Can we Revive the Gathering Program?

I suppose the RFC is doing as well as, if not better, than one would expect in the midst of the Great Recession (funny the way there is such a resistance to using the “d” word!). Our tremendously loyal and committed supporters have come through repeatedly with thousands upon thousands of modest donations, mostly ranging between $25 and $100. But I’m primarily attuned to our beneficiaries’ needs, and so end up seeing the glass as a quarter empty instead of three-quarters full.

Our donors contributed approximately $550,000 in 2009. This enabled us to make and administer grants totaling about $350,000. I expect we’ll match these totals in 2010. I’m extremely thankful to our contributors who’ve dug so deep, and equally pleased that the RFC’s staff of just three could justify this support by doing all our granting work, and increasing our communication to our supporters, while simultaneously adding a new layer of online outreach.

But we need an additional $30,000 to pay the costs of our next Gathering which we’ve already had to postpone from 2009 to 2011, and right now I don’t see where that money will come from. Most people give us $25, $50 or $100 each year. $30,000 more means an additional 300 gifts of $100, or 600 of $50, or 1200 of $25, on top of what people are already giving. It seems unrealistic to expect that will happen. And unlike our local hospital or college, the RFC doesn’t have any people on our list whom I can call to ask for $30,000.

And that’s not the end of it. We’ve not only cut back on our granting, but we’ve decreased our staffing as well. Before my daughter, Jenn joined the RFC we had a part-time Grantmaking Assistant along with our Grantmaking Coordinator. Jenn has been managing both jobs since coming on board over 2 years ago. So not only are we unable to fund the next Gathering, we also have insufficient human resources to organize it. And if we were to add that staff position, between salary and benefits that would be another $30,000.

So rather than reveling in the $550,000 we can raise, I find myself focused on the $60,000 we can’t. This situation is particularly frustrating, because this amount is not a pie-in-the-sky figure. I know exactly what we’d do with the money and can almost taste the concrete benefits these funds would create for the children we aid.

Don’t get me wrong. No one here is even considering giving up on the Gathering program. Repression is about disempowerment. Repressive forces seek to isolate their targets because it’s a quick way to demoralize them. Bringing those who have been targeted together to share experiences and develop mutual support networks is a wonderful way to re-empower our beneficiary families while providing essential nurturing for their children. The uniformly enthusiastic feedback we’ve received from Gathering participants confirms how important they are. So we’re pulling out all the stops in this 20th anniversary year to raise the funds we need to bring our project back to full speed.

I’m not certain that we can do it, but if by the end of this year you see an announcement in our newsletter or on our website that we are going forward with the 2011 Gathering you’ll know that, somehow, we pulled it off.

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