Make Organizing Financially Accessible, Sustainable, and Joyful

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

I think this speaks to the overall question: How might we expand our idea of compensation from finances into collective care? In addition to the frameworks above, I also think about models like communities where financial care is decoupled from hours “working”. I’m wondering how we might move from role-based compensation to needs-based compensation. I’m wondering what it might mean to use multiple strategies for making sure everyone has housing, food, community, autonomy, etc. Money may be the “easiest” way of enabling this to happen in a capitalist economy, but are there ways to break out of this paradigm?

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@deborahchang I think you are speaking to a critical question. What does non-monetary compensation look like? We’d have to chart out the models you mentioned. Any compensation requires resource generation - fundraising, revenue model, sourcing in-kind contributions, etc. Not a values-question, but I wonder what does it look like operationally to source, secure, and distribute non-momentary compensation like food and housing (for example)?

Another thought is that a fluid way of deciding compensation could be challenging. I mean like allowing people to name the type of compensation they receive for their work. It becomes another thing to manage, like the negotiation and information. And another decision for a circle to make (potentially). Numerous differentiation becomes a lot to cognitively hold, to communicate out to people, etc. As YPC grows, it all can become a lot to manage. Lastly, standardization is often see as bureaucracy, but a lot of processes and decision points are too. I think it’s worth us being mindful of that, as we build out.

So true! And, I think maybe there’s a way for us to do this with less formality. Like, what if once a quarter we all came together to share needs and do a resource pooling + sharing?

I got this from this article, which I’ve reread multiple times and realize now could be huge for us.

Some quotes that stood out to me:

“for the Blackfoot, wealth was not measured by money and property but by generosity. The wealthiest man in their eyes is one who has almost nothing because he has given it all away” (Coon, 2006). Maslow witnessed a Blackfoot “Giveaway” ceremony in his first week at Siksika . During the Giveaway, members of the tribe arranged their tipis in a circle and publicly piled up all they had collected over the last year. Those with the most possessions told stories of how they amassed them and then gave every last one away to those in greater need (Blood & Heavy Head, 2007, (video 7 out of 15, minutes 13:00–14:00).

As Maslow witnessed in the Blackfoot Giveaway, many First Nation cultures see the work of meeting basic needs, ensuring safety, and creating the conditions for the expression of purpose as a community responsibility, not an individual one. Blackstock refers to this as “Community Actualization.” Edgar Villanueva (2018) offers a beautiful example of how deeply ingrained this way of thinking is among First Nations in his book Decolonizing Wealth . He quotes Dana Arviso, Executive Director of the Potlatch Fund and member of the Navajo tribe, who recalls a time she asked Native communities in the Cheyenne River territory about poverty:

“They told me they don’t have a word for poverty,” she said. “The closest thing that they had as an explanation for poverty was ‘to be without family.’” Which is basically unheard of. “They were saying it was a foreign concept to them that someone could be just so isolated and so without any sort of a safety net or a family or a sense of kinship that they would be suffering from poverty.” (p. 151)

Ryan Heavy Head explains that such communal cooperation is especially important for the Blackfoot because of their relationship to place, something Maslow entirely omitted in his theories:

the one thing that [Maslow] really missed was the Indigenous relationship to place. Without that, what he’s looking at as self-actualization doesn’t actually happen. There’s a reason people aren’t critical of their tribe: you’ve got to live with them forever.

The skillfulness to nourish a community-wide family, keep each person fed, live in harmony with the land, and minimize internal and external conflicts is handed down from generation to generation in First Nations. Because knowledge can vanish as people pass on, each generation sees it as their responsibility to perpetuate their culture by adding to the tribe’s communal wisdom and passing on ancestral teachings to children and grandchildren.

Cross (2007) argues that human needs are not uniformly hierarchical but rather highly interdependent […] [P]hysical needs are not always primary in nature as Maslow argues, given the many examples of people who forgo physical safety and well-being in order to achieve love, belonging, and relationships or to achieve spiritual or pedagogical objectives. The idea of dying for country is an example of this as men and women fight in times of war.

Blackstock represents Cross’ ideas in the circular model below:

Image Description

Diagram illustrating different type of needs arranged within the quadrants of a circle. In the center, arrows arranged in a smaller circle connect all four quadrants together.

  • Upper left quadrant, cognitive: sefl and community actualization, role, identity, service, esteem
  • Upper right quadrant, physical: food, water, housing, safety and security
  • Bottom left quadrant, spiritual: spirituality and life purpose
  • Bottom right quadrant, emotional: belonging and relationship

This circular model reveals thinking in line with many First Nations: depending on the situation, the order in which our needs must be met is subject to change. A circular model captures the inter-relatedness of our needs and helps highlight that we can experience needs simultaneously and in changing order. This way of viewing needs makes more sense when seeing an individual as deeply rooted in a community, especially because a community is capable of meeting multiple needs in parallel.

I just had a thought - when we pool resources, I want us to think beyond what YPC as an organization holds. I also want us to think about the resources our community can contribute. What if a donor is inspired to give more or give directly to an organizer? What if a organization has space to contribute to someone who needs it? What if someone has baby clothes they no longer need? I experienced this myself growing up poor and in a church community. I always had clothes, we always had food, because people gave directly to my family. I think society tells us this is shameful, to not have independent wealth, but I now realize that community care is beautiful. The thing is, the more radical we are, the less we’ll likely have access to philanthropic funding because it is largely not set up to support what we do, but we still have an abundance of so much + our mission includes mobilizing resources and changing hearts and minds so that more funding will go to the movement in the future.

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One example in practice is this Time Bank from Boston Ujima. I collaborate with them in my day job. It is not a solution to our question about compensation. I think there’s some things to learn though and helps push our thinking. I’ll keep us updated.

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I came across an amazing resource about funding movements from the Anyi Institute.

Read the full guide here: Funding Social Movements

Key Ideas

  • Movements need volunteers to scale
  • Movements go through different phases and need different types of funding support in each phase

Recommendations Related to Compensation

Give small stipends to sustain "anchor" volunteers

Anchor volunteers either bring unique, hard-to-replace skills or ‘anchor’ a larger group of participants by managing group work and growing the skills of others

They simultaneously feel pressure to hold the needs of the new movement and to go back to supporting their families and resuming their normal lives. To avoid burnout, these leaders need a new injection of support, so that they can stay in the movement until the peak phase dies down and there is a transition into a more stable phase of the movement.

Fund infrastructure to support the basic needs of movement organizers

People who dedicate themselves to mass mobilization and receive no support when the peak energy dies out - or when responsibilities call them out of the movement - can feel burned out, prompting a sense of failure. New leaders need places to temporarily live and be fed. They also need to reach the next stage in their leadership development.

The type of infrastructure that is useful for these purposes can include: volunteer housing and food systems, retreat centers, and in-kind donation structures.

Fund those courageous enough to escalate

Established organizations are often wary of taking action that could risk relationships, antagonize, or stray off program.

The creation of a dedicated fund to encourage nonviolent direct action could spur innovation in tactics, as well as provide a lifeline to groups that want to experiment with actions that involve high levels of sacrifice and disruption.