channel the outcry, the rage, the anxiety, and the sheer energy to “do more” from folks across the liberal and progressive spectrum into something constructive, sustained, coordinated, and within community.

That’s where I come in, Thousand Currents’ new Director of Donor Organizing.

Just like our partners around the globe, I work to leverage the unique time, talent, and treasure of Thousand Currents’ supporters. I help us bring our whole and unique selves to the table to build a powerful collective voice for social transformation.

A toast to "Thousand Currents" at IDEX's rebirth party in June 2016

Thousand Currents is proudly in community with like-minded individual donors and family foundations. Whether you give $5 a month, $500,000 a year, or anywhere in between, your involvement in the Thousand Currents community is just as vital as your dollars.

In practice, donor organizing at Thousand Currents means we…

  • build relationships amongst Thousand Currents donors to support and challenge each other to stretch, to go the extra mile for social justice, whatever that means for each of us;
  • foster authentic connections with grassroots groups on the frontlines of fighting injustice;
  • come together as supporters and donors to amplify the work and messages of our grassroots partners, and the ways we are learning and practicing true solidarity and social justice giving; and
  • grow the community of donors and funders supporting badass, grassroots community organizing on a global scale.

Some of this we’ve already been doing and will continue to grow. Like:

  • We have 76 Thousand Currents Academy graduates to-date. What if we went deeper with an “Academy 2.0”?  
  • We have done several learning exchanges with our partners in the Global South. How do we increase these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for truly global, cross-cultural exchange?
  • Thousand Currents donors sometimes host fundraisers or friend-raisers. Would you host a Thousand Currents party for your community with our support to share this amazing work with your friends and neighbors?
  • Thousand Currents staff, board, and leaders attend or speak at philanthropy conferences to share our learning and advocate for responsive and respectful grantmaking practices in the funding world, for example, championing the concept of multi-year funding for our grassroots partners. Can we grow our influence by training a cohort of Thousand Currents donors (maybe YOU?!) to represent Thousand Currents on our behalf?

As the new Director of Donor Organizing, I am honored to deepen and enhance our community of supporters, to build a movement of donors and funders that is as vibrant, creative, robust, and dynamic as the grassroots movements we support. There are endless ways to amplify the changes we want to see.

Help me build out what Thousand Currents’ donor organizing looks like! Let’s talk!

What jazzes YOU up about donor organizing? Write it in the blog comments below, or send me an email at jessie (at) thousandcurrents (dot) org. 

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