MOVE San Antonio’s $100,000 match a game-changer for the city
By Marina Alderete Gavito
As I stood in the audience at the October fundraiser Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Chef Johnny Hernandez hosted for MOVE San Antonio, I heard the words “$100,000 match” resonate across La Gloria at the Dominion’s outdoor patio. Attorney Mikal Watts had just given MOVE San Antonio their biggest challenge ever: Raise $100,000 in 60 days, and he would double it.
With only a two-person staff and a 2016 budget of barely $92,000, MOVE San Antonio is already one of the most efficient voter registration organizations in the United States. They have garnered national attention this year for their innovative civic education programs and engaging youth voter engagement tactics. Founded by students at the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2013, this youth-led, grassroots, nonpartisan nonprofit has made a name for themselves by registering over 8,500 new voters in Bexar County in 2016, increasing youth turnout by 300 percent in the 2017 municipal election, and fighting for issues important to young people.
Originally, $100,000 in two months was daunting, but now, with just about $15,000 to go and a little over a week left, MOVE is on track to knock this match out of the park. The support we’ve received from the community has been overwhelming.
In this moment, we are at a time when young people want to get involved politically, use their vote to make a difference, or learn how they can make a change in their city. MOVE San Antonio is a great first step in helping them do just that. Watts’ challenge — and the potential of an added $200,000 to MOVE’s voter registration coffers — are game-changers for the civic health of San Antonio.
“Every day, MOVE San Antonio’s fellows, interns, and volunteers are working to register new young voters, explain how important our generation’s voice is right now, and help young people get to the ballot box. Mr. Watts’ generous gift will amplify our grassroots work, creating years and years of civic impact in the Alamo City,” stated MOVE San Antonio Executive Director H. Drew Galloway.
To meet this fundraising match head on, Galloway has assembled a task force of local, statewide, and national leaders, including Brianna Dimas, George Salinas, Karina Alderete, Joyce Townsend, Steven Lopez, Coda Rayo-Garza, Cliff Walker, and Andrea Marcoccio, and facilitated by fundraising strategist Megan Smith. I couldn’t be prouder to serve as Chair of this effort.
Looking at all MOVE has accomplished in the last two years alone, it’s easy to forget the humble roots of this local nonprofit. Originally a student organization at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Mobilize Organize Vote Empower San Antonio (shortened to MOVE San Antonio) was founded by Roadrunners who simply wanted to affect direct change in their community by engaging their peers in the political process. Not content to organize as “business as usual,” they formed relationships with faculty and staff to speak in classrooms, donned banana suits and vote bot costumes while tabling, and worked to ensure all students — regardless of political background or ideology — were registered to vote and could exercise their own voice.
MOVE’s mantra of “by young people, for young people” powerfully resonated across San Antonio. College chapters popped up at Northwest Vista College, Trinity University, and Palo Alto College as students began to grow more civically engaged. By 2014, the student chapter had filed for their nonprofit status and worked out of a downtown office. By the end of 2016, MOVE had registered over 16,000 young people, successfully advocated for police body cameras at City Hall, hosted the 4th largest National Voter Registration Day in the country, and distributed thousands of youth-focused voter guides across the city. Through a three-pronged approach of civic education, leadership development, and issue advocacy, MOVE began changing the civic engagement game.
MOVE has always believed that democracy is stronger when more people participate. Recognizing that the old way of engagement hasn’t been working for millennials, they quickly ushered in new ways to tackle voter registration, voter mobilization, and voter education with stellar results. This commitment to improving our system of government has led to some of the most innovative civic education events our city has ever seen, specifically “MOVE U,” a college civic education panel discussion and workshop series, and “tbh,” a monthly millennial-focused, live-recorded public policy podcast and concert event.
In a city of historical community organizers like Emma Tenayuca and COPS/Metro, MOVE prides itself on training the next generation of San Antonio’s community organizers. Their comprehensive leadership development program for fellows, interns, and volunteers follows their proprietary curriculum called the “The Civic Path” — teaching young people how to be good community members, effective organizers, powerful advocates, and, ultimately, a civic leader in their own right.
Noelani Cubillos-Sanchez, one of MOVE’s star interns and a University of Texas at San Antonio student, spoke alongside Mayor Nirenberg and Chef Hernandez at the October event and has been on the MOVE team for two semesters now: “Because of MOVE’s Leadership Development program, I’ve gotten increased access to elected officials, political professionals, and community leaders that I would have never had the opportunity to meet otherwise. MOVE has inspired me to pursue a future career in public service.“
Finally, MOVE connects the issues young people care about to the act of participating in government, whether that is simply voting, sitting on a City Commission, speaking at Citizens to Be Heard, or running for office yourself. Through this advocacy, young people are directly shaping local policy to reflect the issues that matter to their generation: immigration reform, LGBTQ rights, environmental protections, and racial justice.
With the 2018 elections around the corner, MOVE needs your help — now more than ever — to continue this critical work. Between now and December 17th, every contribution will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $100,000. Together, we’ll amplify their work in 2018 and beyond. Chip in today at donate.movesanantonio.org, and let’s make our city more engaged one new young voter at a time.