While there are clearly circumstances where the civil society sector is at odds with the state, there are at least as many where the relationship is one of interdependence and mutual support…. The state has thus emerged in the modern era not as a displacer of nonprofit activity but as perhaps the major philanthropist… (Salamon & Anheier 1997, p. 63-64).
Calprig is an independent statewide student organization that works on issues such as environmental protection, consumer protection, hunger and homelessness. In essence, members of Calprig desire to build a better society through a plethora of volunteer activities. The group also provides students with the opportunity to practice their effective citizenship both on and off campus. This semester, the organization focused primarily on six campaigns: The Ocean and Plastic Ban is a short-term goal to ban plastic bags in Los Angeles California; Big Agriculture, although not a lot planned for this semester focuses on introducing healthy food to people; Energy Service Subsidies, with an expressed target to educate 2,000 individuals with the knowledge of proper use of energy; Hunger and Homelessness, includes a variety of events of food donations to directly solving the issue; United for Green, which is looking for cooperation with UCLA; and Chapter Textbooks, which has the expressed intent of efforts to push alternatives for the textbooks which could lead to price decreasing of the chapter textbooks.
In considering Calprig as a group and looking at the structure of the organization, they offer very clear guidelines for individuals to better understand the mission of their non-profit organization. Through the organization's website, I was able to glean a great deal of information. Because Calprig is a nationwide organization, their website creates a better opportunity and higher quality of communication between the various groups in different locations. The higher the quality of communication helps in enhancing the groups' functionality.
As previously advised in my prospectus, my initial thoughts upon learning of the group and deciding to participate, I was immediately drawn to the Hunger and Homelessness and Big Agriculture programs. In my mind, these two campaigns are closely associated and have an expressed goal of assisting in remediating issues of hunger and healthier eating, and addressing the pervasive issue of homelessness with is often commensurate with hunger. My initial thoughts regarding involvement with Calprig was through voluntary based activities, there would be greater connectivity created within different communities, spreading helpful and positive information, and getting individuals involved in activities to accomplish the goal of building a better society.
The Calprig kickoff event for the fall semester 2011 was helpd on September 7th at 8 p.m. Prior to the kickoff event, the organization offered an informational session for volunteers to gain a greater understanding of the nonprofit organization. This is a standard meeting that transpires every Tuesday at 5 p.m., and the session lasts roughly 40 minutes. The members and volunteers are introduced to each other. They have a consistent person in charge of the informational session. As part of the informational process, the leader always attempts to elicit more networks they are individually connected to from the members and volunteers as a means of better promoting and connecting Calprig to outside sources.
During the kickoff event, there were approximately 60 individuals in attendance inclusive of old members and new volunteers. There was a guest speaker present. The missions of the organization were reviewed by the president and he rearticulated the goal for this semester. There was also a discussion of recruitment efforts for new volunteers. Department heads for the various campaigns provided more in-depth detail as to the goals and expectations for the campaigns. Some of the information that was garnered from the kickoff meeting was the lack of stable funding for the group. Each department is responsible for its own funding. Every organizer, then, has a unique channel to raise funds to support the projects.
During the course of the 10 meeting held by Calpirg on November 1st, all of the leaders and the president were in attendance, as were 13 members and volunteers. During the course of the meeting, Josh, captain of the Ocean campaign dropped his snack on the floor. He quickly picked it up and ate it. He said, "To be environmentally friendly, never waste food." I was unsure whether he made the comment seriously or in jest. The meeting focused on discourse regarding the progress the campaigns were making. Everyone spoke so passionately regarding the campaigns they were involved in. The Hunger and Homelessness campaign had successfully raised more than 600 dollars toward their budget for the semester and passed out organic food through food trucks. Near the end of the meeting, the informational leader Ann made the following statement:
I know the work we do is hard. It takes a lot of efforts to go door to talk to students about issues. You know, we are kind of the underdogs. Corporations have millions of dollars at their disposal and millions they are throwing at issues. Some corporations just pay people to change their mind to get the vote.
That is really f-d up. And that is also the reason I get so fired up.
Calprig raises around $630,000 each year. People feel this is a huge number but comparing with millions of dollars that is really small. What we have is people power. Don't forget we do always have the opportunity to speak out. And we sometimes win and it is great.
On November 5th, the Ocean campaign of Calprig held an even on Santa Monica Beach. The event's purpose was to raise public awareness of ocean pollution. There were 9 members in attendance including the captain of the campaign. Although more people were expected, the weather forecast is said to have kept some people away. Equipped with fabric bags, some with the Calprig logo drawn on them, we were responsible in sets of twos to pick up plastic bags and bottles along the beach. We also sent out flyers to the people who were interested to explain about pollution and the organization. There were some members particularly effective in talking with strangers about Calprig. I attribute this to the passion the members have regarding the organization and the causes they are fighting for. Although Santa Monica Beach is described as being seriously polluted, there was not a lot of trash for us to pick up that day.
On November 8th, the regular meeting was cancelled and instead the organization was mobilized to work on recruiting pledges and raising donations on campus. It was called pledge week. Calprig members showed up at various corners from 8a to 9p. The members had various shits to make sure there were always people available for the drive. To attract attention and emphasize Calprig's accountability, most of the members decorated themselves with plastic bags, for example. Others used the plastic bags as decorations on other bags.
The members would solicit a few minutes of time from passerby's and explain the organization, primarily focusing on the environmental issues globally and raising people's awareness and then the contribution of the past were introduced. If the people showed interest, them member would ask for a $15 donation which is also introduced as the pledge fees to ensure the running of the chapter on campus. A lot of the time, people would excuse themselves and walk away at this point. Many would indicate, "I have already given to a nonprofit', "Let me think about it," "I gave to the Red Cross, and I think they will do a good job." As with the ecological model, the competition from other nonprofit organizations whether they targeted the same causes or not, was evidenced by some of the responsiveness of the public. However, the ecological model also argues that any increase in civic mindedness is a win for the nonprofit social sector on the whole and as such should not be seen as a negative for the individual organization.
Although the response was not always favorable, Calprig members were still very passionate and excited. Calprig used a simple application form that was easy to fill out. In addition to basic demographic information, the campaigns were listed such as hunger and homelessness, cheaper textbooks, affordable education, oceans, consumer protection and fight global warming, which all correspond to Calprig's campaigns. At the bottom, the forms ask for credit card information if the student prefers to pay that way.
Although a nationwide organization, Calpirg is still considered a social organization or a social movement because it doesn't receive government funding. There are both trained and professional members as well as volunteers. From my experiences with the organization, there was a great deal of transparency and accountability as argued by Steven and Lipsky (1993) are considered significantly important. As Freeman (1970) posited, there are some who know the rules, however, in my experience, the rules were not kept from the rest of the…