Three weeks from today will mark 20 years since I opened the RFC’s office in a spare room of a friend’s law firm (thank you Katz, Sasson & Hoose!).
As the exact day of the RFC’s 20th anniversary approaches I’ve been thinking a lot about my original plan and the 32 individuals and couples who enabled me to transform my dream of helping the children of targeted activists into reality. I wish I could list all their names to give them the public thanks they so richly deserve, but I promised them anonymity, and they know who they are.
I got the idea of starting a foundation in my parents’ name to provide for the educational and emotional needs of the children of targeted activists in the middle of the night in April 1989. I loved the idea, but I hadn’t a clue about how to bring it to fruition. The following month a friend with business acumen provided me with the outline of a plan.
He noted that I was in a good position to embark upon a new project because I was “between” jobs, and had a one-year position starting in September 1989. Thus I had almost 16 months to figure out how to obtain the financing so I could work full-time as the head of what was to become the RFC starting in September 1990.
First I established a set of goals. I planned to gather 10,000 supporters to help me raise $1,000,000 that would enable the RFC to award $100,000/year in grants by the year 2000. Notice how round the numbers were, so you could see that I was painting with very broad strokes.
Next, I determined how much money I’d need to pay myself, run an office and produce the materials necessary to promote the project to potential supporters. I figured it would take at least three years of full-time work to determine whether the RFC was a viable project. My friend had suggested wisely that I add an extra year on because my time-frame probably contained an element of wishful thinking. I calculated that I needed $50,000/year ($24,000 to pay my salary and $26,000 for the office). That meant I needed $200,000 over four years for operations.
I wrote a proposal outlining the project and my goals and circulated it to people from whom I’d raised funds in previous political efforts. I told people I was attempting to find twenty individuals or couples who would pledge $2,500/year for four years. This was to become the RFC’s original Operating Fund Campaign.
I told people that if I could reach at least 50% of my goal before the summer of 1990, that I’d go ahead with the project and collect on their pledges. I topped the 55% mark that May, and the rest is history. It took 32 individuals and couples rather than 20 because a number of people couldn’t afford $2,500, but offered $500, $1000 or $1500 instead. One extremely generous couple provided $5,000/year!
I just reviewed my original list. I’m amazed that 14 of the original 32 not only honored their initial pledge but also have continued to support the RFC with annual donations every year since! I’m saddened that another dozen have died since 1990. Only a relative few have dropped out.
Today the RFC’s Operating Fund Campaign has over 80 members. It provides more than half our annual Operating Budget. This guaranteed income enables us to pledge that 90% of the money we raise from the rest of our community will be used for our grants. It is the core that provides the essential assistance around which the project is built.
I’m convinced that a great of deal of the RFC’s success springs from starting with a viable plan. There have been a number of necessary ingredients that have kept us moving forward during our first 20 years, but it all started with the 32 individuals and couples who joined my original Operating Fund Campaign plan.
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