An Interview With Jakada Imani, executive director, Ella Baker Center
FS: Any major difficulties or setbacks you've faced along the way? Things you would do differently with your fundraising?
JI: We are cautiously optimistic. We haven't had the major setbacks yet, but we've had some people tell us they won't be able to do more than last year; they'll have to do a little bit less than last year.
At the same time, one of the dangers that we've seen is that [organizations] may want to scale back or slow down [in regard to fundraising]. We think that's exactly the wrong thing to do right now. Right now is time to, as best you can, put your foot on the gas — for two reasons. One is more than ever our constituents need us to be active and need us to be out there fighting for their interests. As the economy changes and things get tighter, we now more than ever need to be on the front lines.
Secondly, we believe wholeheartedly that's how we distinguish ourselves in this period. Where every donor, every funder is having to make hard decisions, really painful, hard decisions. I've talked to funders this year who are laying off staff so they can try and maintain their giving level. Folks are making tough decisions because they have to. You want to be on the upside of those decisions as best you can, which means really distinguishing yourself, which means not slowing down.
We're managing our cash flow now more than ever before, staying in communication with our funders and our donors.
FS: What advice would you give to organizations similar to yours, in size and annual operating budget?
JI: Now is the time to promote the work, the dream of the mission more than asking for money. That's where we've had a breakthrough. Let your work lead. I can't say enough about letting the work lead. Sometimes it's tempting to chase the money. I've found that chasing the money can take you so far off the mission that you end up leaving the constituency unsupported. It's great to have a ton of money, but if it's not fulfilling the mission, what's the point? Build through the work to accomplish your mission, and the money to support it will come.