To kick off our new Member Spotlight series, we are highlighting long-time member and leader within the FCCP network Keesha Gaskins-Nathan. Keesha is the Program Director for Democratic Practice – United States at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and currently serves as one of the co-chairs of FCCP’s Money in Politics Working Group.
Q: Tell us about your journey in philanthropy and your current work.
In Minnesota, I had the opportunity to use my background as a lawyer and judicial clerk to connect improving democratic systems with grassroots communities across the state. This ultimately brought me to New York to work nationally as Senior Counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice focusing on redistricting reform, voting rights, and modernizing election administration. In 2014, I joined the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) and was charged with leading up the Democratic Practice Program – United States, with the goal of advancing a vital and inclusive democracy in the United States.
In 2018, I helped develop the RBF’s effort to develop a new funding strategy dedicated to movement-building for systemic reform of democratic institutions to advance economic and racial justice. Through this effort, the RBF will support organizations that work to deepen relationships between elected officials and the communities they represent, advance meaningful political and economic policies, and develop community leaders.
Q: How has your work with FCCP informed your journey?
FCCP has enabled me to find a cohort of like-minded, motivated peers who want to see our democratic system improve to be more inclusive, more representative and equal. From its large space programming – like the national convening – to its more targeted programming – like its working groups, FCCP allows the philanthropic community to dig into critical issues affecting civic participation and work together to identify strategies and tactics that can be adapted and used from funder to funder network-wide.
On a personal note, FCCP has also helped me grow my leadership and platform to uplift the priorities that mean the most to me, that is to help shed light on how we can make our democratic systems more equitable. I’ve served on FCCP’s Advisory Board and am currently one of the new co-chairs of the Money in Politics Working Group.
Q: Speaking of the Money in Politics Working Group, can you tell us a little more about the working group and money in politics as a focus area?
FCCP’s Money in Politics Working Group (MiP) addresses the challenges we face as a democracy when the voices of everyday people are undermined by the influence of money in our political system. The outsized influence of money in U.S. politics limits meaningful policy debate making it nearly impossible to fully address many of the nation’s most serious problems.
Many of the races and ballot measures in the 2018 Midterm Elections marked a lesson on the power of community over money. This was an important moment for our democracy and provides a roadmap for how we need to push together to better understand the role of money in politics, how it directly and indirectly affects civic participation, and how we can work together to most effectively channel resources to reduce barriers to participation. Moreover, an increasing number of grassroots organizations that leverage base-building and movement-building strategies for their success recognize campaign finance reform and anti-corruption measures as integral to power-building for their constituents.
MiP will be featured on FCCP’s March First Monday discussion on March 4. The webinar discussion will focus on the money in politics related wins and momentum built during the 2018 midterm elections and will provide an overview of the current landscape. I would encourage anyone with an interest in civic participation to attend as the overlap between money in politics and civic participation is significant.
Q: You’ve been involved in FCCP for a while. What would you tell someone considering membership?
I am probably biased, but check out the March First Monday webinar. It’s a great taste of what FCCP does. FCCP transcends its civic participation focus, showing how all of the grantmaking we do as practitioners is rooted in uplifting the voices of those who are often unheard. The basic tenets FCCP focuses on can apply to virtually any grantmaking program. So, start small; join a webinar or working group. See what it’s all about and hopefully you do join our network. I am sure you won’t be disappointed – and come introduce yourself at the national convening. I would love to meet you!
Thanks so much, Keesha, for your time and continued support of our network.