Phyllis, a longtime Real Change donor, was floored when I told her Real Change doesn’t solicit any funding from government or corporations.
“Are you serious?” she said.
Like so many of our readers, Phyllis values the paper for its independent voice and journalistic integrity. The fact that our funding model is so reliant on grassroots support is something Real Change really ought to “boast about,” she said.
On June 30, we received our 628th and final donation to the Spring Fund Drive, eclipsing last year’s record number of gifts by 11 percent. In all, we raised almost $172,000. On May 6 alone, the day of The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBig event, we received 407 donations, ranking 16th in the state among all participating nonprofits. This put us in some rarified company, as we surpassed much larger nonprofits including the Salvation Army (212
donations), the Seattle Symphony (243), FareStart (246), and Treehouse (370). It’s impossible to overstate our gratitude to those of you who contributed to Real Change this spring. Your gifts help sustain us during the typically slow summer months until our annual breakfast in the fall.
Social change fundraising guru Kim Klein says this about raising money: “Your sources of money are your sources of accountability. Who are you answerable to? Who rightly thinks they can influence the direction your organization goes in? There are organizations that should be entirely or mostly funded by government and those that should be entirely or mostly funded by corporations or foundations. Those organizations would be accountable to those entities. Organizations that work for justice for all people need to be funded by those people.”
Real Change’s primary sources of money are our community supporters and our vendors. These are precisely the stakeholders to whom we are and should be accountable. More than half of our $1.1 million budget comes from grassroots supporters — generous donors like all of you who contribute to our fund drives and at special events like our annual breakfast. Our next largest source of funding is the money we raise through sales of the paper, which represents about 35 percent of our budget. This earned income comes from our vendors, who reinvest their hard earned income to buy additional copies of Real Change. Our vendors are our customers, and we must never forget that.
Only a fraction of our money, about 9 percent, comes from foundation grants. None comes from corporations or government. As Klein says, there are organizations that should be largely funded by government or corporations, but we are not among them. As a media and advocacy organization, our freedom and independence are of paramount importance to our ability to challenge the status quo and deliver on our mission of “creating opportunity and a voice for homeless and low income people while taking action for economic justice.”
We’re doing strategic planning right now and one of the questions we asked all stakeholders is “What three words first come to mind when you think about Real Change?” Three words that come up often are “independent,” “edgy” and “authentic.” We are especially proud of these attributes and deeply grateful for the grassroots support that allows us be that kind of organization. With individual donors giving Real Change more than $600,000 per year towards our annual budget, you are our lifeline.