RP's Own Kerri Barber Talks About What Nonprofit Certification Means for Real Progressives!
Loren Hall - Hi Kerri! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today, about the recent changes we're all seeing and participating in, around Real Progressives lately!
As we can't help but notice, there's been a major shakeup in the workings at RP. As an organization that now has 501c3 status, what does that actually mean for the volunteers currently working at RP, as well as those interested in joining?
Kerri Barber - The changes we are seeing represents years of planning and working towards these goals. RP was a nonprofit corporation from the beginning, incorporated in Pennsylvania. The work that was done for the last few years was to prepare for a formal nonprofit status at the federal level. Achieving this designation means that PR can offer certain tax incentives to our generous donors. This also means we must operate in strict compliance with the laws governing the receipt of that status.
The progressive movement is so much more than policy itself. To continue being a leader in this movement, RP has a strategic niche that needs to continue and that is in advocacy. Therefore, an entirely new corporation was formed, Real Progress in Action, a nonprofit 501(c)4 organization that allows us to educate candidates, organizations, elected officials, and work toward enacting fiscally sound policies that benefit everyone, not just a few at the top.
Loren Hall - Will these changes affect everyone who produces content for RP? Will they affect everything produced, including livestreams & podcasts?
Kerri Barber - RP has always been about acting with integrity and this means a strict adherence to federal regulations, including the content we produce. Yes, every volunteer throughout RP and RPIA is expected to rise to this level because it matters in how we operate and our audience deserves that level of commitment, especially now when so few media outlets seem to value accuracy and integrity in their work.
Loren Hall - RP has been producing fact-based content that is objective, but sometimes partisan by its very nature. Will we still be able to produce this type of content? Where will it go, now that the main site must not house it?
Kerri Barber - The content we produce must be purposeful and begin with education. In the RP space we will continue this work to help educate the audience in finance and macroeconomics. Our flagship product is the Macro n Cheese podcast which has become one of the most widely consumed podcasts in the world because we offer access to economic luminaries from across the globe speaking on important topics in a clear, easy to understand way. This is supremely powerful and speaks to our mission for positive change. In order to ensure we are also sending our best and brightest to elected office, we need to reach candidates and lawmakers, too. As we see today, ignorance over financial policy has cascading detrimental effects that can last for generations. This is where our work with RPIA can really make a difference, especially in supporting allied groups taking on the heavy lift of educating voters on the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. We help them answer definitively how these programs can be paid for because we bring these same PhDs and economic leaders with us. That is powerful.
Loren Hall - Truly! We will need every tool at our disposal in order to accomplish our goals! So we will now have more than one website? Will the other site operate basically just like the first one, with user login and text editing capabilities?
Kerri Barber - We have far more than two websites. We have two separate companies, each with a mission focused on education, but expressed in different ways. RP will continue to be at the forefront of economic policy education and provide consulting services in meaningful ways. RPIA will do the same, but focused on lending a voice to allied groups like Sunrise Movement who cannot yet answer the full question of how we pay for these policies. This is where RPIA steps in to end the arguments against these policies and provide a path forward to voters across the political spectrum to join what is a nonpartisan movement.
Loren Hall - Will volunteers begin being paid for their content creation, either by ad revenue, or by some other means? Will that be for content at both websites, or just the 501(c)3 one?
Kerri Barber - Honestly, it is a small miracle that RP has been functioning from the small donations received over the last two years and that is a testament to Steve Grumbine’s dedicated leadership. We are working now to streamline processes and reduce overhead even further to position ourselves for an aggressive donor appeal. Like most independent media outlets, we rely on the generosity of donors and even a monthly contribution of $1 goes far at RP. Can you imagine what we could do if our global subscriber audience of over 200,000 all contributed just $1 per month to helping RP grow? We also know that as a progressive group, we need to live our values and help volunteers where we can. My personal goal would be to get to a place where we can reimburse citizen media volunteers who cover remote events mainstream media will not and provide a small incentive to writers and graphic designers who struggle in the freelance gig economy. We also have more than a few retirees and disabled volunteers who dedicate 20 hours or more per week. Even a small stipend helps change lives tremendously. This is a decidedly different view from charities who choose to pay leadership first.
Loren Hall - Will these changes also affect posts on social media? For instance, will RP be able to continue posting the same kind of material on its official FB page and group page, twitter feed, etc?
Kerri Barber - I strongly encourage volunteers to become familiar with the posting guidelines and learn from others. We are in this together. This information not only helps us identify what content is permissible in the 501(c)3 space but is valuable in identifying questionable content outside of RP. For example, some nonprofits regularly cross the line in electioneering. Can you spot the difference? Just like every role a volunteer takes on here at RP – from writing and editing to graphic design and program management -- all of it helps train volunteers in skills and understanding that can be used outside of RP.
Loren Hall - What if an article was written describing the pros and cons of a UBI, during an election cycle where only one candidate has taken that issue on as their keystone platform issue? You wouldn't have to say "Andrew Yang" to know he was being discussed. I just noticed Michael Bloomberg's campaign rhetoric already denigrates candidates who call for "revolution". He doesn't have to say "Bernie Sanders" for us to know who he's talking about. It's also looking more and more like M4A is another one of those issues, as only one candidate has truly embraced that. In these cases we will likely have no choice but to place those on RPIA, is that correct?
Kerri Barber - Yes, we can talk about UBI and not mention Yang at all. We can talk about ALL the candidates in terms of policy and still be ok. So for M4A, we advocate for that policy and include ‘these candidates say x, y, and z about that policy’. These can all go in RP proper.
We go to RPIA to educate candidates on FJG. For example - if we have a Republican serving in Congress who wants information - that's RP. If we have a candidate write an OpEd in favor of FJG, that's RPIA. One is a candidate running in an active race, the other is seeking information. Do you see the difference?
Loren Hall - Yes I think so! So that is why Savage Joy will always be on RPIA, because she almost always deals with candidates who are running.
One further question: let's say we write an article critical of Barney Frank, at a time when he wasn't running for any office, and then a year later he decides to run. Will we then need to move that article about him to RPIA? Will this be an ongoing process that happens each time there is an election?
Kerri Barber - No because we can defend our work based on the date of publication. If we republish it during his campaign and highlight it BECAUSE he's running -- well, that is different.
Loren Hall - Thank you so much for your time and help! IsIs there anything else you would like to add, that you think is important for volunteers to know about?
Kerri Barber - Yes, and that is how much their time, efforts, and talents matter in the big picture and the goals we have set here at RP. It may not seem like one small article, one small graphic, one filmed event makes a difference, but it does. We are building momentum and the tide is turning everywhere you look. Everyone here is a big part of that and it truly helps in building a future here with RP and in the grander scheme of an economy, a future that works for all of us.
Anyone who plans to contribute content to Real Progressives - now or in the future - needs to take this brief training on 501c3 requirements.