The iconic imagination of social-justice movements is occupied largely with images of protest. It’s only natural. Protests draw public attention by design. But following this, the next most familiar personification of the social justice worker might well be that of the door-to-street-corner donation solicitor: the “canvasser.”

Fundraising is certainly not the most romantic part of social-justice movements, but it is nevertheless one of the most essential, and according to Lorraine De Guzman of Causa Justa : Just Cause (CJJC), the way in which an organization funds itself has serious implications for how they fulfill their mission.

She also thinks fundraising can be a little bit romantic.

Take, for example, the runaway success of CJJC’s recent “10k in five days” fundraising campaign, which ended up collecting four times more than they’d initially hoped for. This success is, to Lorraine, a demonstration of solidarity, and an affirmation of a community working to solve its own problems. “What was so great about this campaign was that you didn’t have to come from wealth to participate.” She addedd, “This campaign showed us that there are so many people in the community committed to fighting gentrification.”

For CJJC, this year has seen, among other accomplishments, the publication of the important “Development Without Displacement” report, as well as a successful bid to reform Oakland tenant rights legislation, which just went into effect on August 1. These accomplishments, followed by the triumph of this grassroots funding campaign, serve as a clear testament to the integrity of their work, and a community mandate to continue with their organizing.

To be sure, grassroots funding is not CJJC’s exclusive fundraising method. Grant funding is still a significant part of CJJC’s support, but grants are a limited resource for which many organizations are competing. They also come with strings attached, such that the donors retain some influence on what it is used for, and what it is not used for.


The campaign ended August 5 and raised more than $40K. Poster by Design Action Collective.

“What gets left out is our organizing and our leadership development work–the more direct work we do. Organizing is the thread that connects everything together. Without that we wouldn’t have movement building, strong policy advocacy work, we wouldn’t know what policies we need without the community involvement,” said Lorraine, referring to what parts of their work are not typically covered by grants.

For the past two years, the organizers at CJJC have been developing their grassroots and creative fundraising methods as a means of finding sustainable resources to continue their work. The result? They have donation boxes at their three tenant clinics in East Oakland, West Oakland and San Francisco. They have optional sliding-scale membership dues. They operate the t-shirt printing company Liberation Ink, which also helps fund CJJC and train its members in running a sustainable social-enterprise.

This most recent grassroots fundraising campaign was something of an innovation as well.

Progressive Technologies Project (PTP) is an organization that works with nonprofits to build and use database technology that tracks, as Lorraine puts it, “everything.” It was through their integrated-fundraising training that CJJC’s “10k in five days” became a reality. PTP helped create unique fundraising pages for 36 people affiliated with CJJC, which allowed these volunteers to make personalized appeals to their donor networks. “The campaign wouldn’t have been possible without those 36 people,” said Lorraine, “they made the time to do this fundraising effort as a way to participate in this fight.”

The accomplishments of CJJC, and the many other Oakland and Bay Area nonprofits that are working to protect Oakland’s residents from the dislocating impacts of tech money, are evidence of the strength of the anti-gentrification movement and the support of the community.

Such complex societal ills must be treated for their acute and chronic symptoms. To ignore the problem is only to make it contagious. Organizations like CJJC have to balance their resources to serve people in crisis right now, while at the same time help build the legislative,  community, and leadership structures that will protect Oakland’s, and the Bay Area’s,  invaluable culture, before it is swept away by the hasty broom of new wealth.

These nonprofit organizations raise their operational money in a variety of ways, but money comes with strings attached. Direct grassroots fundraising is what makes community organizing work possible, because the only string attached to a $5 donation is the confidence of the community.

5 Responses

  1. blahdiddieloblaw

    more poor governance ,more poor education ,more poor policing ,more poor streets .

  2. Myrtle Goss

    I have lived in Lower Bottom, West Oakland for much of my life. I most definitely share the fears of many of my also less-than-wealthy neighbors about displacement. My neighborhood and my home are central to who I am, and I do not want to lose them or be forced out. At the same time, I have serious concerns about the goals and tactics of the anti-gentrification movement.

    It is hard to argue that the area doesn’t need improvement. Like many of my neighbors, I view the influx of new residents with the guarded hope that they will bring with them new energy to help this improvement along. And this is what we see quite a bit, with lots of people out fixing up their places and taking care for where they live. We also hope that they will treat the neighborhood and its longtime residents and traditions with respect. We often, though not always, see this as well. And more times than not, what we see as disrespect is simply ignorance, and a few kind words help to straighten things out.

    Where we often do not see respect, though, is in the anti-gentrification folks. Their message is that they want to “fight” gentrification, and this word really says it all. Their tactics have included attacking buses, grafitti, spreading the word that it’s ok to vandalize places as long as they belong to “the yuppies”, shouting “Satan” at city meetings, handing out posters that are copied from Nazi propaganda (with Jews replaced with Yuppies), and throwing rocks through the windows of business they feel are associated with “the enemy”. More often than not, they seem to be white folks from outside the neighborhood who claim to be speaking for us residents, but are really just itching for a fight and have found a handy target.

    I really wish they would stop speaking for us, if this is the way they are going to speak.

  3. fred

    I think we could stand a little gentrification. Couldn’t we? I mean, it’s downright nasty out there.


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