Ask Jenn Vicious: Financial Options for Rad Folks

By: Jenn Vicious 

Jenn Vicious is the radical community’s Agony Aunt, providing life coaching and social etiquette answers for radical cultures.  Need poly, kinky, or queer dating advice, need to to know what to wear to court or a family function (you know, one you have to look “respectable” at),  want to understand what to and not to say in some contexts, ask Jenn Vicious.

What grants are available for rad people and organizations?
-Anonymous

While there are a few grant organizations out there geared specifically at radicals (The Institute for Anarchist Studies comes to mind as being one of the most obvious, if academic), I think the real answer is that almost any grant out there can be available to radicals.

Radical organizations fill a lot of important niches in their communities, and there are a lot of funding organizations out there that fund based on what you do more than what you think. If you organize an infoshop (and I know of more than one infoshop that was started by grant funding), see what grants are available for the services you provide to the community, such as classes, computer access, libraries. Maybe you have a radical health collective (look for community health grants), or a free school (look for community education grants). Even your punk house might be eligible for funding, if you do it right. The point is you can play up the services you provide and the benefits they bring to your community and get funding based on that.

Of course, it helps if you have a non-profit. Getting a non-profit going is a ridiculous amount of paperwork and dealing with the state, but other than that, it isn’t hard. One thing we did in my town is create a larger, umbrella non-profit that can serve as the non-profit for smaller, radical projects (such as our infoshop and our free school). We haven’t been totally on top of this, and haven’t applied for any grants yet, but theoretically any of the groups we sponsor could apply for a grant and use our non-profit status. Our board is made up of people from various projects, who are also all friends and having worked together in the past. In other words, people with ties to the projects and a shared sense of trust and responsibility.

You might consider doing this in your town, particularly if you have someone who is really good at dealing with paperwork and bureaucracy, like we do. We were really explicit in our paperwork that we support radical and anti-authoritarian community-based projects, partly because that way we can never be accused of violating our charter.

Though there are many, many funding organizations out there that you might try, I suggest starting locally. Maybe your town has some sort of arts board that funds community art projects (a lot of radical activites could be classified as art, in my opinion). Maybe there’s a local funding source for orgs that provide computer access to school kids.

The point is, look around, see what’s out there, and take a different perspective on the work that your radical projects do. Then write a grant proposal. Your proposal should be really specifically targeted to the grant you are applying for. Explain how your project fulfills the needs that the funding organization is looking for. Get people who are really good at writing to write it. Have several people look it over and edit it. If you ask around, you might know someone who has grant writing experience, or has at least taken a class. Even if you don’t, there are really good grant writing books usually available at the public library (I usually turn to the NOLO series for anything like this. It’s legal mumbo jumbo made somewhat comprehensible.)

It is probably worth mentioning that if you have something specific in mind to fund and it is too radical/too much paperwork for regular funding orgs, Kickstarter and the like are great ways to get your project funded. If you don’t like using Kickstarter and Amazon, you can totally do a similar type fundraiser on your own using WePay, which is infinitely less evil but doesn’t have as much of a following. In that case, you need to be on top of doing your own social media, networking, and outreach to get your project funded, but you don’t have to pay anything for it.

Finally, make contact with radical projects in different towns that seem to be financially stable and ask them about how they did it. I’m including a few links below to get you started, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. These groups may be funding sources you can contact or they may be groups that have gone through a funding process or two and might have some advice for you, if you ask nicely.

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