IFCLAHow We Began

In June of 2004, each of the seven participating organizations provided a list of 100 of its most consistent contributors. Twenty households who had consistently provided substantial gifts to one or more of the participating organizations were identified and personally invited to become multiple shareholders. By approaching these 20 households first, we were able to mitigate each organization’s reluctance to share their more substantial contributors. Most of these households became multiple shareholders, creating an initial pool of 80 shares committed ($24,000 annually).

In August, with these initial shareholders listed as founding shareholders, we sent letters to 180 households which had donated annually to two or more of our participating organizations. We divided these households geographically into groups of about 25 households. Each participating organization was assigned to call one group.

In September, a benefit concert (Carrie Newcomer) was held at St. Louis University to announce JPS to the larger community. The proceeds were equally divided among the participating organizations as their first JPS distributions, compensating them in part for the staff and board time devoted to the initial stages of the JPS outreach plan.

A second benefit concert in November (John McCutcheon) provided incentive for potential shareholders. Each household which became a shareholder by the night of the concert was given a free ticket. The concert proceeds were designated for JPS operating funds.

In October an appeal for shareholders was sent to a list of over 600 households which had consistently given annually to one of the participating organizations. Each participating organization took responsibility for follow-up calls to their own contributors. By the November concert, over 160 shareholder commitments had been secured, most of them one or two shares per household ($48,000 annually.)

Many of the shareholders had made their commitments after one-on-one conversations with other shareholders. To encourage further conversations, we hosted brunch gatherings in December 2004 and March 2005. Each existing shareholder received an invitation to these brunches and was encouraged to bring another person who might be interested in becoming a shareholder.

About 60 people attended each of these brunches, over a third of them prospective shareholders. One shareholder brought five prospective shareholders to the March brunch; four became shareholders. Even when prospective shareholders were unable to attend, the conversations inviting them resulted in decisions to become shareholders.

JPS has continued to host shareholder gatherings, including two ice cream socials (2006, 2007) and two gatherings in the garden of a local pub (2008, 2009). Each gathering resulted in about a dozen new shareholder commitments. Additional benefit concerts in 2005 (Holly Near) and in 2006 and 2008 (John McCutcheon) raised money for JPS operating expenses and offered existing shareholders a venue to introduce friends and colleagues to JPS and its participating organizations. Each concert has brought new shareholders to JPS.

In addition to these financial arrangements, JPS provides training workshops for the staff, boards, and volunteers of participating organizations and allied organizations. Training workshops have been held on board development (2004), nonviolent campaign planning (2005), community organizing among communities of color (2006), accessing mainstream media (2007), working with and creating alternative media (2008), economic analysis (2009) and popular economics (2010).