Photo depicting a group of individuals gathered around the RBAC Farm Stand.

Rainier Beach Action Coalition Looks Towards a New Future of Fundraising

by Lauryn Bray

Rainier Beach Action Coalition (RBAC), a Black-led grassroots organization devoted to locally driven development in the Rainier Beach area, has adopted a new approach to fundraising. With the hire of their first-ever development manager, Kanwal Yousuf, RBAC is no longer relying on City and State funding alone to follow through with plans to address the needs of the Rainier Beach area. 

“We will continue to rely on the City of Seattle for resources because the City of Seattle needs to invest in our neighborhood through these strategies,” said Gregory Davis, managing strategist and founder of RBAC, in an interview with the Emerald. “One might say our fundraising portfolio is heavily tilted towards the City, the County, and the State compared to individual donors, and that we need to diversify our funding base. And yes, we do need to increase our individual donor base, but we won’t shift from holding the City and the County responsible for investing in the neighborhood through the strategies that’s in the [Neighborhood] Plan.”

Photo depicting a gymnasium filled with parents, guardians, and youth collecting backpacks for the new school year.
Back2SchoolBash, 2019. (Photo: Ken Gillgren)

According to the RBAC website, Rainier Beach Action Coalition was founded in 2015 as a result of a merger between Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition (RBCEC) and Rainier Beach Moving Forward (RBMF). Since 2003, RBCEC has operated the Back2School Bash, town halls, monthly Action Team Meetings, and various stipended engagement opportunities for youth in and around Rainier Beach. With the merger, RBMF transitioned from a City of Seattle-run process (as an Advisory Committee with monthly work sessions and quarterly public open houses) to a two-pronged strategy with monthly steering committee meetings and rotating monthly action team meetings for each of the four Neighborhood Plan Action Areas: A Place for Everyone, Lifelong Learning, Growing Food to Develop Healthy Industry, and A Beautiful Safe Place.

RBAC has been working in accordance with their Neighborhood Plan since 1994. At the time, Neighborhood Plans were being devised to create strategies for how the City of Seattle’s urban centers would grow and develop. Since its conception over 20 years ago, the Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan has been updated; however, its goal to ensure that the residents of the Rainier Beach area have the necessary resources to thrive remains constant. 

In October, RBAC shared on their social media the results of a two-day strategic session. While the session was held with the intention of onboarding their new hire, it also announced to the community a new plan to begin fundraising.

“The new area is a focus on individual donors and reaching deeper into the neighborhood to secure donor support. Another nuance to that is we’re not limiting the contribution that an individual donor/resident would make to just money. We value volunteering as [a] meaningful [contribution] and we also value their willingness to share their assets, like social media, to help us build friends. That’s as valuable to us as someone contributing money,” said Davis. 

Up until now, RBAC’s funding has come from the City of Seattle, Washington State, and King County; however, issues of politics, bureaucracy, and blatant disregard for the needs of the Rainier Beach area have historically limited the organization’s allotted funding.

“We’ve been operating off of our Neighborhood Plan since 1994 and we’ve probably had six different mayors over that time. And so where it might be valued by one mayor, it’s not necessarily at the same value as another mayor. That’s just not working for us because we would have created some system change and then we get new leadership and they want to go in another direction, and we’re supposed to be the ones to adapt to that,” explained Davis. “And for a neighborhood that’s already underinvested in, to now have to adapt to a new focus by a new leader and that has to happen every four to eight years, that doesn’t work.” 

The policies of Seattle’s current mayor, Bruce Harrell, serve as testaments to this issue. With the lack of funding available for nonprofit and grassroots organizations in Mayor Harrell’s recent budget proposal, RBAC understands that they can no longer wait for a slice of a very small pie. 

“Again, we’re not going to turn away from charging the City, the County, and the State to support the Rainier Beach neighborhood,” reiterated Davis. “That, we cannot let them be released from, because they actually approached us around this Neighborhood Plan and asked us [for] our visions and our dreams and put it into a plan, and we want to hold them accountable to it.” 

If you would like to support RBAC, you can donate through their website or sign up for their newsletter so you can be notified of any volunteer opportunities.

Headshot depicting Lauryn Bray holding up an iPhone to take a mirror selfie.

Lauryn Bray is a writer and reporter for the South Seattle Emerald. She has a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from CUNY Hunter College. She is from Sacramento, California, and has been living in King County since June 2022.

📸 Featured Image: Rainier Beach Action Coalition Farm Stand. (Photo: Jerrell Davis)

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