Paula Hodges is founder of Anchor Strategies, which works with individual donors and organizational funders to re-think their philanthropic giving by layering on political and advocacy funding, building more robust, state based progressive infrastructure donor alliances. She was the founding Executive Director of New Hampshire Progress Alliance, New England's first pooled investment fund for incubating durable, permanent progressive infrastructure.
I was sitting in my office, wincing at the mid-afternoon sun bouncing off the gold dome perched atop the New Hampshire State House five years ago. The slant of the light created a glare that made it hard for me to look interested in the droning of a DC consultant who had cornered me there. He had scheduled meetings with operatives like me to talk about something “big” and “early” in the First in the Nation presidential cycle in New Hampshire – a $15 million spend to “draft Elizabeth Warren.”
Warren had just been elected to the U.S. Senate three years prior. His idea was nested in a paid and earned media schtick. He had donors. He had ideas. I was the lone progressive infrastructure staffer who had just gotten a crash course on running the state’s super PAC coalition to elect democrats up and down the ballot. I had seen a glimpse of the battlefield ahead and could have cared less about his ideas, mainly because he wasn’t actually looking for feedback.
My work in social change and political advocacy are defined by the women who brought me up in the world. These women have helped me appreciate the profound power of mentorship.
The career I have today was unfathomable to me as a naive Missouri farm girl. Then I met Mindy. She was a manager and chief of staff who hired me as an intern and wouldn’t let me go. She coached and navigated me around every career pivot and barrier. Networks are a constellation of mentors, pipelines, alma maters – professional and personal associations. Often these networks are implicit. They help us overcome the divide between those who were born into the norms of public service and those of us who stumble upon public service after strife and righteous indignation call us to change the world.
Admittedly, I am not a philanthropist. But managing the money of philanthropists for progressive social change has given me a unique appreciation for the essential role of people and organizations that connect philanthropy and political strategy.
I’ve spent most of my career as that staff person expected to change the world $1,000 at a time, one issue at a time. In roles such as manager of young organizers, volunteer coordinator, lobbyist to fickle legislators, major gifts director, and Executive Director, I have worked to change political decision-making systems, often while holding up woefully under-staffed legislative and advocacy initiatives. As a single person Public Affairs or Program Director, I sometimes served in the role of five people, and was seen as a savior if I could project-manage a couple coalitions on the side – you know, for the good of the cause.