Gather Fellows Learn About Grassroots Fundraising

On February 5, members of the inaugural class of GATHER Fellows who graduated from the course last November met for the first session of a series of virtual trainings about topics they would like to learn about as alumni. There has been overwhelming interest in learning more about several topics, with fundraising standing out as a priority.

The call lasted two hours, in part because the GATHER fellows, dispersed around the world, were truly excited to reconvene and share updates on their work. It was clear how much the GATHER course influenced their lives. Two people have left their jobs since graduation to focus full time on community initiatives, inspired by their work in the GATHER course. Another fellow, Cynthia Austin from San Diego, shared that the community visioning summit she hosted as part of the course led to a new framing of the voices that are part of the discourse on sex trafficking in her circles and that no less than five new organizations are starting up, under Cynthia’s stewardship, led by women survivors. Daniel Tillas from Port au Prince, Haiti, spoke about the Wealth of Waste, a program he began to employ members of his community to collect garbage with support from an Indiegogo campaign he launched as one of the final phases of GATHER last fall. He said the only downside is now he’s known as “the Trash Man.”

After all the fellows shared their updates, we moved into the fundraising training, led by Goldin Institute Senior Advisor Jimmie Briggs. Jimmie started the session by defining the differences between fundraising and development. Development is building the capacity of an organization and engaging in activities to build support that are not directly fundraising, whereas fundraising is asking for or applying for funding or in-kind services.

Fellows chimed in on the importance of development for fundraising and some spoke about their strategic plans, including fundraising.

Next Jimmie moved into a presentation of budgeting techniques. Fellows discussed how developing a budget is really the first step in fundraising, so that you know what you need and what you are asking for financially when asking for support.

In discussing “the Case for Support,” Dieudonne Allo from South Africa made the prudent comment that “Donors look at thousands of applications. You need to say why they should fund your proposal by expressing the importance and urgency of the problem you are trying to address.” He sagely added, “You can have a great project or program but without a good case for support, it won’t be funded.” Other fellows agreed.

The workshop covered different sources of funding available to grassroots social entrepreneurs as well as the importance of diversified funding. We discussed the pros and cons of: Independent Foundations, Companies and Corporations, Individual Donors, Local/Grassroots Resources (i.e. Rotary Clubs), Crowdsourced Funding, and Government Aid Agencies and Embassies. Daniel Tillas, who exceeded his fundraising goal for the Wealth of Waste Indiegogo campaign, shared with the group the creative and strategic efforts that led to his success. He discussed his campaign with influential leaders including teachers and other school officials, as well as people he knew who had visited Haiti, and asked them to share the campaign. This led to many donations beyond Daniel’s immediate network. He also talked about getting a base of support before taking the campaign public.

“People like to give to things that already have support,” Daniel said.

He also spoke about the importance of updating your audience and using the momentum inherent in a campaign to promote donations - i.e. we have raised X of our goal and only have Y more to raise, or there are only x days left to contribute to this important project.

We spent some time talking about cultivation of donors and especially how to thank them for their contributions. Geoffrey Omony of YOLRED shared a video he made for one individual supporter which inspired other fellows to do the same.

At the end of the call, there were some noteworthy questions and exchanges. Dieudonne commented on how hard it really is for organizations without a track record of support to raise money and asked how to deal with that challenge. We all acknowledged this issue for this particular group of fellows. Then, Cynthia, who has started several grassroots initiatives, offered to lead a follow-up session on how to deal with such problems by strategies like building an advisory board that can lead to credibility and funding, among other ideas. Goldin Institute staff agreed to build a toolkit including Cynthia’s ideas for this and future classes of fellows to use to support their fundraising efforts.

Celebrating the Graduation of the Gather Fellows

Twenty grassroots leaders from 16 countries around the world celebrated their graduation from the first class of Goldin Institute’s GATHER Fellows program on November 8th hosted by Board Member Mimi Frankel.


GATHER graduate Raymond Richard, founder of Brothers Standing Together, the Chicago-based anti-violence non-profit, attended the celebration on a rooftop venue overlooking Lake Michigan. ‘Brother Ray,’ as he is best known, communicated throughout the evening with other fellows online as he has throughout the four-month GATHER program. His colleagues participated in their respective regions across the globe in an innovative live broadcast of the graduation event.


