Let’s all take a breath to celebrate the awe-inspiring power of organizers of color, whose tenacious work over more than a decade, allowed voters who have been ignored for so long, to lift their voices for freedom and be heard! Let’s celebrate the funders and donors who have been trailblazers in philanthropy by believing in and supporting their work.
This weekend, I got a text from La’Tasha D. Mayes, President and CEO of New Voices for Reproductive Justice and former Groundswell Board Member:
“Thank you Groundswell, for believing in and investing in our vision for Black women in Pennsylvania and Ohio. And for the foresight of the IVE [Integrated Voter Engagement] program. In a global COVID-10 pandemic while we organized for Black lives, we outreached nearly 800,000 times to Black women voters in both states — over half a million times in PA — reaching 40k Black voters through nearly 590,000 calls, 95,000 texts, and other efforts.”
This text was a powerful reminder of the incredible work of New Voices, and an affirmation of who we are at Groundswell. We are not just a funder that supports cutting edge work at the grassroots, we are a funder where grassroots leaders and practitioners like La’Tasha make up the majority of our Board members and call the shots on what our giving strategies should be in the first place.
It was these leaders who asked us to launch an Integrated Voter Engagement (IVE) program back in 2012, to equip reproductive justice organizations with the tools to build with voters at scale. It was these leaders who designed the grantmaking strategies that have enabled us to put resources in the hands of the most high-impact women of color and transgender people of color organizing shops in the country — organizations that were absolutely key to voter turnout in this election.
We just witnessed the largest voter turnout since 1908, with voters of color leading the way.
In Georgia, the New Georgia Project, Women Engaged, Black Voters Matter Fund, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum collectively engaged hundreds of thousands of Black and brown voters, running campaigns that made millions of attempts to get voters out to the polls.
The Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance (API PA), a new 501(c)(4) organization formed to build long-term power for APIs in Pennsylvania, made 1.3M calls to voters with support for ten languages.
In Arizona, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) and Our Voice Our Vote Arizona (OVOV AZ) as part of the MiAZ coalition, knocked on 1,462,639 doors, made 19,969,840 phone calls, and registered 184,868 people to vote. They achieved a 10-year grassroots organizing victory as several of the organizations within this coalition started in response to the SB 1070 fight and Arpaio era.
The Native Vote was critical in many states. It’s stunning that the Navajo Nation — despite being the community hardest hit by Covid-19 — turned out to vote at a whopping 89%. We were proud to support organizations like Advance Native Political Leadership Action Fund, Montana Native Vote, Western Native Voices, NM Native Vote, and Alaska Community Action on Toxics.
There were also many down-ballot wins to celebrate:
In Colorado, the reproductive justice organization Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights Action Fund (COLOR Action Fund), helped defeat Proposition 115, which would have banned abortions in Colorado after 22 weeks of pregnancy.
In Texas, the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) actualized many down-ballot historic victories to change Texas’s criminal legal system, won nine judicial races and protected two sheriff races threatened by white supremacist candidates. And in California, Black Women for Wellness Action Project helped to elect a progressive District Attorney and helped to secure an all-female LA County board of supervisors
It has never been clearer — the way to freedom for all people is to follow those who know the way. And right now, what grassroots people of color leaders are telling us is, as Maurice Mitchell of the Working Families Party and the Movement for Black Lives says so clearly, “Biden is a door, not a destination.” They are reminding us that the mistake that movements made in taking their foot off the gas after Obama was elected, is one that we cannot afford to make again. They are reminding us that the dire urgency of climate change, of police violence, of attacks on reproductive freedom have not abated. And they are calling on funders to double down on giving so that grassroots organizers have the resources they need to floor it. Starting with voter turnout in the GA Senate runoff (call to action below).
Groundswell intends to answer their call. We urge you to join us.
On December 1st, Groundswell will formally launch our 2020–2025 Blueprints, a bold plan to move $100M to the field across both Groundswell Fund and Groundswell Action Fund. As the largest funder of the reproductive justice movement (c3) and a leading funder of women of color-led electoral work (c4), our next Blueprints aim to live further into our function as an essential irrigation system for social justice movements — a channel into which individual donors and foundations can pour resources to reach vital work at the grassroots. In the coming weeks, we’ll share more details about our Blueprints, our launch, and the ways that our community can get involved. We hope you will join us as co-conspirators in our work.
As we collectively get back to work, we are standing beside you, shoulder-to-shoulder to fund and fight alongside movements. May you all find the time for rest and healing alongside the work that lies ahead.