Inside the Archives: “Where the Rubber Meets the Road is where Movements are Built”
former NewFM Director of Development talks about his time at NewFM and
being a part of a highly successful and influential start-up non-profit
Miami, FL- Until recently, Randy Jackson served as New Florida Majority’s Director of Development. A longtime ally and member of our senior leadership team, Randy has overseen organizational and individual donor cultivation since 2013, helping to bring in over $9 million dollars from foundations and individuals for what have become our signature c3 and c4 programs and campaigns.
Current NewFM Development Director Danielle Goodman linked up with Randy to talk about NewFM’s history, the challenge of funding start-up non-profits and his new role at The Alliance for Greater New York (ALIGN).
Danielle: Randy, although you are from New York, your roots in South Florida run deep. How did you get involved in NewFM?
Randy: My history with NewFM goes back to the founding of the Miami Workers Center. I met Gihan and Tony (MWC co-founders) before they launched the Center while I was organizing low-wage immigrant workers on Long Island, New York. They came to visit The Workplace Project, where I was Associate Director at the time, to explore the innovative non-union, independent worker organizing model taking shape there. It was a meeting of the minds moment if you will; the alignment of kindred spirits. I was really taken by Gi and Tony’s vision, especially their emphasis on developing worker consciousness towards an understanding of the underpinnings of racial and economic inequality in this country.
That began an eight-year work-life collaboration in which I could play my part in the growth of that outfit from a volunteer staff and a shoe-string budget into a $1 million organization with 11 staff and two grassroots chapters, multiple heavy hitting campaigns, name brand recognition at the County level, and a national footprint through the formation of the Right to the City Alliance. Beyond just being a staffer of MWC, this was one of the most formative political periods in my life.
After 8 years at MWC I worked for four years in a national capacity as the national coordinator of UNITY (formerly the Inter Alliance Dialogue) – of which the Right to the City Alliance was a founding member, and which Gihan played a strong role in shaping too. When that project ran its course, the country had just witnessed the re-election of Obama. The nation was on the rebound from the Great Recession, but the Obama moment of 2008 hadn’t catalyzed into the kind of systemic change that many progressives had envisioned during through the first term of his presidency. Where the rubber meets the road is where movements are built: on-the-ground, in-the-streets, on-the-doors and in “chispa” moments like the response to Trayvon Martin which gave birth to the Movement for Black Lives or the native peoples and climate justice movements response to Standing Rock. New Florida Majority was helping crystalize the former and shepherding hundreds or thousands of people into the organizations and movements on the ground for the latter where equity, economy and ecology intersect.
Danielle: What was the thing that jazzed up you up, energized you the most when you worked for MWC and then later NewFM?
Randy: As the Development Director of the Miami Workers Center, I had the opportunity to play a role that few organizations of its size actually pay to staff: Organizational Development. I’m not just talking about fundraising, but the art and science of building organization. Gihan and Tony were very interested in harnessing historical lessons and applying their contemporary problems of building an organization rooted in struggle in a very anti-union, anti-organizing city in the Sunshine State. A big part of my job was harnessing the history, distilling MWC’s lessons from its own practice, and sharing them both internally and with our fellows in the racial and economic justice movement on the national level through peer-to-peer technical assistance. One of the projects that I was really excited about was the We Are One Campaign. This was an organizational change initiative that sought to bring MWC, LIFFT and MIA (MWC’s two flagship grassroots neighborhood initiatives) under one leadership banner, common mission and long-term vision.
What jazzed me up about my work at NewFM was the sheer level of scale that the organization was working on compared to MWC. This in no way negates the role of organizations of MWC scale; but it made clear how desperate the movement was for this niche role. MWC always carried with it a movement-building ethos; NewFM was practically and pragmatically channeling that capacity. The ability to reach hundreds of thousands of people on the doors and on the phone during an election season with clear and concise messaging, coupled with clear ways to engage in on-going activity in- and out-of-election-cycle, was an organizers dream come true. Granted, there are a ton of kinks to work out, but that’s the nature of power- and movement building.
Danielle: Is there a person or an event or a place that you’ve felt is YOUR benefactor? Tell me about it.
Randy: Hmm . . . benefactor? Well, to be totally and completely honest with you: my life-partner, Brooke. Brooke and I have an alignment around our respective life-purposes. She has always given me the space and room to pursue my passion – racial, economic and environmental justice – even when it was not the most lucrative choice (by far) that I could have made. Sure, there are many other people, places and things that have shaped me politically; but I could never have led my vocation without Brooke’s unwavering support. I dare you to find a better definition of benefactor than that.
Danielle: How has your job of fundraising and development evolved since you started?
Randy: At first it was purely transactional: I watch organization, I describe it in writing and ask for money, funder writes us check. Then it became relational: how can we best develop a relationship between our organization and our funders individually and the philanthropy in general.
Now I see fundraising and development as transformational: we are involved in the politics of transforming the world, our understanding of how and who funds us should be transformative as well. This means honoring all our relationships as sacred; seeing the transformative potential in all relationships; pushing funders to shift perspectives and see the world differently; and allowing funders the pull our perspective to issues and ideas that we may not see given our vantage point. The difference between all three of these positions may not seem significant at first, but they can be light-years apart.
Danielle: How did your experiences at NewFM prepare you for your new role at ALIGN?
Randy: How can I count the ways? Two areas jump out at me:
First, NewFM has developed my understanding of the New American Majority or the Rising American Electorate as an important political phenomenon. It is widely understood, based on scientific data, that current “minorities” – African-Americans, Latinx, immigrants – will collectively comprise a numeric majority by 2025. However, what is important to understand is that the demographic shift alone will not create a political majority. In fact, without organizing and movement building, the “new majority” will remain a numeric majority of isolated and siloed minorities. To build the New Majority involves organization building, movement building, harnessing mass engagement in significant political moments, mass communications, and a giant dose of political imagination.
Second, NewFM taught me that organizing at the intersection of Equity, Environment and Economy(Class) is the social justice sweet-spot. Given the multiple intersecting crises that we are facing on a global scale, it is imperative that we simultaneously organize across Race, Class and Climate. This inclusive analysis and expansive worldview are key to unlocking the liberatory potential of our movements.
Third, function should always lead form, but damn should we always pay head to form. Organizational Development in the fullest sense of the term – how we imagine, birth, build, reshape, and (dissolve) our organizations and movements – is not a luxury. If we truly wish to see liberation in our lifetime, we damn well need to seed the fruit we wish to harvest tomorrow, today.
Danielle: Randy, thanks for your service to us at NewFM and the Florida social justice movement. Any advice for me?
1) Dig in
2) Show, don’t tell the NewFM Story
3) Fundraising/development is about relationships, build them!
4) Laugh and Have Fun
Inside the Archives is a regular NewFM series that looks into and brings forth some the organization’s past campaigns and figures. For far too long, we’ve let others document our history. Building power means not just creating current stories, but also owning our past ones — and documenting those that others can’t or won’t tell.