We left the Sunrise Movement after it morphed into a 501 (c)(4). The only original member left from U.S. Climate Plan is Evan Weber. Since graduating from Wesleyan in 2013, it appears Evan has worked exclusively as an activist for environmental causes. From his LinkedIn profile:
Prior to starting U.S. Climate Plan, Evan had professional experience in the utility industry, green building, environmental advocacy, and electoral campaigning. He has backgrounds and experience in student and community organizing, social movement theory and pedagogy, environmental law and economics, and non-profit management.
Sounds pretty good right? Sure, except the only non-profit he’s managed in U.S. Climate plan and the lionshare of his experience prior to that was as a student activist or intern beginning in high school.
The truth is, the most experienced staff member I can find at Sunrise graduated from college in 2009. The majority of them graduated from college between 2013 and 2018. The most common experience they have is working in the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network (FFDSN) and volunteering or working for an organization called 350.org.
Much like the Occupy movement, the FFDSN seems to have faded significantly. The group was focused on getting universities to divest their endowments from the Carbon Underground 200. The major roadblock to this movement was that most endowments are managed by third parties, not the university.
I suppose that kind of obstacle can kill a movement. And with operations shutting down on many campuses, the groups are encouraging their members to join Sunrise. Many sent messages like Fossil Free CU at the University of Colorado Boulder before shuttering:
Dear groundbreakers, system-shakers, power-builders, and people-movers; dear friends and family:Last Fossil Free CU Facebook post October 30, 2017
We have decided, after a five year campaign of changing the conversation about the role of the fossil fuel industry on campus, statewide, and nationally, that we are closing this campaign.
To get involved in the next wave of momentum, check out Sunrise Movement.
Sunrise co-founders Sara Blaezevich, Varshini Prakash, Will Lawrence and Victoria Hernandez all have experience with the campus divestment movements, FFDSN specifically, prior to joining Sunrise. Several of the organizations other current 16 employees also have experience volunteering with environmental groups or working for 350.org.
However, despite this obvious obstacle, the FFDSN received money from several foundations to pursue their goal. So when one movement collapsed because the goal was not achievable, a new one popped up. Even better, this one is pushing unachievable goals on all of us pushing for the Green New Deal.
One has to wonder why experienced non-profit foundations would have dumped money into an organization like FFDSN that had so many barriers to achieving its mission. I am just cynical enough to believe it was to train a generation of activists to continue on to the next phase. Promotion of the Green New Deal. When FFDSN started to fold, some of its significant donors also moved to Sunrise.
From Inside Philanthropy:
The group [Sunrise] raised just under $1 million in 2018 between its 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) entities, and received early support from a set of core funders that have since stuck with it. Wallace Global Fund, which was instrumental in the fossil fuel divestment campaign, funds Sunrise, as do the Rockefeller Family Fund (one of the smaller foundations associated with the oil family), and the Winslow Foundation, run by Wren Winslow Wirth, who is married to former politician Tim Wirth. Institutional funders made up about 55 percent of its 2018 budget, with 35 percent coming from individual donors, and the rest from nonprofit partners.“Sunrise Movement is Shaking Up the Climate Debate. Will More Funders Pay Attention?”, Tate Williams, Inside Philanthropy, January 7, 2019
Sunrise also received a grant from the Climate Action Network. The article goes on to say that organizations like 350.org and Sierra Club are providing administrative and other support to Sunrise. The group’s D.C. offices are in the Sierra Club’s building, which was also where U.S. Climate Plan operated. Did I mention that Dr. Michael K. Dorsey was on the board of the Sierra Club from 2014 until 2017? Just a coincidence I am sure. There are so many.
The group’s goals are ambitious. According to Inside Philanthropy, they have a goal to raise $2.9 million this year and have made a number of institutional funding contacts following their protest in Pelosi’s office. The one Best Supporting Actress Alexandria Ocasio Cortez showed up at. Just another coincidence, right?
According to Director of Development and Co-Founder Matthew Lawrence:
“From Capitol Hill to partnerships to the number of people who want to be involved at the grassroots, the growth has been immense on all fronts,” he says. Since November 13 [the date of the sit in in Pelosi’s office], Sunrise has picked up 1,140 new monthly donors, and had 90 new volunteer hubs pop up in six weeks, now based in 33 states. Even as it plans to grow, Lawrence says the group has some key principles that it doesn’t want to change. The majority of staff will always be grassroots organizers, and they always want to be fueled by a swell of volunteer activists.“Sunrise Movement is Shaking Up the Climate Debate. Will More Funders Pay Attention?”, Tate Williams, Inside Philanthropy, January 7, 2019
Your next question might be where are all these protestors coming from? How did the group organize such a large protest outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office today if they only have 16 staff members? Where did those kids in Dianne Feinstein’s office come from? We’ll cover that next.