Progressive Strategists Launch National Donor Mobilization Group

Sadie Baker has teamed up with Michael Huttner to educate donors on strategic giving.
Sadie Baker has teamed up with Michael Huttner to educate donors on strategic giving.
Sadie Baker
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Thrilled to be done with the Trump years and looking forward to the progressive possibilities of the Biden administration, the Culture of Giving Back and the Huttner Group have formed a partnership to educate donors nationwide about how to use their money to influence social change. 

Huttner Group head and political strategist Michael Huttner, co-founder of ProgressNow and author of The Resistance Handbook: 45 Ways to Fight Trump (not to mention a Westword intern when he was in high school), and Sadie Hansen Baker, founder of the Culture of Giving Back, a senior advisor on Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign and former executive director of the Colorado Democracy Alliance, are taking their combined experience in raising millions of dollars for progressive causes to the national level.

Both strategists, along with Democratic billionaires and millionaires like Tim Gill, Pat Stryker and Jared Polis, have been instrumental in mobilizing the philanthropic sector to support popular grassroots progressive movements and move Colorado from red to blue. Now Huttner and Baker plan to mobilize donors to fund left-leaning nonprofits outside the Beltway, and effectively use progressive philanthropy to replicate the Colorado Strategy across the country.

"We help collaborate with donors and organizations to find the projects that are the best fit to make a real impact," says Huttner. "Our unique approach connects the head and the heart of each donor to successfully meet their goals."

Westword caught up with Baker to learn more about the collaboration:

Westword: Walk me through how this project came to be.

Sadie Hansen Baker: We have been lucky enough to cross paths throughout the years on a variety of projects. But recently, when I was working on the Bloomberg campaign, Michael and I started talking at an event and just reconnected on where we thought there were gaps in raising money for a variety of causes. We've both had some time over this past year to talk to donors and partners and to think about coming together to lend our expertise and networks. We wanted to be a partnership where people knew they could reach out for help to navigate the landscape of causes both locally and nationally.

Talk about what lessons you've learned from the Democracy Alliance and ProgressNow as you set this up.

It's easy to get caught up in the moment of whatever issue is dominating in the media, but we both really believe in investing in a strong infrastructure first in order to successfully advocate for causes and the organizations that fight for the issues that get people motivated to give.

What lessons did you learn in progressive philanthropy over the past four years?

Donors know the time is now; they can't sit on the sidelines. They don't want to wake up tomorrow and wonder: What if? What if I gave more to help an organization do the powerful work they want to do? What do I want my legacy to be?

They want to make sure that race equity work is being done throughout the progressive organizations so we are walking the walk. They also understand that electing good people at every level is vital. When threats to our democracy and way of life happen on a national scale, we saw that states can help stand up to executive orders that are outrageous and dangerous. Our leadership matters, and people really have been witness to that over these past four years. People are looking to local leadership and organizations to assist with a variety of causes. The key to our success means guiding donors toward strategic investments and teaching leaders how to raise money for themselves.

What issues do you see this project pushing the Biden administration and Democratic Party on? Where do you see possibilities for real gains?

People want to know what the Democrats stand for and how they are going to make their lives better. There is a real opportunity to lift up organizations working on key issues in a variety of states. We think the gains to be made are in the issues that you see people protesting for: climate change, race equity, voter protection and criminal justice reform, to name a few. The time is now to reimagine and build together.

How do you manage the ethics of donor demands with your priorities on progressive issues? Are there times those come into conflict? What does that look like?

It's all about donor education and collaborating to understand what both the short and long-term impact of their investment will be. Not everything is the sexy, exciting issue of the day; it's important to invest in all the pieces of the puzzle if you want to make real change. We hope that people that we work with will understand that path and our expertise in this field. We're here to help, and we want this vital movement to be well-funded to make the changes we all want to see.

What lessons can be learned from Colorado that can be applied to your work nationally?

You hear all the time that Colorado is the model. It's a model that both of us have been an integral part of, and truly believe in the power of. Colorado didn't become this blue-trending state overnight. This wasn't a fluke. This took years and years of work from committed donors and strategists. I think states like Georgia or Texas can look at Colorado and say, okay, it took them years of mobilization and strength in progressive groups to truly go from red to purple to a trending blue state. You can't take your foot off the gas when it gets hard or when you lose; you have to double down during those times.

Find out more about the collaboration at the Huttner Group website.

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