Tag Archives: donations

Small Contributions Make a Huge Difference

New Orleans     Whether it’s a moment or a movement, some things are different this time than they have been in the past.  One encouraging and crucial difference is the fact that the money is coming from the small donors interested in change rather than control.  This time it’s the public, not institutions, churches, the wealthy, and foundations that are fueling the action with funds.  This is the Bernie Sanders small donor machine applied directly to social change, and what a difference it might make.

Read deeply any history of the civil rights or anti-war movement, and you will find terrible stories of the desperate efforts to raise bail money for civil disobedience arrests.  Houses and land mortgaged and lost.  Midnight runs were made with cash form Atlanta or local church collections in nickels and dimes matched with funds from some church denominations.  According to the New York Times, local bail funds in Brooklyn raised $1.8 million in 24-hours, more than $2.4 million in Philadelphia and $2 million in Los Angeles for a local chapter of Black Lives Matter.  The Minnesota Freedom Fund, “a cash bail fund, raised a stunning $20 million in four days…and another $10 million came in…from nearly one million individuals…” ActBlue processed $250 million over a two-week period, and it confirming that “racial justice causes and bail funds had led the way.”  In Blackout Tuesday, “ActBlue doubled what had been, before this month, its one-day record:  raising $41 million in 24 hours.”  Two national bail funds “received a combined $90 million over two weeks.”  Where the contributions went to on-line organizations like Color of Change, which “quadrupled its membership to 7 million people from 1.7 million in recent days.”

Let me tell you all, this is huge!  Regular people spending from their hearts and going deep in their pockets to support mass protests during a pandemic depression when record numbers are unemployed.  People are demanding change.  They are demanding a voice without asking to control the direction of the organizations and individuals taking the action.

The freedom this gives people – and their organizations – to act as they see best without apology or submitting endless proposals to outside funders is huge.  They can do what has to be done, at least for a little while, without arguments about tactics or messaging from well-intentioned but irrelevant advice from outsiders.  They can do the work, spend the money, and feel the love by going directly to people for support.   This could be a gamechanger for social change not only now, but in the future.

Money matters. Thanks to everyone for stepping up!


Bain Capital Marketing for Nonprofits and the Rich in Sheep’s Clothing

New Orleans     The headline in the New York Times caught by eye, saying “The Pitfalls of Giving Big but Thinking Small” with a subtitle that was even more interesting to me: “Donating Large Amounts to Social Change Groups Can Be Complicated, but it Isn’t Impossible.”  Wow, I work for a social change group.  I could really be helpful in answering this question, if someone is really asking.   With a global footprint and mission as big as America and as broad as the world, “giving big” and “large amounts” both sound a bit like music to my ear.

What’s up?  Where does the line start?

The foundation of this presumptive “news” story was a report by something called Bridgespan Group, which is only described as a “philanthropic consulting firm.”  One of its founders is quoted saying, “…if you wanted to put $1.8 billion to work to drive social change, how would do it?  It’s hard.”  Really, who knew?  Well, according to Bridgespan this is a vexing problem for the ultrawealthy, defined as those few who have more than a half-billion bucks of wealth.   Tom Tierney, the Bridgespaner, also claims that, “There is by all indications a sign of intent by the super wealthy to increase their giving to social change…but we haven’t invested in the pathways to let them to this in a productive way.”  Hmmm, so you say.  What’s going on here?

Bridgespan turns out to be the nonprofit offspring of Bain Capital.  Tierney turns out to have formally been the managing director of Bain.  Bain is famous to most of us little people as the platform for Mitt Romney and numerous others who ply the lucrative practice of corporate consulting.  Bridgespan became the stepbrother once removed after Bain did several studies discovering how much money was in the nonprofit sector and realized its brand didn’t lead well to mining this rich vein, so building a bridge span (get it?) to Bain would do the trick.

So, what does Bain in sheep’s clothing recommend in order to allegedly move money   from the hands of the superrich to what they want to refer to as social change?  According to the article they think the trick is “the creation of a ‘community foundation for America’ that would be able to accept large bequests and donations and then find small nonprofit groups that need funding.”

            Funny thing? Been there, done that!  In 1976, Drummond Pike founded the Tides Foundation and its family of organizations in San Francisco to do exactly that, and it has done so for over 40 years quite well thank you, as an organization with revenue over $100 million and assets over that level as well.  The Tides operation is regularly ranked near the top of the largest nonprofits in the country by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Bain and Bridgespan are based in Boston, so maybe they are so old school and business-bound that they don’t think of something way over in California as truly American?  No, that’s not it, is it?  This report seems to be a little more than a marketing piece for Bridgespan and Bain with a cover story as a research document in hopes that someone among these supposedly social change besotted superrich folks will read it and, say, hey, great idea, Bridgespan, why don’t you get on the stick and create this national community foundation for America?.  They have made the case that this is oh so hard that the superrich can’t find the “pathway,” which means I guess that they don’t know how to call or fly to San Francisco and visit with Tides, so Bridgespan can do it all for them and collect their 20%.

Call or email me if you need the address for Tides, it’s still at the Presidio in San Francisco.  Or, better, send me the money directly, and we’re good to go!

One last question that’s a headscratcher to me?  Why did the New York Times run this thinly veiled puff piece for Bridgespan and Bain without it saying “Advertisement” at the top like the other ads?