I joined Springboard Giving Circle because of a New Year’s resolution. Risk in all the ways–political, social, interpersonal, creative–was going to determine my attitude towards new endeavors in 2014. So when I was approached about joining Springboard, I said yes. Finally I was going to take concrete action to move resources out of my pretty piggy bank into the hands of powerful grassroots organizing! In financial terms the word risk implies the potential for great monetary loss; that kind of risk I was tremendously excited about. It was about time this money in my name that I cannot call mine travelled to the hands of those most affected by injustice!
North Star Fund staff provided me with the tools to get started. As a member of the Springboard Giving Circle, I accompanied the Community Funding Committee–North Star Fund’s cross-class and activist-led decision-making body–on site visits to prospective grantee organizations and participated in their grant-making decisions.
At first, fear crept up at nearly every corner. Being accountable, as a wealthy, white, ivory-tower-educated cis-gendered woman felt like a necessary responsibility, a responsibility so tremendous that I sometimes felt intimidated by the risk of making mistakes. Would I let North Star Fund and my giving circle members down, not raise enough money, advocate for the wrong organization or ask the ignorant question?
Asking for money posed another risk. During our fundraising training we spoke frankly about the possibility of aggravating tense family relationships and unsettling friendships in which class, privilege, and philanthropy were only discussed from an intellectualized, removed perspective. Rejection happened to all of us in Springboard, and it hurt.
But of course, the reason why people make risky decisions in the first place is because there is so much to gain. As a young person with wealth I have the extreme luxury of having the choice to ignore injustice as it exists in NYC; hearing the grantees talk about their work and personal stories amplified by drive to educate myself and to fundraise others to bolster these efforts.
One of the most powerful moments for me was my conversation with my parents. Overwhelmed with anxiety before my visit home, I reached out to North Star Fund staff who offered phenomenal support and walked me step-by-step through the process. My parents made a major gift, but I am most grateful for the dialogue. My mom and I spoke about the core roots of injustice, how state violence is detrimental not only to poor, immigrant, brown and black communities, but to society as a whole. We also spoke about the importance of grassroots movements and the power of philanthropy. Before Springboard, these were not conversations at the family dinner table!
After months of skill-building and training, I have the tools to begin hard conversations, and I have the knowledge to back-up my assertions about how class and race privilege plays out in New York City. Through every pitch, every training, every site-visit, my commitment to my own social justice values–and my ability to articulate them convincingly and fearlessly–became solidified and emboldened. While learning about organizing in the city, I became an organizer. That’s a really powerful thing to gain.