Made possible by a new tablet-based online capacity-building curriculum that combines shared learning, local practice and robust reflection amongst the Fellows, GATHER’s inaugural participants have learned and worked together over the last 16 weeks. The highly diverse inaugural class included the manager of an orphanage in Kenya; a peace and reconciliation advocate in Colombia; a spokesperson for survivors of sexual violence in Kentucky; and a young lawyer in Puntland, Somalia. Throughout the course, these grassroots leaders engaged their respective communities in identifying existing assets, and built the personal capacities they need to design community-driven approaches to address local challenges. Both the software and core exercises were developed by Goldin Institute executive director Travis Rejman informed by 16 years of collaboration with a global network of grassroots leaders.


[quote]In many ways, Gather is the culmination of the last 16 years of experience gained by partnering with grassroots leaders and their communities across the globe. Literally thousands of conversations with community leaders from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the streets of Port au Prince to the Boardrooms of international agencies, have informed the curriculum and improved the platform.  -- Travis Rejman[/quote]

President of the Education for Change Association in Romania, Laura Molnar, summarized the GATHER Fellows’ sentiments when she shared:

[quote]It’s a joy and an honor to graduate GATHER – Goldin Institute, a high-quality course, with a real capacity to transform and empower global community leaders. Grateful to be part of a community of wonderful and inspiring people who are not afraid to dream and to work hard for making dreams become true.  -- Laura Molnar, GATHER Fellow, Romania [/quote]


Dieudonne Allo, founder and CEO of the Global Leading Light Initiatives in  Eastern Cape, South Africa added:

[quote]Today is a historic day for you at the Goldin institute, but it is also a historic day for me and Global Leading Light Initiatives. Thank you for empowering my community through me. I have learned (and applied) so much from Gather's unique curriculum and in the process, been greatly inspired your organisational culture. Community-driven leadership isn't just something Gather taught me about, but it made me see how it is practised. As leader of a nascent organization, trying to build an organisational culture, this was a very process for me. -- Dieudonne Allo, GATHER Fellow, South Africa [/quote]

As the final assignment in the GATHER course, Fellows crafted Indiegogo campaigns to invite local and global support for the projects they created with their communities over the last four months. These projects are built on the core principles of the course which include building on the assets that already exist and making sure that those people most impacted by local challenges are part of the team designing the solution.  

We invite you to learn more about these inspiring campaigns by visiting the GATHER Fellows collection on Indiegogo.

Goldin Institute Advisory Board Member Mimi Frankel, hosted last night’s event, and saluted the graduating cohort as well as the Goldin Institute staff members. “I consider it a privilege and an honor to present the First GATHER graduating class,” Mimi explained. “It’s an extraordinary program.” 


In welcoming the participants who joined us to celebrate the graduation in Chicago, Goldin Institute Founder and Board Chair Diane Goldin toasted the dedication and assiduity of the entire Goldin community:

[quote]“This GATHER graduation is a celebration of our Fellows who represent the heart of our mission. I couldn't be more proud of them and the team that made it all possible". -- Diane Goldin, Founder and Board Chair[/quote]

Deborah Bennett, a Senior Program Officer at the Polk Bros. Foundation was likewise elated and impressed by what she saw at the graduation event. Beginning early next year, the Goldin Institute is working with the Conant Family Foundation in partnership with the Polk Brothers Foundation and many other Chicago-based philanthropies to create a new GATHER class for grantees of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities:

[quote]“I’m so inspired by the asset-based approach to working with grassroots organizations,” Bennett explained. The people most impacted should always guide the solutions, and I’m excited for what we can do to reduce gun violence in Chicago.  -- Deborah Bennett, Polk Brothers Foundation[/quote]

Jazz Legend Kahil El Zabar was invited to attend the GATHER graduation by the Goldin Institute’s Executive Director Travis Rejman, and commented that he was “intrigued” by the “collective of unique, innovative minds concerned with human need and real change – I find it inspiring.”