Looking to get involved post-election? Donate to small organizations; volunteer with larger ones.
I work for a very large environmental organization that you have almost certainly heard of - I previously worked in a very small organization. Post-election, I’ve seen a ton of people, many with very little experience in political work, eager to contribute to causes they care about.
In conversations with less politically active friends, and with my friends who work at other environmental organizations from small to large, I’ve come up with this maxim for new people when lots of them are getting involved in the wake of a tumultuous event: donate to small organizations, volunteer with large ones.
The reason for this is simple.
- Small organizations tend to be very under-resourced, as far as money goes. They spend a lot of their time trying to fund salaries and programs. Give them money if you want to see their capacity grow.
- Small organizations tend to find dealing with large groups of new volunteers difficult. They aren’t used to scaling up quickly, and new volunteers need to be trained, they need to be connected with work, and they need to be supervised - the staff capacity for doing this tends to be low. This is especially the case if there’s a bunch of new white volunteers who want to support a people of color-led organization.
- Large organizations tend to not be as cash-strapped, but have the kind of scope that allows them to resource and plug in new volunteers easily.
This is not universally true, of course (Planned Parenthood can always use your money!!), and this makes no claims about the ideological bent of whatever organization you’re looking at – it’s just about the ability of organizations at different sizes to handle huge influxes of resources, whether volunteers or money. Some small organizations may be so under-the-radar that they don’t see a huge influx of new volunteers and could use help — but here in NYC, for example, I’ve been asked to help a grassroots EJ partner group train their new white volunteers because they don’t have the staff time or energy to do so.
If there is a small organization whose mission you align more with, but they seem like they can’t handle a huge new volunteer pool (and they are getting that pool), consider contributing some of your time there and also volunteering in another, larger allied organization until you get more experience. Many of the skills you will learn volunteering with Large Corporate NGO are transferable to Small Radical Grassroots Organization, and will help the latter figure out what to do with you.
Stay accountable to your people. Don’t do what feels wrong. Do your research on the organizations you want to support. But think, too, about where you can be most effective for now - and remember that it’s a process of building you up as well as building our movement.