Setting up a ward platform, contesting local elections and supporting community projects all take money. In collectives, anybody who is in charge of managing money and resources or has access to sources of finance has some power. This can be a problem when there are a lot of resources and also when there isn’t enough to go around. But managing money and resources doesn’t have to cause problems where it is done with consent and trust and there is transparency.
Everybody who can should contribute
It may be easier to try and secure large donations from very wealthy people to fund a collective but it has problems too. While it is helpful to have proper resources to work with, large donations often impose an administrative burden that is hard to manage as volunteers. At worst, large donations come with strings and hidden expectations attached and they are rarely sustainable over the longer term.
When we all give a little bit we can raise significant funding and we all care more and own what we spend it on that much more. Collective contributions help to generate collective ownership.
- Small donations at up. At the end of the month, everybody is paying bills and saving for the days ahead and it’s often hard to find money left over. But throughout the week we often have small change in our purses and pockets.
- Make it easy and visible. Use a tin can. Put it in the middle of the circle or pass it around during the meeting. Have a box at the entrance of the meeting – don’t be shy to ask people to contribute. If you do it regularly people will remember to make sure they have cash on them. Set up digital ways to contribute for people who have access to snapscan or can EFT on their phone.
- Keep it regular. Make donating a regular parting of meeting and events. Everytime. Whenever we meet, whenever we plan an action, collect what you can. Every little bit helps. Ask people to set up regular weekly or monthly donations when they get paid.
- Acknowledge other resources. Not everybody can give money. Get into a habit of thanking the donations in kind or time that others contributed. The people that helped to set up the space. The people who helped print flyers. It’s nice to be acknowledged and it encourages others to join in next time.
- It’s not always necessary to collect money centrally. This often requires an administrative burden and creates problems where different expenses need to be prioritised.
- Sometimes it’s better to match people or projects with specific resource needs to people who are able to support.
- If you build a culture where you put out a call for donations for specific causes then people who wish to give are able to choose what they give to and know what their money was spent on.
Take it online
There are allies in our community, in our city and across the world who are inspired by the politics we are building and want to support. For many, many people the best way to support is to take a principled stand to donate a small amount to a community platform. Make it easy for people to donate but setting up online mechanisms so that anybody in the world can contribute. This takes work to promote and maintain but you will be surprised at how generous people are.
Every community has people who are good at hosting and managing fundraising events. Fundraising is a good way to bring people together around a common cause. Keep it fun.
Record keeping and transparency
Normally few people want to be responsible for managing money because of the responsibility. If decisions about how to use resources are made collectively then it is easier to find volunteers who are willing to give time to keep records.
- Avoid a culture of secrecy and auditing of records – rather build a culture of simple, public and transparent record keeping. Nobody should have to ask about resources, it should be publicly available. This builds trust and helps to ensure resource management is purely an administrative question and not one of power.
- Count the money. Everybody appreciates knowing how much was collected. Always count the money before people depart and announce the total that will be recorded. Share totals in newsletters online and on noticeboards. Say what you secured and what you spent money on. It keeps things transparent and inclusive and builds morale.
- Keep record keeping simple so that everybody can do it. A book or file with income generated and expenses recorded.
- Many eyes. The easiest way to avoid theft and fraud of collective resources is to ensure there are many eyes on the books. Consider simple checks and balances.
- Declare every donation. Everybody who donated money to the cause should have their name recorded.
Make it public
It’s easier to be transparent around money and to ensure resources go to where they are needed when we build a culture of making it public. Information is a powerful tool and public information helps to make sure everybody has the same access to information and that people can find out what they need to know without going through gatekeepers.
- Build a culture of maintaining both public and digital noticeboards of everything that is happening, what resources are required and what has been collected and spent or used.
- When resources or money is collected make it immediately public. Count money in meetings. Share donations in whatsapp groups straight away.
Contributing in kind
The most valuable contribution you can make is your time and energy. Getting involved and volunteering to take on responsibilities, lead initiatives or join in is the only way to build and sustain a collective. Everybody has different skills and experience and there is space for everybody to get involved.
- Don’t wait to be invited by others to start initiatives. Make a start and invite others in. Everybody appreciates people who act more than people who talk.
- When initiatives are going to need resources or will involve many people then look to build a group of people who can work on it together. Share ideas and input in whatever forum or assembly is the most appropriate.
- If you don’t have time then donate resources. See what initiatives are happening and what specific resources may be needed. The most valuable resources are meeting spaces; furniture for community projects like tables and chairs and cupboards
- Don’t hide your skills. Advertise them.