The Peace Development Fund history blog moves on now from a 30 year reflection of how the past has affected where PDF and the peace and social justice movements are today, to our 31st year and a focus forward. Like any business, we have had our ups and downs. Operating with no endowment, each year we must raise the necessary funds to make grants and support grassroots communities.
Nothing has dimmed the “fierce commitment” The Boston Globe ascribed to PDF in 1988. If anything, we are only more determined to continue providing grants, training and other vital resources necessary to grassroots communities working on peaceful conflict resolution, human rights and environmental sustainability in the U.S.
“Peace-minded Fund takes businesslike approach to goals”
By Stephen J. Simurda, Special to the Globe
AMHERST – Across the United States, hundreds of grass-roots political organizations are working on peace and justice issues ranging from the prevention of nuclear war to maintaining political stability in Central America.
Among the things these groups have in common is that they generally work with a fierce commitment in their community to influence thinking on an issue of international significance. According to the movement, these groups act locally and think globally. And they usually do it on a shoestring budget with little guidance or expertise in organizational skills.
The Amherst-based Peace Development Fund has been working since 1981 to change that by providing funding, organizational training and recognition to community-based groups.
Through its work, the fund has become well known to community political groups throughout the United States and has built itself into the only national source of funding and advice for many of these groups.
“Before there was the Peace Development Fund, there was no single voice to advocate for peace groups,” said Meg Gage, executive director and cofounder of the fund.
Since its inception, the fund has given about $2 million to more than 400 groups in all 50 states and watched its annual budget grow from $130,000 to $1.6 million for the coming fiscal year. It also sponsors training workshops for political activists.
Recently, the fund presented the first Grassroots Peace Award to Citizen Alert of Reno, Nevada, a group that promotes public participation in nuclear, environmental and military matters. It is hoped that the award can become a yearly alternative peace prize for small political organizations.
According to Gage, one thing most grass-roots political organizations have in common is that they do not like to talk about money.
“A lot of these people would much rather talk about weapon systems and politics” than budget planning and fund-raising strategy, Gage said. But by not talking about those practical matters, many groups can work themselves right out of existence, she said.
“The feeling [when we started the fund] was that what a lot of groups needed was funding,” Gage said. Soon it became clear that just providing money was not enough and that training in organization building was crucial to make money more effective. “I would ask a group what their budget was and they’d way ‘It depends on how much we raise.’” Gage said.
Trainer Randy Kehler said the training program that grew out of that realization is “an adaption on what you’d find in a workshop for a small business.” While the issues covered focus on budget and fund-raising planning, training sessions also cover organizational development issues, such as how to best locate and train new staff, and how to do more effective outreach work in the community.
The fund’s work does pay off in tangible ways, according to Jean Weiss, fund-raising coordinator for the New England Central America Network in Cambridge, a group that has received funds and training. The fund is “very involved with the groups that they give money to. It’s a model we’ve adopted from them,” Weiss said.
The Central America network has grown from a string of 30 community organizations in 1983 to about 200 today. A $3,000 grant from the Peace Development Fund last year allowed the network to begin its own training program for other Central America groups.
According to the Peace Development Fund, grants are given to carefully screened organizations for specific projects.
“This is the best way to support [peace groups] other than my personal contribution,” said Arthur Obermayer, chief executive of Moleculon Inc., a Cambridge medical technology firm.
Obermayer said he particularly likes the fact that the fund helps community-based groups in all parts of the country. “I feel that often the most important work is done at the grassroots level.”
Asked to evaluate the role the fund has played nationally, Gage says simply, “The sheer fact that we have succeeded and grown is one of the achievements of the peace movement in the 1980s.”