Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

Some experiences and lessons of the 30-30+100 fundraising project

In May Revolution issued a call for $30,000 + 100 new sustainers in 30 days—to bring forward funding for several important projects that will help get BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian out into the world, and for the ongoing work of RCP Publications and Revolution newspaper and the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF). This fund drive was an opportunity to introduce many more people to BAsics and to Bob Avakian. It was an opportunity to involve people in and enable them to contribute at various levels to the movement for revolution. And it was an opportunity to begin to build long-term strategic ties and connections, accumulating forces for revolution.

It's a great thing that the goal of $30,000 was fulfilled and that hundreds of different people—youth, professors, immigrants from many different countries, small business owners, social workers, teachers, housing project residents, and many others—all contributed and enabled this to happen. This puts the movement for revolution in a stronger position because it enables these important projects to go forward, and because it is a step forward in organizing people to concretely support and participate in this movement on a very basic but very important level.

The other key part of this whole effort—the goal of bringing forward 100 new sustainers for Revolution newspaper—has not been met, and there is much that still needs to be learned about why (see "Some Questions for Our Readers"). But there are some important things which can be summed up and built on from the successful efforts which raised the $30,000.

The beautiful full-color brochures which were put out for each of the fundraising projects were key to bringing the fund drive to life for people. Putting these brochures in people's hands gave them a sense of the scope and scale of what we were setting out to do. While many people chose to donate to the drive as a whole, the brochures enabled people to envision what difference each of these projects would make in the world. These, together with BAsics itself and copies of Revolution newspaper, helped to make the revolution real for people.

There was the musician who had been reading the PRLF brochure along with some letters from the special issue of Revolution on prisons and prisoners, who was moved to donate so the prisoners could read BAsics. There was the shop owner who said he's still checking out what this revolution is all about, but he bought a copy of BAsics and donated because he thinks people need to know about the revolution even though he still has big questions about whether it's possible. There was the professor who donated to PRLF because he was inspired by the prisoner's letter quoted in the brochure asking to receive Revolución in Spanish so he can share it with the Spanish-speaking immigrants. This professor is aware of the sharp antagonisms in the prisons between Blacks and Latinos. He is also very concerned about what future youth will have under this system with the current very bad economy and has many questions about the rise of the Tea Party and what can be done about people who are drawn to it.

Where people went out broadly and found ways to connect with many new people, there were important results—both in raising funds and in beginning, or deepening, relationships with people. One small group of revolutionaries went out to 60 people in the course of the month, winning 14 of them to donate, including 3 new sustainers and one person who agreed to double their monthly contribution to PRLF. One of these revolutionaries commented: "I think one of the main things about this fund drive (vs. other times we have tried to go out to raise money) was a more developed understanding of how this drive was a critical part of letting people in to the revolution, as it is put in the article 'Two different views on: Accumulating Forces for Revolution' (issue #237). And this piece was used more consciously to guide our practice in taking out the drive. We learned that people contributing money is one important way people come forward, and asking people for money can't just be something we do when there is a fund drive, but it must be integrated into everything we do and every time we go out."

Another small group of revolutionaries set out to make appointments with professors they knew but had never really sat down and talked deeply with. They had two substantive discussions. Both professors are interested in having more engagement and one agreed to donate $200. "We went through the brochure with him and used quotes from BAsics to speak to questions that came up. Two main questions he had were why is all the initiative with the right wing, why can't you even get people to come forward around more reformist goals or projects [like what he is involved with]...and how did we think there could be a revolution when things looked so bleak even in terms of some of these things. He sees it that people are just really taking way too much and are not taking responsibility for many things they should be—and wondering then why did we think a revolution was possible. There was back and forth over some of these questions. We used the pyramid section in BAsics—at least pointed that out—and then spoke to it, and then read part of the beginning part of 'on the strategy' in terms of how things could change and the importance of building a revolutionary movement right now and what this can change and influence, the dynamic of hastening while awaiting. We also spoke to the need for more resistance and opposition and the need to work together to develop these and to have more exchanges where people are presented with radical solutions from different angles."

In another area, some people at Revolution Books held a successful phone-banking session, getting over $400 in pledges for the 30-30+100 drive in a couple of hours. One first-time donor who had come to some events at the store gave $100 because he doesn't like the system and what the government has done for 150 years. He said about BAsics that Bob Avakian talks about ideals that everyone can relate to and desire. This same bookstore also hosted a discussion about the fund drive in which they walked through the different projects and the brochures, including answering the questions of people who are new to this about how to approach friends, family and co-workers about the fund drive and ask them to donate.

Putting the fund drive before people was a way to open up relationships and enable people to contribute in various ways to the movement for revolution. In some cases even when people didn't agree to donate they offered other forms of assistance: volunteering to help on the film of the April 11th event or offering to help promote subscriptions for the newspaper among the student body at a major university campus. In one city, there was a focused effort to reach out into the jazz scene, meet new people, and introduce them to BAsics and the fund drive, and in particular to the plans for making a film of the April 11th celebration in Harlem. While they summed up that they should have pushed harder to sit down and have focused discussions around the fund drive with more of the people they met, this initiative brought forward a number of real possibilities for future benefit events and has spurred one person to be actively thinking about how to personally help open more doors for the funding of the film. In another city a substantive sit-down discussion with a prominent attorney forged the basis for a more strategic relationship—instead of the pattern of just going to her around the immediate needs of the movement. While she declined to donate at this time, she shared her deep disappointment with the Obama presidency and her doubts about the possibilities of revolution but expressed appreciation for Bob Avakian and the work of the party over more than 30 years. She eagerly bought a copy of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) and promised to share her thoughts on it.

Through all these efforts new ground was broken in terms of bringing BAsics and Bob Avakian's leadership more broadly out into society. Where we boldly put forward the financial needs of the revolution as part of this movement for revolution we are building, we opened up avenues for people to find their relationship to that and to contribute financially and in other ways. There is much to follow up on—getting back with people on a regular basis, exploring other ways they can participate in and contribute to the movement for revolution, and transforming one-time donors into regular contributors and sustainers.

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