When I considered writing an outgoing blog post regarding my time at Resource Generation, I was challenged most by narrowing down what to talk about. It was a combination of feeling intimidated that I would have any wisdom or heart to impart on this growing community, but also the huge range of things I learned from being here, and if I could get them all down on coherently.
Resource Generation is a unique space that puts one in constant questioning. As a non-wealthy staff member, it was and is unique to me because I don’t know any entity where highly privileged folks gather to attempt to change some of the most challenging social issues facing our country. No matter how messy it has been, this work is a necessity. The day-to-day can be frustrating, difficult, but also illuminating, and joyful. Sometimes it was hard to work here but often my heart was with all of us who work in a community where we (rightfully) receive heavy scrutiny.
I wanted to name that first because you are all living, breathing, deserving human beings that I believe want to do the very best in this world. Regardless of class background, we are all just trying to figure it out. I have flubbed and faltered so many times on the path to contribute to justice and I continue to do so. From allying myself with people I did not relate to or share common experiences, I learned some of my biggest lessons. Because no matter what their class, race, ability, gender, they offered me one very important thing — perspective. All of you have given me so much perspective into a world I knew nothing about. While momentary frustration is easy to lean into, and while we should and will prioritize the stories and voices of those who are deeply impacted by our effed up world, I know that having perspective on all walks of life will help me be a better organizer, better fundraiser, and a better contributor to justice.
So as I look back on my time at RG, humor me and allow me to try to share a few nuggets and reflections on RG that may or may not resonate with you.
On the question of “how much is enough?”
As the Director of Development, I haven’t really been called upon to answer this question too much. It comes up (A LOT) in conversations around giving to RG, but it’s really held in our organizing. It’s an intriguing question, but here’s how I navigate it as a middle-class forty-year-old sweating her retirement. There’s no way to plan for security for every situation in the world. And I know that while RG folks are working to balance the scales, and there are mountains of wealth out there we haven’t — and may never be able to — touch, this question is always a stalling point. It freezes a lot of us from doing what we can right now, like sharing resources, whether it’s time or money.
Many of you might have more money than I have ever seen in my lifetime. Many others in this world can say the same about me. It is no wonder this question of “how much is enough?” causes so much pause. In trying to answer this question for myself, I had to establish my own baseline, my minimum starting point. After much thought, wine, and good conversations with people better than me, I established that my baseline is having enough for a roof over my head, food to sustain me, the means to interact with the people I care about (that might mean a car, a phone, etc.), and healthcare. That baseline also includes savings to support those three things when I am less able to do work. Beyond that, I try to share what I have when I’m asked. Make no mistake, I’m flawed. I often spend too much on myself (going to restaurants is my weakness) and my priorities fluctuate all the time but I revisit my baseline and start over every damn day. This means I reevaluate my spending, my behavior, and my resources all the time and ask myself if I feel I can give more this minute to those who have less safety. The answer varies from day-to-day, but it keeps me from freezing up.
When I first started working at RG, I had the classic reaction to the resources our community have and daydreamed a lot about what those resources could do for the world. However, in time, I started to understand what I hear from our community — feeling overwhelmed, wanting to ignore the money, wanting it to go away. I never had to consider what it means to have that responsibility in my 20s and 30s. While I know you all recognize the privilege of it, it must be a scary thing to hold so early in adulthood. You all have to learn, grow, and understand such complicated social issues and you have to do better than your other wealthy peers. And I respect that — honor it but also know that it’s imperative you succeed.
Do not let this question ‘of enough’ stall you from moving forward with your giving.
Keep inching up your giving, definitely work to cut into the wealth that is sitting and get it moving to do things now. I learn, year after year, that I will be okay giving more and I currently have negative net wealth. If you have more than you can handle alone, bring others in. You will become stronger, you will become more confident, and you will find safety in a more diverse array of things outside of money. I believe this because of my personal experience and knowing that many RGers embody this daily.
