Make Organizing Financially Accessible, Sustainable, and Joyful

Thoughts from Saje: One reason funding is complicated is because there are multiple frameworks for approaching it, including

  • As compensation for labor (and I think additionally how do we define labor, expertise, contribution to outcomes)
  • By need
  • With reparations
  • Within the context of anti-capitalism, mutual aid, gift economy, etc.

From PENNELYS DROZ of NDN Collective

  1. Re-value and re-centralize our traditional practices. Harvest of our foods and materials, and the creation of products that come from our communities serve an economic and a culturally revitalizing purpose, connecting us to our ancestors and descendants, our teachings, and a creative ongoing relationship with our homelands.

  2. Re-centralize the practical needs of the people. What do we need to thrive? How can we provide for these needs in as local a manner as possible? What products do we have to trade for? Are there other Indigenous people we can trade with? Local, bioregional businesses or co-operatives we can trade with? The more people directly experience the impacts of economic decision-making, the less likely folks will make decisions that are harmful to the land or their neighbor.

  3. Look to our lands with loving and relational creativity. What abundance does the land offer? What can the land create/regenerate? What can we give back to the land to cultivate the regeneration of life? These questions should underpin new economic development ideas.

  4. Look to our people with loving and relational creativity. What creative visions and skills do we have? What can we create/regenerate? What reciprocal relationships can be encouraged in community to allow our people to be supported in their work? These questions should also underpin new economic development ideas.

  5. Understand the importance of boundaries and the falsity of “economic growth.”We all have traditional stories that encode the boundaries we need to live within in order to perpetuate life, and our traditional values of moderation. These are teachings to consider deeply.

  6. Explore ways of making your teachings and spiritual values the core guiding principles of any economic idea. Explore ways of re-integrating traditional resource distribution practices, as well as governance and community accountability mechanisms. Understand that re-integration of our practices will likely take some time, mistakes, and patience.

  7. And, above all, remember that although we have to engage with markets and capitalism to a certain extent, we can do so on our own terms, without buying into destructive mentalities. No one can do this work for us – we are the ones with the solutions to our challenges. We can also learn from and share ideas with other Indigenous peoples and Nations who are exploring ways of rebuilding our economies.

It is vital to remember that economic systems are only as good as the values, responsibilities, and community agreements that govern them.

From Mike H.

Current Status
Usually, you can have volunteers as a nonprofit, you can have employees who are paid minimum wage, and you can have people who are independent contractors
A model that Mike’s seen is moving all staff to a worker coop LLC that has a contract with the nonprofit to do work for them but that doesn’t seem to be a good fit for YPC.

Model of Everyone Volunteers with Needs-Based Stipends

  • One challenge is about minimum wage. Department of Labor will be sensitive to stipends being used to flout minimum wage. Let’s say minimum wage is raised to $15/hour and an organization decides well, we’ll just transition to stipends so that per hour the cost is not that high, that’s illegal
  • Another challenge is a requirement to have some rational basis for making decisions about where money goes to individuals within a 501©(3) context
  • Third challenge about conflict of interest. There’s making sure those who make decisions of who’s getting money doesn’t have ties to who’s getting the money

Model of Different People being Staff vs. Volunteer Even if Roles are Functionally the Same

  • Maybe have volunteer agreement that clearly states consent to be a volunteer
  • Challenge around less flexibility to move around (roles aren’t always defined and impact won’t always be made “in YPC”)

Potential People to Contact

Big Shift in Thinking

After the conversation with Mike, I’m thinking this change in process could be better. Before, I was thinking we would need to do volunteer stipends in order to preserve our philosophy of mutual aid. However, perhaps having everyone be independent contractors would be better. Here’s how I imagine this could work

  • Every member, paid or unpaid, has a financial contract with YPC when they get to the point of taking on process or operational role based work (yay for reinforcing clear governance). This contract can set out an agreement for payment to someone, non payment, or expected donation + the expectation that everyone contributes to our aim of mobilizing resources. It also sets out when someone is being compensated by a partner or when they are getting education or pro bono credit.

  • These contracts have set term dates for circle review (yay again for reinforcing clear governance) so everyone can reassess, not just individual contracts, but the circle budget as a whole

  • That’s right, every mature circle has its own budget that is inclusive of any of its subcircles that are not themselves mature enough to be a full business unit, but the goal of the next broader circle is to foster circle independence should that need emerge.

  • I think this would work for everyone being independent contractors because these roles are defined, and applicable to many organizations. Even the role of executive director, because that’s really just lead of the general circle.

