Is Your Priority this Year to Make Political Contributions?

The RFC’s income is down this year. For instance, our June mailing is on track to raise $5,000 less than it did last year. Yes, the economy continues to be bad, and too many people are having a hard time making ends meet, let alone maintaining their donations to progressive causes. But we did much better last year, even though last year the economy was equally lousy. What’s the difference?

A couple of weeks ago we received a smaller than average donation from a stalwart supporter. He wrote: “Sorry this is small. My priority this year was to political contributions.” Even though a majority of our supporters do not reduce their donations to the RFC in response to the presidential campaign, some do, and others get caught up in Senatorial and Congressional contests, as well as state or local races or ballot questions. This is why the RFC has no receptions scheduled this fall. We simply can’t compete with the electoral clamor.

Even if we are able to raise 90% of the funds in 2012 that we raised in 2011, this will work out to a shortfall of tens of thousands of dollars for us and our beneficiaries. This hasn’t caught us by surprise. We’ve been around long enough to have seen this pattern every four years. We knew we’d have to tighten our belts and dip into our reserves to meet our granting obligations this year, but that doesn’t make it less painful.

The timing is also unfortunate because of the explosion of activism we’re experiencing. If anything, these mass protests are overdue, but we all know that the demonstrations have been met with increasingly brutal repression. When activists turn to the RFC for help, we don’t want to send them away.

I also don’t want to reduce our granting further, no matter how difficult that is for us. The RFC granted $400,000 for three years in a row (2006-2008), because the children of targeted activist families really needed it. When the financial bubble burst we had to cut back to $350,000 in 2009, and despite clawing our way back, have remained short of $400,000 since. As you can imagine, this wasn’t because the demand shrank when the economy tanked.

Moreover, in these lean times we’ve had to go all out holding extra events and making more grants (although for smaller amounts), without sufficiently increasing our staffing. I write this not to complain, but to let you know how essential it is for our contributors to maintain their support even in an election year.

I know RFC backers are committed people with many demands to juggle. For most of us it boils down to priorities, and of course, we must all set our own. But I want to make sure that you factor our circumstances into your consideration of those priorities.

We at the RFC pledge to do our best to provide as much support as possible to the children of targeted activists this fall, and with your help, we will.

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