Innovations in Social Change Fundraising: New Mertz Gilmore Foundation & RCLA Project

The Mertz Gilmore Foundation and Research Center for Leadership in Action are launching a new project for social justice organizations to discover and develop creative strategies for sustainable fundraising and revenue generation.

The project begins as nonprofits across the US continue to reel from the effects of the economic recession. New Giving USA figures show that donations to nonprofits rose by 2.1 percent in 2010 but remained 11 percent below pre-recession levels, with grassroots organizations addressing the needs of low-income and marginalized Americans among those hit hardest.

The new project on innovative fundraising for social change, together with current Mertz Gilmore grantees, aims to:

  • Document and share knowledge about the latest thinking, best practices and innovative strategies for grassroots fundraising;
  • Offer community-based organizations a chance to reflect on their needs and experiences and discover new ideas about sustaining revenues, from both grant and non-grant sources, such as earned income and events;
  • Provide opportunities for community-based organizations to experiment with new revenue-generating strategies; and
  • Document the findings that emerge to inform the field of social change organizations, technical assistance providers and funders.

The project includes a short survey for social change leaders to share their current fundraising strategies and how volunteers and staff are involved in implementation. It also includes a short survey for funders and technical assistance providers on effective approaches across organizations. In addition, the project will include a scan of the literature from the field and interviews with a wide variety of experts.

The project will culminate in a report to be shared widely on what works, new approaches to fundraising and revenue generation, and actionable recommendations for both social change organizations and the grantmaking community.

The partnership reflects the deep commitment of both the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and RCLA to supporting the social change community in New York and nationally, including collaborative action research RCLA has conducted with grassroots organizations over eight years on social change leadership practices that invigorate and safeguard democracy.

"At a time when grassroots organizing groups face serious challenges related to financial sustainability, we believe that this research, and the discussions it simulates, will produce important knowledge that will be useful to a broad array of organizations," said Rachael Young, program associate at the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.

For more information about the project, please contact RCLA Deputy Director Amparo Hofmann-Pinilla.