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‘You can see a spark in their eyes’: How local Braver Angels support our work


“Fundraising.” The word alone can send a shiver up people’s spines, but it’s critical to the work of Braver Angels.

Still, it can be an intimidating process. “Most people do not like asking for money,” said Dawn Strauss, the director of development for Braver Angels. 

Why not? “You think someone’s inclination is to say no or get mad,” Dawn said. “But that’s usually not the case, and even when it is, you move on.”

Dawn Strauss

Braver Angels is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, which allows donors to make tax-deductible donations. Of the total Braver Angels budget, 70 percent goes directly to support programs such as Red/Blue workshops, skills training, and debates. 

There are many organizations doing important work in our country. So what draws people to donate to Braver Angels? 

The reason for Braver Angels

The answer differs depending on the person, Dawn said, but everyone has a personal story motivating them to address political polarization. “As soon as you ask someone what brought them to Braver Angels, they light up,” she said. “You can see a spark in their eyes.” 

That’s true for George Bouhasin, a Texas state coordinator, who worked with the North Texas and Central Texas alliances to secure $140,000 in grant money from the Sumners Foundation. After seeing his own family members torn apart by politics, George said he was motivated to help his community – and the country – find healing. 

George Bouhasin

Many are energized around the Braver Politics Initiative, Dawn said, because it works directly with elected officials and functions as a megaphone for constituents who want their leaders to overcome the toxicity within politics. The dysfunction “affects every single person in our country,” Dawn said, but many feel disempowered to make a difference, seeing the problem as “unsolvable.” 

When Beverly Horstman, an Ohio state coordinator, speaks to funders, this is exactly the concern she addresses by sharing stories from the field. Since she’s working at the grassroots level, “it becomes easy to talk about Braver Angels because I see the barriers breaking down between Reds and Blues,” Beverly said.

In 2021, Beverly was able to secure a grant from New Pluralists, which allowed her to hire Kelly Zimmerman as a community organizer to support the Braver Communities Initiative in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

“It’s not like you have to make things up or create a pitch,” Beverly said. “When you can talk from a base of knowledge, people understand you’re not just trying to sell something.” The results illustrate the impact. The recent Braver Angels 2020-2021 Report found 82 percent of participants in Braver Angels programs feel more comfortable with people on the opposite political side.

Beverly Horstman

Braver Angels – which is fueled by 10,000 members paying twelve dollars in annual dues – allows people to donate directly to an on-the-ground solution. “People want to be a part of fixing this political divide,” Dawn said. It’s just a matter of making them aware of how they can contribute. For those who want to give more, they have the option of donating a minimum of $1,000 to join the President’s Circle, which includes a lifetime Braver Angels membership.

Once people are bought into the mission of Braver Angels, they’re eager to get more people involved, Dawn said. 

The importance of fundraising

The key to authentic fundraising is sharing your story. “If you don’t feel comfortable, you need to look within yourself and ask what you can honestly convey,” Beverly said. 

She recommends reflecting on why you choose to donate your time, energy, and resources to the mission of Braver Angels. By identifying your own motivation, you can inspire others to join.

“One of my goals is to work with members and turn them into funders,” Dawn said. “People think they’re not brave enough to do it, but that’s not true.” After all, you aren’t asking someone to pay off your credit card bill, she said. “This money goes to something far greater.”

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to political polarization. “It took us 30 years to get here so we are not going to undo this in two or three years,” Beverly said. “That’s why we need long-term funding.”

Still, the skills learned through Braver Angels can be applied immediately. “Active learning and finding common ground are what every good relationship is built on,” Beverly said.

Through fundraising for Braver Angels, Dawn has been given what she calls “a front-row seat to what’s going on in our country.” Hearing donors’ stories and identifying their common threads has inspired her to continue finding support for the work of Braver Angels.

“So when people ask me, ‘How can you do fundraising? It sounds horrible,’ I tell them I actually count it among my greatest blessings.”

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