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Effective funding for anarchist organizations

category north america / mexico | anarchist movement | opinion / analysis author Sunday April 06, 2008 08:06author by AlexD - Common Cause Report this post to the editors

Puttin in the dues

At our founding conference in September, 2007 we decided to put in place a dues structure. This means that as members of Common Cause we agree to, as our constitution puts it “pay 1% to 3% ”of income according to the number of people financially dependent on the member concerned. , explains Alex D

We realize that this form of funding runs counter to most activist groups and the general activist culture in Ontario. The following 10 points are thus meant to explain why we choose to pay dues and why we think it's so important.

1. Let's start with the basics. It takes resources to do what we want to do such as having a mass distribution of Linchpin and a great website. Before putting in our time and effort it's nice to know we actually have the resources to carry out these projects. With dues, we have a good idea ahead of time of what we can reasonably achieve.

2. It's less work. Instead of spending our time fundraising we can focus on organizing. A little bit from everyone each month adds up quick so we get a decent budget without having to go from one fundraising event to another with zero resources in between.

3. All activist groups pay dues anyways, it just doesn't get called that. Instead of paying out of pocket on an ad hoc basis, we have a formal structure which means stability, makes long-term planning possible, and isn't dependent on how generous we happen to feel at a particular moment.

4. It's really not that much. For example, 3% of $12,000 (roughly the income of someone working full-time at minimum wage minus taxes and deductions) is about $7.50 a week. 1% of that is a little over $2 a week, if you have dependents. Of course, some of us truly can't spare this, which is why we make exceptions until people are in a better position. No one is turned away because they really can't afford dues. If you're doing the math and find yourself paying $15+ per week, it might seem like a lot but then you can most likely afford it. We don't want to be insensitive but let's be honest. With very real exceptions, for the vast majority of us in this relatively privileged part of the world, dues means having one or two beers less a week at the pub. Not a big sacrifice for building an effective organization that can have a real impact in our movements and communities. Again, without denying
that some of us really can't spare the dues, for most of us its about priority not ability.

5. Dues allow us to accumulate a war chest over time so that when money needs to be spent immediately its already on hand. The informal “putting your hand in your pocket” method can't cover that sort of need anything as easily as it can deal with day to day spending. Before going into a campaign or struggle, its nice to know we already have a war chest that we can rely upon as the need rises.

6. Dues prevent inequality sneaking in through the back door. Without dues those with deeper pockets will ultimately have a bigger say over the organization since they will be doing more things like attending far way events, workshops, or are better able financially to deal with police oppression. With dues, how much you make doesn't affect how much or how little you can participate and those of us with little means can participate to a greater extent than would be possible otherwise.

7. Dues tell people and organizations we'd like to work with that we are a stable organization, with some resources, able to make a meaningful contribution within our means to whatever struggles we are involved with. A stable dues structure says we are reliable and can be counted on to stick around beyond the short-term.

8. Dues build the organization beyond providing stable funding. First, dues force us to work to maintain an effective and accountable financial structure (local treasurers, budgets, dues collection). Second, dues build and maintain commitment to the organization. When you contribute your hard earned money, and all the sacrifice that this entails, you want to make sure that its being put to good use. In short, you now have a bigger stake in the organization. No one wants to pour their blood and sweat into something and see it go to waste. Collectively, this means a high-level of commitment to the organization.

9. Dues allow us to contribute to the organization even when we may not be able to put a lot of time into it. The amount of time we have to give goes up and down depending on whatever else is going on in our lives. With dues, we're able to maintain a minimum level of contribution and ties to the organization when life doesn't allows us to do more than this.

10. They're our dues! We're an anarchist organization which means we practice direct democracy and so we all decide how our dues will be used. According to our constitution, half the dues stay at the local level to be used by the local as they democratically see fit. The other half goes to the Ontario treasurer to be used as the entire organization sees fit via our general assembly and delegate council.

This article is from Linchpin 3, the paper of Common Cause

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