Since its founding in 1977, Bread & Roses Community Fund has been fueled by the belief that organizing communities drives real change. Harvey Finkle, a co-founder of the People’s Fund, the predecessor to Bread & Roses, describes how the need for such a fund arose: “A group of us tried to change the United Way. We said you should include groups that do social change, not just social services. We met with them and it was clear they weren’t going to do anything different, so we decided we were going to start an organization to fund social change groups.”
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Bread & Roses, and funding social change remains critically important in the current political climate. “I think it’s going to be a hard time,” Finkle says. “What gives me hope is the numbers. The people that turned out to the women’s march was so far beyond what we might have expected in Philly, in Washington, all over the world. What gives me hope is that people are mobilized.”
Throughout the year, storyteller Susan Klein is conducting interviews and sifting through archives and images to tell the story of Bread & Roses’ first 40 years. She will present the story at the Tribute to Change in October.
Already, themes are beginning to emerge in Klein’s research, such as the commitment to democratic process in the founding of the People’s Fund. Each person had an equal say in how the grants were made regardless of how much money they donated. “What I’ve learned is that in those formative meetings, everyone’s response to [the process] was vociferous — no silent partners here,” she says. “They all had opinions and preferences and all wanted to be included. They proved that democracy can be boisterous and messy yet truly exhilarating and desirable.”
Democratic grantmaking is still at the heart of Bread & Roses. The Giving Project, successfully piloted in 2016 and running twice in 2017, offers a new name and structure for that steadfast principle. It builds on democratic grantmaking by adding political education and intensive fundraising training, which together promise to center Bread & Roses as a home for a new generation of activists and organizers.
In Bread & Roses’ archives, Klein came across a letter that artist Sam Maitin had written on the back of a poster he created to mark the organization’s second decade in which he said, “The power of an aroused public is unbeatable.” Klein notes that rather than having reached a point where this particular sentiment has lost some of its impact, it still resonates today. “Bread & Roses becomes even more important, more urgent,” she says.