How do we raise $1 million for the Law Center?

In 2023, Sustainable Economies Law Center will run low on funding. I sought wisdom about what to do in this situation and learned that one answer is already inside of me, literally. 

Gifts that flow like oxygen

Inside us, healthy cells release a signaling protein when they are low on oxygen. Blood vessels respond by growing in the direction of that cell to deliver oxygen. What an amazing system! I imagine the cell feels no shame in communicating its need, and the vessel feels no sense of sacrifice or charity in delivering the oxygen. Each simply fulfills its purpose as part of a larger living system.

Sustainable Economies Law Center is a cell in a larger movement for social transformation. Until now, we hadn’t made our upcoming funding challenges widely known, so this blog post is a signaling protein. Our funding gap was making me afraid, but then I remembered there are so many organizations and people who love the Law Center and want to ensure that the work stays nourished. To remain a healthy cell, we have to let you know when we need you!

Our budget is $2.2 million per year, and we’ve yet to identify nearly $1 million of it for 2023 and each year to follow. Recently, we reached the end of three multi-year grants, had two funders unexpectedly reduce funding, and our expenses have increased: cost of living for staff, insurance, accounting, and more. 

Friends, as you read this, we’d be so grateful if you could embody the role of the vessel, and think about how you can channel support to this cell, such as by:

Gifts that flow like water

Funding the Law Center is very different from donating to most nonprofits. We use participatory budgeting, so all 16 staff work to spread our funds across dozens of programs and projects. There are no bosses around here making the budgets or taking higher salaries. We have an equitable pay structure at the Law Center, where EVERYONE gets the same base salary based on location, with additional pay based on family support needs. The funding flows like water to where it can nourish the work we all find so inspiring and impactful. Here’s a gallery of current projects that would be fed by funding. 

When the Law Center has an overflow of funds, we channel it to other projects and organizations in our ecosystem, which recently has included groups like Community Democracy in Action, Nonprofit Democracy Network, and People Power Solar Cooperative. This is even true of our staff: This year, four staff members voluntarily reduced their salaries and we directed $18,000 toward other organizations. 

You might wonder why we don’t do as most lawyers do, and ask clients to pay us $300+ per hour. Indeed, the majority of our time is spent supporting other organizations – cooperatives, land trusts, and grassroots groups. Our choice not to charge most clients has to do with solidarity. The world our clients are creating and the lessons they teach us mean they support us as much as we support them. The Law Center exists because of them. We are all cells in the large movements for social justice, and we all survive by the same means: Asking for and giving support. 

Thank you so much for hearing us and for any support you can bring!

Big Update! (Oct 14, 2022)

After we made it known that we need to raise $1M per year, a long-time Law Center fan and friend, Ali Mann, gave a one-time gift of $500,000 from her inheritance. We are feeling humbled, hopeful, and filled with gratitude! We asked Ali to share what inspired her, and Ali said:

"Many inheritors like me are now re-envisioning the purpose of the money we control, and giving it away with the urgency and fluidity that this moment demands. Sustainable Economies Law Center is there for us, pulling back the curtain of these harmful systems that make, among other things, vast inheritances possible. I’m so grateful for their work building new systems, and feel privileged to be able to join so many others in supporting it."

Words cannot express our gratitude, Ali! <3 <3 <3


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  • Janelle Orsi
    published this page in Blog 2022-10-04 15:40:48 -0700

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