  • An added values aligned benefit to this would be that members being paid as independent contractors learn the skills necessary to continue growing themselves as business people, from how to pay taxes to how to negotiate. Meanwhile as part of individual business units they also grow as entrepreneurs.

  • What keeps things equitable is that all budgets and contracts are transparent. We’d also have guardrails on things like financial resilience (no circle should be relying on any one source of financial resources), coaching for how to mobilize resources, how to negotiate, how to recover from trauma, etc.

  • We also live out our value of well-capitalized. We are aiming for abundance, not cost savings.

  • What if one person’s membership in a circle includes that person’s financial contribution? How might we check an abuse of financial power? I think diversification, again, is a big part of making sure this doesn’t happen.

  • Another reason I like this is because it makes adults aware of how much time they’re spending too. See, time as a resource is power, and in a youth-led organization, young people aren’t going to have as much autonomous work time as adults. I’d like to play around with the idea that no one, adults included, will be “full-time” eventually.

  • Why independent consultant instead of employee? It comes down to flexibility. The flexibility forces continuous clarity as described above. It also allows us to ramp up experiments and ramp them down. The power stays with the independent consultant in this case as well. Especially if we work to diversify what each person’s sources of resources is as well, they won’t be dependent just on YPC.

  • Units like the support circle will need to be supported by the network. Perhaps 50% of funds raised by any circle goes into the support pot for things like research and development, transparent communciation, etc.

  • I keep on going back to Open Collective as the system to use to manage all of this. It allows for circle budgets, transparent spending, and people submitting invoices. The big hang up is that Open Collective has an age 18 minimum. Could we figure out a way for those 18 or over to manage Open Collective while sending people under 18 money?

UPDATE: Sociocracy for All uses this model. Sociocracy for All members, search “How to budget and how to hire” for example in budgeting circle.

Also, I think we should be advocating for universal basic income and for schools giving credit for activism work. That is another way to make organizing sustainable, and a systemic one.

Example of an organizer contract from Eric T.

Eric commits to meeting regularly (monthly) until July 2021 with YPC’s Governance Circle to make a plan on how to improve YPC’s sociocratic implementation, as well as to work outside of circle meetings to carry out the activities that make up the plan (eg prepare agendas and deliver training).

The time commitment is budgeted for approximately 2 hours a week (keep track with Toggl), and if it gets exceeded considerably we can have a conversation about it.

Eric proposes to give his work to YPC on a Gift Economy basis: as I value this process as an enriching learning journey for me, and I very much value what YPC does as an organization, dedicating my time to improve your sociocratic implementation is rewarding enough on its own. If, on that same basis, YPC ever finds itself with the desire and capacity to give back, they’re always welcome to make a gift to Eric and/or SoFA, whether that’s in the form of currency or any other type of value.

The projected outcome is for YPC to consent to a revised version of their Circle Structure with updated Vision, Aims and Domains before the term is over (July 2021). This would also be the deadline for delivering the training that is part of the implementation plan. Another projected outcome is a plan to follow-up on sociocratic implementation after Eric’s consultant term is finalized.

When this is finished, Eric will ask for a performance review as a consultant from YPC’s governance circle, and will also ask for written feedback from 2 YPC members who collaborated in the process. For acquiring the “implementation” badge in SoFA’s academy, Eric will do a written self-assessment of this process.

As learning governance is an ongoing process, and Eric can only accompany YPC for a limited time, the other members of the governance circle commit to continuing the learning and training process in the organization after the circle’s term. Lastly, Eric will meet once more with YPC’s mission circle at the end of 2021 to follow up on YPC’s sociocratic implementation.

Idea from Mica: Contact Sustainable Economies Law Center Legal Cafe

On consultants:
An idea would be for us to pay a percentage of the billable rate to consultants and as always, keep that transparent. An organization I know has a minimum percentage of 28% but then as people log more hours, that billable rate increased to 35% then 40%.

More recently for a contract that Far and I did, we decided that 20% would go to YPC’s general operating and 80% would be split between us based on time.

Super interesting.

Run by volunteers. Get $200/month stipend and free housing and that’s it.

On mutual aid.

I think we ultimately need to be mutual aid. If we want to be 10,000 organizers strong, we’ve got to be supported by community, not centrally. All mass movements have been volunteer.

I love this example from Sunrise Movement, which has a Principle 6: “We ask for help and we give what we can”.

