An Interview With Jakada Imani, executive director, Ella Baker Center
The Ella Baker Center is a strategy and action center working for justice, opportunity and peace in urban America. Based in Oakland, Calif., the human rights organization promotes positive alternatives to violence and incarceration through its four cutting-edge campaigns: Books Not Bars, Green-Collar Jobs Campaign, Soul of the City and Heal the Streets.
Before there was Ella Baker Center, there was Bay Area PoliceWatch. Newly minted attorney Van Jones launched the hotline for victims of police brutality in 1995 under the auspices of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Little did he suspect the hotline would be in such high demand, soon getting 20 calls every day.
So Jones formed the Ella Baker Center in 1996, and the organization has grown into a leading human rights advocate in the Bay area, fighting for justice, peace and opportunity in the community.
Here, we talk with Executive Director Jakada Imani about the organization and its fundraising strategies and challenges.
FundRaising Success: How do you fund your mission?
Jakada Imani: Mostly through foundation support, some individual donors and some corporate support.
FS: What are the biggest challenges your organization faces as far as fundraising is concerned? How do you overcome them?
JI: We do a lot of criminal justice reform, and a lot of the funding for that has dried up. Recently, oddly enough, since our founder, Van Jones, went to the White House to become a special adviser to the president on innovation and technology, there's this perception that somehow now the Ella Baker Center has an endowment. And we don't. We've been walking this fine line between being financially healthy and folks thinking therefore we don't need help. People don't want to take a bet on something that may not be here, and there's a little hesitancy about what a donation to the Ella Baker Center will provide. They think it's just a drop in the bucket, but the truth of the matter is it isn't.