Welcome to the Grassroots Fundraising Journal Archive!
What is “Grassroots Fundraising”?
While foundations and corporations receive a lot of press coverage (as well as attention from nonprofits seeking support) for their grants and donations, most money given for the work of social justice by non-government sources comes from individuals. In fact, about 70% of the adult population in the United States gives away money. Grassroots fundraising is a catch-all term for a series of strategies that raise money from a broad base of individual donors. Examples of these strategies are asking people personally for donations, holding special events, and using e-mail or direct mail specifically for smaller campaigns.
Grassroots fundraising is the probably the oldest form of fundraising and the one most commonly found around the world. It is widely used in political campaigns and is often used as a way to raise money in small gifts from a large number of people.
Beyond strategy, however, grassroots fundraising has a deep philosophical meaning: the people most affected by an issue need to be at the forefront of deciding what to do about it. When a group of people want something to happen, whether it is as small as cleaning up a neighborhood park or as large as advocating for policy change, the outcome will be most successful if the entire community is invited to participate. Grassroots fundraising doesn’t preclude seeking gifts from foundation or corporate donors, but it understands that a few large grants or donations should not drive the project.
About the Grassroots Fundraising Journal
Kim Klein and Lisa Honig, both community organizers and fundraisers, became fascinated with the potential power of grassroots fundraising in the late 1970s. They realized that social justice organizations needed money but often didn’t have the skills to raise it. The books about fundraising that existed were mostly focused on how to raise money from wealthy people to benefit very large institutions. Almost nothing had been written at that time for organizations with few or no staff, no front money and no infrastructure. Yet those were the bulk of organizations working for social change. Kim and Lisa knew from experience that there was actually a great deal of experience doing grassroots fundraising among small nonprofits, particularly those in marginalized or poor communities. This was largely an oral tradition and very little of it had been written down.
They decided to start writing stuff down—to document what they and others had learned. In 1982, they founded a bimonthly journal to present it: the Grassroots Fundraising Journal. Early issues explored special events, finding larger gifts (defined at that time as gifts of $50 or more), asking for money in person, and how smaller nonprofits could use the mail and telephone to raise money. Over the next 36 years, the Journal would explore almost every aspect of fundraising, including legacy giving, capital campaigns, and the burgeoning field of online fundraising, while keeping its constant focus on the needs of small organizations and presented through an anti-oppression lens focused on economic justice.
After a few years, Lisa left the Journal to become a public interest attorney. Stephanie Roth became the Editor in Chief in 1995 and took over as Publisher when Kim retired from that position in 2006. In 2009, Kim and Stephanie transferred ownership of the Journal to the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT). GIFT ceased publication of the Journal in 2018 and ceased operating as an organization in 2020.
About this archive
The 600+ articles that comprise the Journal continue to be used widely by fundraising professionals and volunteers, by professors in university courses on nonprofit management, by seasoned practitioners and people brand new to the ideas and concepts presented there.
Because of the continuing need for this kind of information, we—the founders, authors, editors, and publishers of the Journal during its 36-year history—decided to put all of its content into the Creative Commons. The Nonprofit Quarterly graciously agreed to house the archive on their website, so that you can download any article for free and use it without permission. You can make changes to it, but please give credit to the original author. Although some of these articles refer to things that have become obsolete (dial phones, fax machines, ten-cent stamps), we believe they all have important contemporary themes.
We hope you will find them useful and use them to promote the world we want to see. Social justice cannot be bought, but it also won’t come about without a massive number of donors fueling the work. The articles in this archive can help you raise the money you need to do the important work you want to accomplish.