Romantic idealists may think that the progressive movement can succeed with true love and devotion, but veterans know that money is vital. Even though nearly all of us are volunteers, we still have to pay for travel, postage, office supplies, and infinite expenses. It's the most under-appreciated field of work in the movement. In my experience, people will volunteer for almost any job before they will take one involving finances.

And yet, almost any successful organization has to have funding. An organization reaches a qualitatively higher level when it can employ full-time staff. In "What Is To Be Done?", Lenin stresses the importance of being able to hire staff for the Bolsheviks.

Nobody has to be a financial whiz or an accountant to help with movement finances. Here are a few suggestions:

Keep records that make sense to you

If it makes sense to you, it will probably make sense to the people you're responsible to. If you know how to use a good computer program like Excel, that helps. But pencil and paper are as good as, and often better than, computer work.

Make tracks

Keep some kind of "original entry" list of what you have done. Notate it with the location of supportive documents such as receipts. Remember that you may be looking for information months later, so pencil notations relating one document to another may be very helpful.

Be prepared to reveal your work

When working with volunteers, remember that they may need re-assuring any time. Try to use your best handwriting and try to keep everything together so that you can make a quick "report" whenever it's needed. The more open you are about finances, the less trouble you will have in the long run. One number that you may always want to remember is "cash on hand," because our movement often has to make quick decisions, and we have to know our basic resources.

Dues and sustainers:

Party dues are deliberately kept low. They have a lot more to do with party structure and democracy than they do with financing the movement. Most of the money comes from contributions, and regular monthly "sustainer" contributions are the most reliable and, usually, the best source of income. If we know that our group is going to pay a monthly pledge, we can make meaningful budgets. Plus, monthly pledges just tend to raise the most money!

Try to get everybody to pay a regular sustainer, even a small one!

Never let a buck get away from the movement

It may seem mercenary, but what is more important than our progressive movement? If you have an opportunity to save a dollar or to raise a dollar, don't miss it! In this regard, most people tend to let their shyness get the advantage. There are no financial questions more important than funding for our movement. Don't be afraid to ask for money; don't be afraid to encourage someone else to ask for money! In the long run, your co-workers will appreciate you for it.

Encourage financial consciousness: Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies

One opportunity to raise money and consciousness at the same time often comes up. When the movement is sponsoring somebody for a trip or for an event, we have a tendency to generously make it free for them. After all, they are usually younger or needier than the rest of us, and they are actually doing us a favor by volunteering. Big mistake! If we miss the opportunity to teach them some financial consciousness, we've been remiss. The volunteer should be asked to participate in paying if possible. We're building a movement of conscious and responsible members, including financially conscious members, not people who expect somebody else to pay their way!

Another hard-to-resolve problem comes up when some of our wealthier comrades offer to pay for this or that. They might, for example, decide to pay for a rental car for a visiting party leader, just as a nice personal gesture. It's difficult to turn down such generosity, but I often do. Why? Because it's not democratic! If the movement needs a rental car, the movement should decide and the movement should pay for it. As often as not, our Sugar Daddy will, sooner or later, want something in return for his/her special contribution. No matter how wealthy a comrade may be, he/she just has one vote and doesn't get to decide things just because of money. When they offer such an off-the-books contribution, I usually tell them, "If you have money, raise your sustainer!"

Volunteers come to our movement because they want to see it succeed. Usually, finances are not the first thing they think about. It's up to all of us to try to get everyone to understand that success comes from the best possible application of the maximum resources available. Yes, I said "MAXIMUM!"


Please help us improve the on-line school by filling out the form below, or just e-mail us


Voluntary Assessment: