I want to go to Tear Down the Walls National Gathering but I can’t afford it.

tdtwfb3The Alliance for Global Justice wants you to come too. We think you have knowledge and insights into your community and the Walls we need to Tear Down that will be valuable to the important strategy discussions that will take place Nov. 1-3 in Tucson, AZ.

That’s why we are putting up at least $10,000 for group travel subsidies (10+ people), making the registration a sliding scale from $45 down to $0, and arranging for free food for those who can’t afford the $25 meal ticket.

That is also why we decided not to spend our limited resources on bringing big-name speakers to Tear Down the Walls. Instead we are spending our money to subsidize group travel with the goal that no one will need to spend more than $99 in travel if they come with a group.

Can’t afford $99 to travel? We know that is true in some communities, but we also know that many communities that are broke have a greater capacity to raise money than they believe. So here are some ideas:

  1. The easiest way to raise money is to ask family, friends, and friends of family for it while offering to send them a letter describing your experience when you return. The main hurdle to get over is your fear or distaste of asking for money. The reality is that most people are happy to help and complimented to be asked. The part of “it is better to give than receive” that most people forget is the “it is better to give” part. You are actually doing them a favor by letting them build up the good karma of doing good works!

Because we are subsidizing groups, put together a group and fundraise jointly. If you volunteer to be a group travel coordinator for your community, we will thank you by giving you free registration and a meal ticket. You don’t know ten people who would be able to come? Well look around at the other progressive and revolutionary groups in your community. Tear Down the Walls is all about bringing our movements out of their silos to talk with each other and develop joint strategies. Pulling a group together in your community will begin that process before you ever even arrive in Tucson! You already know the other groups in your community or can find out. Contact the anti-war groups, the peace and justice groups, the immigrant rights groups, the prison reform/police brutality groups, the environmental groups, people of color, indigenous, LGBTQI, student and youth, Occupy, Latin America solidarity, Palestinian rights, faith-based groups.

We’re betting there are more than 10 people in your community who ought to be part of the discussion at Tear Down the Walls. We’re betting they will come if you help organize them and we subsidize their travel. So let’s say you get together nine people and yourself. That means you will need $999 for travel. Sounds like a lot of money? Not really. Here’s some joint fundraising ideas that can supplement individual efforts or replace them altogether.

  1. Have a pizza and beer party (or its non-alcoholic and vegetarian/vegan equivalent)

If each of you bring 10 people to the party, put a jar by the door with a suggested $5 donation and price the pizza and beer so that you make $1 on each slice and bottle what will you make? If the average donation is $5 and everyone eats two slices of pizza and drinks two beers, you’ve raised $900 and had fun doing it! That means all you have to come up with is $10 to spend 2-1/2 days with fellow activists from all over the country. There are very few people who can’t manage that.

  1. There are lots of variations on the pizza and beer theme. Have a dance party. Find a local club that will let you have the cover charge while they keep the bar income. Have a pot-luck with a suggested $5 donation. Use your imagination. You can make money on any gathering where people will pay a few bucks to socialize and/or be entertained.
  2. Organize a rice and beans or spaghetti dinner. (Remember there are 10 of you so you don’t have to do all the work yourself!) People will pay $8-$10 for a meal that costs you $2-3 to make.
  3. Thons used to be a popular way to raise money and could still be. Bowl-a-thon, dance-a-thon, walk-a-thon, anything where people will pledge to donate a small amount of money per pin knocked down, hours spent dancing, miles walked. Again, be innovative.
  4. Ask local business, churches, civic groups for a donation. This works better for more mainstream activities than Tear Down the Walls, but in Tucson many restaurants and businesses will donate to fund an immigrant rights march for instance. There may be similar businesses and groups in your community.

Our basic advice for local fundraising is keep it simple and “low maintenance”. The simplest way to raise money is to just ask for it. But, if you think you owe your donor more than a report of what you learned, then try one of the five ideas above, or come up with your own.

And remember, you can also raise more money when you get home by organizing a report-back on your experience. By having a suggested donation at the door or by passing the hat during the event, you can pay off any financial deficit and/or build a treasury for a future joint action. Tear Down the Walls is all about coming up with future joint actions, so a report-back will also serve as a way to get your organizing started!

If you would like to be a group travel coordinator, send an email to chuck@AFGJ.org.