For lesbian activists and grassroots organizers fighting the Christian Right.
Access to Money and Resources
Out, direct-action, grassroots organizing costs a lot less than large scale, media type mainstream campaigns. But it still requires money and other types of resources-more money and resources than most of have access to personally. Despite your best fundraising efforts, money can become a troubling organizational and personal issue. How much is there? What should it be used for? How do you decide? How do you keep track? Often you can substitute other kinds of resources for money-you know someone who can contribute a computer, print flyers, or lend you a space at no cost-but even access to resources differs among a group of dykes. Some of us know useful contact people and others don't.
There are some things we can do to minimize tensions around access to money and resources. In order organize yourselves, it helps to lay out a budget in advance. In fact, preparing several budgets-each based on what you can do if you have different amounts of money-can help to keep things going without crises. Constant cash crises create lots of tension and sap energy required for the campaign work itself, so knowing where you are and what you can realistically do financially helps keep the tension level down.
One issue that can come up around money is the temptation to agree to do something because someone personally has access to the money to do it. Sometimes someone, who probably has good intentions, will simply say: "Well, I'll pay for it so lets do it," and the group will agree because it's available instead of deciding where it fits politically into the work. What this means in the long run is that someone with access to money will be able to advance their views of what needs to be done politically while someone without access to money won't. Political decisions should be made based on the soundness of an idea. If people working on the campaign think something should be done, but there is not enough money to do it, then everyone can figure out how to get money for it (see Section 5-Fundraising). In the meantime, members of the group who wish to contribute resources can do so-for the general use of the group, not just their project.
Most of us working on a political campaign contribute out-of-pocket money when we have it. But making assumptions about people's access to money and their ability to contribute financially, either to the group itself or to the work for it, can create problems. Don't count on the fact that people will have money to lay out before getting paid back. People who cannot do that can be made to feel less adequate than those who can, or will be put into the situation of having to let everyone know what their financial state is. This can be embarrassing and a strain imposed only on members of your group without money. And don't assume that someone who may have money should automatically pay out of pocket every time, either. In both cases, the group should be responsible for group expenses.
To avoid these kinds of tensions, have petty cash on hand and assume that everyone will use it (people who feel they don't need to use this money can make a small donation to the group at the beginning to cover those expenses, then when the time comes to photocopy a few pages and eat a sandwich, they can take it from the petty cash like everyone else-this way the sandwich doesn't become a symbol of political commitment or moral fortitude). Allocate money also for group work situations when you know people will probably have to eat or might want a drink, because not everyone can do this out-of-pocket either. Another way to avoid out-of-pocket payment is to set up accounts with businesses you use often-for example, a photocopying store. Then anyone from the group can take on the job of reproducing leaflets or brochures, even a small amount, and not have to front the money.
People also differ in their access to resources other than money. Some of us might know a person who does artwork, or theater, or someone with a space they might be willing to give to the group for a fundraiser. Other people don't have access to these resources. In order to make it possible for everyone to be able to do their part of the work by calling on available resources, keep a list of people and businesses, including who their original contact in the group is, and what they might contribute to your work. Then anyone can call on that person: "Hi, I got your name from Hothead Paisan, who suggested you might be able to help me knock over this building for an action I'm organizing . . ." This will ensure that anyone needing a resource has potential access to it-otherwise, you can set up a situation in which some people will find it easy to make things happen and other people will constantly fail.
All of these concerns-building and maintaining a core group-are relevant
to your work on an ongoing basis. Some of the issues discussed may not
seem important at first, but will come up as you go about your work of
organizing. You will no doubt add to our ideas you own solutions. In the
meantime, how do you get other people to learn about the prolific work
of your established, healthy, functional, and efficient core group? Read
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