One way the Sunrise Movement puts this principle into action is through the Volunteer Financial Support Program policy that includes up to $800/month in support for poor and working-class backgrounds.


Sunrise Movement is committed to putting financial support in place to ensure volunteer leaders from poor & working class backgrounds are not limited in their ability to hold leadership positions within the movement.

In working to achieve this commitment, we are holding the following truths:

  • All solutions we put on the table are to comply fully with US labor law, electoral law and tax law. This is essential for preserving and protecting the organizational infrastructure that supports our movement more broadly and protecting workers/volunteers.
  • Sunrise’s organizational budget has limited financial resources that fluctuate from year-to-year. Given these resource constraints, we will not be able to reach every volunteer leader’s full financial support needs at scale. We will need to make hard choices about the scope, scale and guiding policy surrounding programs and solutions designed to support poor and working class Sunrisers. These solutions will be imperfect. We will only be able to fully address these needs when we win a government that centers human dignity and invests in scaled structural programs to achieve class equity.
  • Financial support is only one way in which Sunrise needs to evolve to better support poor and working class leaders. Financial solutions need to be paired with cultural and structural changes within Sunrise that focus on inclusivity/accessibility and elevating poor/working class leaders power and leadership.
  • All social movements have been driven by volunteer power, many of which have been led by and composed of poor and working class leaders. We recognize the need to support poor/working class volunteer leaders to the greatest extent we can, while remaining a volunteer-driven movement.

This policy document defines Sunrise’s “Principle 6 Offering” of financial support for volunteer movement leaders from poor and working class backgrounds. Sunrise believes in a model of needs-based compensation (rather than market-based compensation), where movement members follow Sunrise Principle 6: “We ask for help and give what we can.” This approach of needs-based compensation also guides our staff compensation policy, which you can review here. If you are interested in learning more about Sunrise’s philosophy around compensation, we invite you to read the rationale provided in the intro sections of the staff compensation policy here.

Sunrise Movement also follows needs-based compensation for staff members.

At Sunrise, we compensate based on needs rather than market-based pay scales.

Our goal with compensation is to provide movement members in critical or long-term roles with the basic resources they need to sustain themselves to do the work necessary to drive our movement strategy forward.

We recognize that “there will never be enough money to pay all of the organizers that the revolution needs” (Rules for Revolutionaries), so we’ve designed our movement to be driven by volunteer power. Everyone in our movement lives by Principle 6, so that we are able to achieve the scale necessary to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.

We do not differentiate compensation based on position, rank or perceived responsibility, recognizing the vital contribution made by each team member and the inherent dignity and support that we believe all people should be afforded universally. We recognize that people’s basic needs look different based on structural and personal circumstances.

As such for full time roles, we allow people to assess their needs and determine their own salary between $48,000/year and $80,000/year. Some states, cities, or municipalities have a minimum required salary and Sunrise will comply with those local salary laws. We allow people to request a higher salary of up to $55,000/year and up to $65,000 for those financially supporting family members, if that is what they need.

There are also roles in the organization which are part time or require an hourly wage. For these positions, we allow folks to pick a wage that is in between the minimum wage required by law in your city, and state, and $27/hr for a maximum. If a staff member has family members that depend on this income, we allow staff to request up to $32/hour for part time and hourly work. All hourly staff members are also eligible for overtime pay in accordance with federal and local state or municipal laws.

@Valli and I met with Sunrise Movement folks to get details on how to administer the Volunteer Stipend program, so check out the Sunrise partner notes to get details (private to YPC organizers).

Solidarity, Full Cost, and Redistribution Rates

If you are registering as an individual



  1. At least one of the following describes me:

· people of color

· immigrants

· people with disabilities


· working class

· poor

  1. I have not inherited wealth or property and do not expect to inherit in future.

  2. I do not have savings and am unable to make payments on debts.

  3. I have not had access to higher education (e.g. college, graduate school).

  4. I struggle to meet my basic living expense needs.

  5. My income supports people other than myself.

  6. I have had difficulty accessing healthcare for myself and/or family.

If your answers are:

All Yes - Level 1 Free: $0

More Yes than No - Level 2 Solidarity: $50

More No than Yes - Level 3 Full Cost: $125

All No - Level 4 Redistribution: $275

If your organization is paying for your participation

Redistribution Level 4: $450 for organizations with an annual budget of $1.5M and above

Full Cost Level 3: $350 for organizations with an annual budget of $500,000-1.5M

Solidarity Level 2: $250

Annual budget $200-500,000

Majority owned and/or governed by people who are at least one of the following:

