How to roll your own Solidarity Fund

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Despite what Breitbart News would have you believe, socialists aren’t getting paid to transform America into a fully automated luxury gay space communist paradise. We do this work for free because we know just how high the stakes are.

At the same time, many of us work jobs that pay so little we can barely make ends meet each month. The smallest setback like a parking ticket or sick day can set us into a financial tailspin. Life under capitalism is relentless, and we need to create a safety net for each other if we are meant to survive.

For this reason, our chapter has established a Solidarity Fund.

How the Solidarity Fund works

The premise is simple: Any member of Twin Cities DSA or an allied organization who lives in the Metro area can request up to $200 to help meet their immediate material needs (e.g. housing, heating, medical costs, transportation, etc). Requests are vetted by a small group of volunteers from our Mutual Aid and Solidarity Economy Working Group, overseen by the TCDSA Steering Committee, and cash is typically disbursed within 1 week, either via Paypal or IRL cash money. Requests can be made once per year, per recipient (so we have enough Fund to go around). The Fund is not meant to bankroll events or purchase supplies for the chapter or other organizations.

How we fund the Fund

  • Monthly appeals for direct Paypal donations in the TCDSA newsletter, on the TCDSA website, and via social media (via special Paypal link, to distinguish Solidarity Fund donations from general chapter donations)
  • “Passing the can” at chapter meetings
  • 5% of all donations and DSA national disbursements to TCDSA are also earmarked for Fund

How we decide what should get funded

In general, we operate on the principle that not granting an eligible request should require a higher bar than granting a request. We seek to embody the radical trust and community-mindedness that can truly make “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need” a reality; we are here to banish the suspicion and hard-heartedness that capitalism encourages in our relationships with others.

Adapting the fund to help the community in urgent times

In response to the mass unemployment caused by the COVID pandemic, we sent out a chapter-wide email to remind our contacts that the Solidarity Fund welcomes both applications and donations. We received both in huge numbers, and as word spread beyond our chapter and close affiliates to neighbors, families, and social media followers, it became impractical to vet applicants for connections to our chapter and local organizing community. It was very clear, however, that the need in our area was genuine and we were getting enough contributions to meet it.

We temporarily lifted the requirement for fund recipients to be members of TCDSA or allied organizations. To deal with the higher volume of requests, we have paused disbursements a few times to wait for incoming donations to catch up to the volume of requests. The Solidarity Fund working group continues to communicate regularly to make sure its workload and the fund’s cash flows are both sustainable.

Starting your own Solidarity Fund

DSA Santa Fe was kind enough to help us get our chapter’s Fund started, and in that spirit we want as many other chapters as possible to start their own funds (hence this blog post). Here’s how.

First, you’ll need to think about the policies that will govern your chapter’s fund—what requests will qualify for aid, who makes decisions, how your chapter will fundraise for the fund, and so on. You are welcome to use TCDSA’s policies and procedures document as a jumping off point (keeping in mind that your mileage may vary based on your chapter’s own structure and bylaws).

Next, you should recruit like-minded comrades to volunteer to administer the fund, once it is approved by your chapter. If in doubt, find some anarchists or LSC members to pitch in!

Have your chapter’s Treasurer review your plans, so they can advise on any potential issues with respect to local laws or regulations that may interfere with your ability to collect and disburse money.

Finally, introduce a Soliarity Fund establishment resolution at an upcoming chapter meeting or among your chapter’s steering committee (this will vary based on your chapter’s own bylaws; for important decisions, some chapters require membership votes, others just require steering commitee approval). Again, feel free to rip us off when drafting your own resolution!

If your Solidarity Fund plan is approved, you’ll likely want to test the waters before committing to running a Fund longer term. We ran a 6 month pilot to see how hard it would be to publicize the fund and coordinate decision making and money disbursement. During our pilot, we raised over $1,000 and disbursed more than $530.00 to combat housing and food insecurity and to help a local activist held in ICE detention make bail.

Over time, continue to promote your Solidarity Fund at chapter meetings, in your newsletter and on social media, and via word of mouth to friends and fellow activists. We also encourage you to publicize your chapter’s approach to creating a Solidarity Fund, and make your policies available for others to reuse.

Since early 2019, we’ve disbursed over $50,000 worth of direct aid to Twin Cities comrades.

We keep us safe, housed, fed, and out of jail.

Donate or request aid at twincitiesdsa.org/solidarity.