Some good news!

Sometimes my to-do lists get way out of hand, and way out of date. I found one this morning that still listed “apply for New Media Ventures Innovation Fund” as not completed. I put a biiiiiiig ol’ line through that one.

’Cause guess what. I did apply for the New Media Ventures Innovation Fund, all the way back in March. And after several rounds of interviews, hours poring over financial estimates, one stressfully short pitch, and a couple of weeks of waiting, it’s all panned out. I’m excited to let you know that Ragtag has been accepted into the 2017 New Media Ventures grantee cohort! We’re joining along with some incredible organizations, including Sister District, Flippable, Stay Woke, Notifica, SwingLeft, Mijente, and Indivisible.

:ta-da: :woo-hoo: :yippee: :two-dancing-cat-ladies:

I’m so incredibly excited about the New Media Ventures grant, and about all the work we’re doing here at Ragtag. We’ve built some really great tools for progressive campaigns and activists. The sync tools for [redacted b/c we didn’t get permission] and [redacted b/c ditto] have saved innumerable hours of really obnoxious data entry and Google sheets reformatting. Project Bidwire has already helped flag some useful information for [redacted]. Ragtag volunteers have also done some incredible work supporting LGBTQA youth, helping Indivisible members find groups and actions to join, and helping Spread the Vote get voter IDs to those who need them in Georgia and Virginia (so far). We have also been working to lay some tech groundwork for a long-term sustainable movement, with the CTA Aggregator, our involvement in OSDI, and through the Web Squads, Campaign Guide and website-o-matic projects.

The Ragtag volunteer team has done so much incredible stuff in the last few months. I was impressed already, but just writing out some of what they’ve done just now kind of floors me.

And to think, that’s all been done with volunteer effort. Amazing.

Even with all this energy and talent, in order for Ragtag to keep doing good things in the long term, we need money. The original idea for Ragtag was to create a place where developers and others in tech could come to volunteer their skills, and have a good experience doing it. When a volunteer comes to Ragtag to help out, there should be structure already in place to make the most of that volunteer’s talents and energy — projects already mapped out, tasks clearly delineated and waiting to be worked on, partners doing good, effective work on the ground who need a little bit of a tech leg-up. This is the Platonic ideal of Ragtag we’ve been working towards. To fully realize this dream, we do need paid, full-time organizing and management staff. Which is why we’ve been asking for donations in every update email, and why I’ve been schmoozing like mad and applying for grants and accelerators left and right. (Ok. Not Right.)

The New Media Ventures grant is our first real step in that direction. The grant will give us some serious breathing room, and help us make sure that we have our costs covered for the foreseeable future. (Yay! Slack!) My hope is that we’ll be able to raise more money in the coming months to allow us to bring on a handful of full-time staff to manage the opportunities and make sure volunteers have the most utterly excellent experiences possible.

Of course, one should never rely entirely on the kindness of strangers. This is why we’ve also been working on ways to earn money to keep Ragtag going strong. Our core strength and focus is in managing volunteers and projects. So, we’ve begun to partner with organizations who want to leverage their supporters’ talents and enthusiasm into volunteering, but who don’t have the time, or organizational bandwidth to make sure those volunteers have good experiences. We’re excited to be working with Fight for the Future on managing and organizing their core tech volunteers and Ragtag folks on projects that help move the FFTF agenda forward, while not taking up much time from the organization’s staff. As a bonus, this also gives Ragtag volunteers the opportunity to work on some cool projects that they may not have heard about before! Score!

Money is always a hard subject to broach, especially when you mix it with friends and feelings, the first of which we all are in Ragtag, and the second of which we all have around the work we’re doing with Ragtag. I appreciate all of the Ragtag volunteers, and the work they’re doing to make the world a better place. I am incredibly flattered and honored that they share my notion of the best way to help out, and are choosing to volunteer with Ragtag. I want to be as open as I can be about money and Ragtag. Members of the Ragtag volunteer community are welcome to ask me any question any time, and I will do my best to answer it. Members of the public can ask me for more info, and I will answer if I feel like it. My first priority is always to the folks on the Ragtag team. :)

So I hope this is the first of many many updates of good news I get to share with the community at large. And if we could have successes on the fundraising side of things that begin to approach the successes we’ve had on the building good tech for worthy organizations, I’ll be over the moon.

And in the meantime, you should join Ragtag and volunteer your tech superpowers for good, or if you don’t have time, you can volunteer your money. :)

— brady

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