Become a member of Resource Generation for life
Last fall, RG chapters held an impromptu membership challenge for the first time in the organization’s history. I nearly cried when it took off. Why does something like membership-dues make me feel so emo? Well, I imagine it’s like when you work on a political campaign and you get the votes to elect the candidate you are rooting for. I am rooting for RG. In my little fundraising brain, every member is a vote for this work — of redistribution and building a new, and just economy — to happen. It’s a numeric indicator to me that RG’s mission to organize young people with wealth and class privilege in the U.S. to become transformative leaders working towards the equitable distribution of wealth, land, and power is working. While our members come in at all different levels of political education and commitment, joining RG as a member is the beginning of a long, hard race we will run together. If our staff, heavily supported by our chapter leadership, do our job right — increasing our committed, renewing, long-term members — the closer we are to making a bigger impact on destroying the racial wealth divide. Membership is not a transaction or a fee for a one-time service. The programming so many minds (staff, member leaders, board, partners) have built at RG is priceless. If you love RG, keep voting for RG, and once you are ready to meet the world and step away from RG, keep RG in your giving plan. This ensures future young people with wealth can step in the space you leave behind. Give your chapter leaders, board, your staff, your co-conspirators, and yourself a little love as well. We all work really hard.
Find your North Star
The world is really big, and its problems are vast. Even if I lived 200 years, there’d still be more to learn. I know that I am doing my part to lay the groundwork for change that I might not see fully realized in my lifetime. It can be hard sometimes to stay on course knowing that.
I am stealing the ‘north star’ example from former RG Executive Director Elspeth Gilmore. She was talking about strategies that kept her committed to her giving but it rang true for me. My North Star in my work is my desire to have a lot of humility and compassion. I often fail at both and that’s okay, they aren’t easy! In my most vulnerable and weakest moments, I have been saved by others with compassion and my biggest learnings are when I finally could be humble to see that. It took me time to look back and see how a Black leader held my frustration and confusion around a social issue. They patiently worked with me and dove into that conflict in order to bring me more awareness. These offerings were often subtle, and I saw much later that I have so much more to learn. I owe it to those leaders who guided me to stick with this work and practice that same compassion to help build with others. I blush when I think of all the mistakes I made causing harm when I was a green and new organizer in Kentucky. At the time, I thought I knew best, and approached the work with high judgement and urgency. But I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world. After the crushing embarrassment and shame and finding humility, I was able to learn. And the compassion of those I learned from humbled me further.
An old friend of mine used to say, “The more I learn, the less I know” and that has stuck with me because it’s really true. The more you learn, the more you see how complicated our world is. In trying moments, instead of being immobilized by that fact, I anchor myself in compassion and humility. This doesn’t often fail me. Instead of feeling like I need to control the narrative, I seek to understand… when I say understand, I want to understand ALL the narratives, including those of young people with wealth.
I was the oldest person on RG staff but I still feel like such a baby compared to our collective knowledge. I’m humbled by the experience of working here and am hopefully more compassionate from my learnings. I’m ready to move on because I see so many incredible, talented, staff, and member leadership at RG. I’m ready to make my next batch of mistakes and victories on a different stage and cheer on those of you who continue doing work in the Resource Generation community. As the outgoing Director of Development, I’d be remiss to not leave without one last ask of you… Despite walking out the door, you all got me, I am a member for as long as I am able to financially feed, house, and take care of myself. So, if you are not a member yet, please join today. If you are already a member, consider increasing this year or making a multi-year commitment.
I currently give $10 a month to RG. ***I will raise my monthly gift $1 for everyone who joins by March, 1, 2018 until I hit the base constituent rate of $21 a month.*** That is eleven more members helping build this work towards the equitable distribution of land, wealth, and power. Will you join me as I shift from staff to a fellow (Advocate) member?
Colette Henderson, our outgoing Development Director, joined RG staff in 2014.