· people of color

· immigrants

· people with disabilities


· working class

· poor

Organization fits one of the following descriptions:

· Focus on solidarity economy work

· Focus on collective liberation work; including but not limited to:

· practice values of equity, solidarity, and cooperation

· community-based: leaders/members are a part of the communities in which they work

· work to defend people from the harms of systems of oppression

· work to transform oppressive systems

Solidarity Level 1: $150

Annual budget below $200,000

Majority owned and/or governed by people who are at least one of the following:

· people of color

· immigrants

· people with disabilities


· working class

· poor

Organization fits one of the following descriptions:

· Focus on solidarity economy work

· Focus on collective liberation work; including but not limited to:

· practice values of equity, solidarity, and cooperation

· community-based: leaders/members are a part of the communities in which they work

· work to defend people from the harms of systems of oppression

· work to transform oppressive systems

Setting​ ​Pay​ ​in​ ​a​ ​Worker​ ​Self-Directed Nonprofit

I had the opportunity to think more on this, and I’m more and more convinced that supporting money in following the people and not the project is the way to go.


  • Enables self-determination
  • About sustained relationship
  • Gives access to not just money but a network of people with the means to support folks financially
  • Transformative for the entire ecosystem because now organizers can be generous with their time across organizations and efforts
  • Allows for emergent decision making — people can end and start new projects based on new information without fear of not meeting externally imposed restrictions

Potential Agreements Needed


  • Commit to doing money work
    • Healing
    • Budgeting
    • Redistribution (of money but of relationships, too!)
  • Commit to enoughness (ballpark 2x living wage as upper limit)
  • Commit to keeping money moving (for example, reducing any one person’s contribution and encouraging them to split or move their resources to the next person)
  • Commit to relationship


  • Commit to minimum term of giving
  • Commit to not committing financial abuse (paired with giving no more than 2% of any one person’s living wage)
  • Commit to being in relationship

Potential Next Steps

  • Share this idea
  • Do participatory budgeting around who to promote in this effort and set upper limit via this particular network (want people to be able to draw from multiple networks / communities)

Mindset Shift
What if our question was “How might we make organizing with YPC financially joyful?”

Minimum cost / sliding scale / true cost model

Cost : Choose what to pay, starting at $40. The true cost of this series is $100/person , which allows us to continue offering programs like this one and pay trainers a fair wage for their time and expertise. Like you, our trainers work hard for change in their communities and have often developed the knowledge, skill and gifts that they are offering through many unpaid hours — let’s support them to be sustainable in their work and craft!

I just had an amazing conversation with Vallay (who I met via 4.0 Schools) about this!

Here’s Vally’s advice and brainstorm:

Present to team as

  • This is the specific situation and opportunity that we have: The Rising Foundation grant
  • These are our considerations: our values, our distributed leadership model, being legal
  • How might we meet this challenge given our considerations?

Questions to explore

  • What are people’s needs around steady revenue streams that you can count on versus being flexible because you may have other ways that you can realize that. For you to feel safe and secure and excited, how would that look for you? x number of dollars per month or flexible to charge x amount of dollars per hour and I have this many hours to allocate.
  • Do you have one program that you care about that you want to spend time on or do you want to experience many different programs?
  • When can you work? If you have things that go on in the evenings but there are people who only like working in the day that’s a mismatch.
  • What motivates you to come to work? Physical office? Flexibility to control your own time? Leadership and development? Mentors and other opportunities? So every time you thought of a person for x role, you should hit a couple of people.
  • What’s your contribution to doing these sort of things and how do we understand values, motivations, and its venn diagram with movement/organizational needs.
  • What’s your opportunity to create pathways for each individual to contribute to program(s) in a way that meets staffing capacities needed to execute those programs?

Potential compensation options

  • All volunteer: has a container of hours available and will apply it to projects they’re on in a volunteer basis
  • Partner compensation
  • Reimbursements: travel, groceries, etc.
  • Donating/paying for leadership program experience
  • Fixed income + flexible hours: needs a certain amount of fixed income every period + has flexible hours to use in addition to what’s fixed
  • Per hour rate

Ultimately we’ll figure out

  • Pool of people we’re working with
  • Kinds of compensation policies + incentives to show up and do best work
  • Different projects that we can have to distribute time into to make that work

@michael @saf This is the Hub topic I’ve been using to track ideas / resources on compensation. My highlights are the following:

I’m also thinking about compensation within a wider ethos of frameworks like