Seeing the Forest and other weblogs have been writing about the need for a “Message Amplification Infrastructure” to counter the Wurlitzer of the right. Developing these infrastructure organizations will take a lot of money, so we need to look at how this can be done.
The core funding for the right’s Wurlitzer comes from a group of philanthropic foundations controlled by right-wing zealots. These funders provide general operating funding to ideological advocacy organizations. This means the money is given to the organizations to use in any way that supports the overall efforts of “the movement.” In the report The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations, Sally Covington traces this use of funds by right-wing foundations.
There is actually more money available on the moderate/progressive side, but it is used in a different way. Moderate/progressive philanthropists have evolved a system of “program funding” — providing money for specific programs with the intent of doing good through specific, measurable, accountable individual projects. The idea is that this program money is more results-oriented. Moderate/progressive foundation funding is rarely provided for general operations use, especially by the kind of advocacy organizations we are talking about building.
I have been researching and am going to be writing about this problem of persuading moderate/progressive philanthropic foundations to provide funding for general operating expenses for advocacy organizations – the organizations that will function as a message amplification infrastructure for our side. Stay tuned.