Warming Up to Possibilities: WRL National Committee
The WRL National Committee (NC) met this summer against a backdrop of turmoil being felt around the world almost a year since the financial meltdown brought about by the bursting of the sub-prime mortgage bubble. Although we didn’t do any budgeting (this is the task of the February NC), we did explore fundraising options and strengthening our work in ways that make the best use of our resources.
As usual, we came together Friday night for a potluck and discussion to get warmed up for the days of dialog ahead. NC member Jim Haber, coordinator of the Nevada Desert Experience, gave a presentation on Predator drones in which he spoke about the operators of these unmanned vehicles suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder the threat these robots pose to any potential peace process, and their inaccuracy when it comes to hitting their targets. He shared some of his conversations with parents of soldiers currently deployed to the areas in which the U.S. military is using the robots. Jim continues to work with groups in Nevada to call for the drones to be grounded.
One of the first topics on Saturday morning was the future of the “Peace Pentagon” building. WRL continues to have a home at 339 Lafayette, and the building’s owner, the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, continues to explore options for housing WRL and other movement groups in case we need to move.
A highlight of the weekend came early in Saturday’s agenda with a visit from Helena Tubis, the Development Director at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, who facilitated an engaging and motivating fundraising workshop. She began by asking each of us to recall when we last ask for money and whether we got it. It was surprising how many of us had recently made such requests, and successful ones at that. We then discussed how the NC supports and governs WRL, filling a flip chart with tasks, from advising in our areas of expertise to strategic planning. What about fundraising? We weren’t sure.
Groups of four were then asked to discuss the statement “Board members should be required to give a meaningful donation and/or raise money for the organization.” Most NC members expressed feeling a commitment, if not an obligation, to fundraise for WRL. The next exercise had us making lists of groups we’d given time and money to in the last year and discussing what our list said about us. We learned that NC members are extremely generous toward a wide variety of organizations, and that we feel personally connected to the groups to which we donate. We then brainstormed creative ways for the NC to raise money; there was lots of excitement around rebuilding the WRL track club.
Proposals and Reports
A proposal to support the October 5 direct action at the White House was agreed. WRL is dedicating funds to and other support to a coalition including Witness Against Torture and others for a day of action against the war in Afghanistan.
As part of a presentation by the Organizing Task Force, program associate Jenessa Stark reported on the activity and status of our locals. Steve Theberge presented a report breaking down the raw data from the WRL Listening Process (see WIN, Spring/Summer 2008) into various categories and showing interview responses in terms of demographics. We identified ways to strengthen our organizing strategies and build on what we do best. Steve also gave a presentation on the recent Internet membership survey that asked for guidance around WRL’s direction and goals. We determined to use the responses to help us develop future proposals and program.
Organizing reports continued Sunday, highlighting new, excited locals, lots of Facebook interest, and a joint organizing trip by interim organizers Clare Bayard and Steve Theberge in the Southeast. Organizing staff then led us in an exercise to determine how we would balance WRL-identified work with more collaborative efforts. We spread out along a line on the floor that stood for the continuum between the two. As we discussed our positions, we came to see that the two sides were talking about similar things—creating a voice through local organizing and encouraging national collaborative work. At least one person switched sides. We all agreed that a balance of both is essential.
While we were able to extend Clare’s and Jenessa’s tenures as organizers, Steve was not able to stay on. Sunday marked the last day of Steve’s interim organizing work, and we reluctantly but with lots of good energy and wishes relinquished him to California’s Tassajara Zen Center. Plans are well underway to advertise and hire a new fulltime organizer this fall.