Kimberly Peeler-Allen’s Guide to How Nonprofits Can Engage Audiences to Create Change

About This Episode

To understand the true meaning of #FollowBlackWomen, tune into this interview with Higher Heights Co-Founder, Kimberly Peeler-Allen. Kimberly shares the roadmap of how she and her co-founder built a movement that yields power and influence in the political realm. This interview provides a step-by-step guide to help nonprofits engage audiences in creating change. The organization’s ability to amplify the voices of black women offers a powerful example of what is possible for organizations who can create an emotional connection to their audience that catapults them into action.

About Kimberly Peeler-Allen

Kimberly Peeler-Allen has been working at the intersection of race, gender and politics for almost 20 years.  She is the Co-founder of Higher Heights, a national organization building the political power and leadership of Black women from the voting booth to elected office.

Kimberly and her Co-Founder Glynda Carr have built Higher Heights from an idea on the back of a placemat, into a network of over 90,000 members, donors and activists across the country that have helped elect 10 Black women to Congress, 1 Black woman to the US Senate, growing the number of Black women in state wide executive office and leading our nation’s largest cities.

A highly skilled political fundraiser and event planner, Kimberly was the principal of Peeler-Allen Consulting, LLC from 2003 to 2014, the only African American full-time fundraising consulting firm in New York State. Kimberly served as finance director for Letitia James’ successful bid to become Public Advocate of the City of New York and the first African American woman elected citywide in New York’s history.

In 2018, Kimberly was selected as one of the Roddenberry Fellowship’s 20 incredible established and emerging activists to devote an entire year to projects that will make the U.S. more inclusive and equitable through their inaugural cohort.

In addition to her role at Higher Heights, Kimberly recently served as the Co-Executive Director of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Transition Committee. In this capacity, Kimberly oversaw the recruitment and retention of key staff in the New York Attorney General’s Office, the execution of the Attorney General’s inaugural events across the state and worked with the 42 person Transition Committee to develop policy areas for enhancement within the Attorney General’s Office.

Kimberly also serves as a board member of ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equity.

In her words…

“People are following your lead, so be as certain as you can be of the things  you say online, because there are folks who are looking for that validation for their thoughts or looking to be informed, and you don’t want to be the purveyor of false information or half baked ideas.”
“Obviously, there’s a long way to go, but I think there is definitely an active conversation and recognition that if you don’t have women of color, or particularly black women, involved in decision making in social justice work, activism, in the nonprofit space- you are missing out on properly serving that demographic group so many organizations are trying to properly serve. If you don’t have the voice at the table, if you don’t have diverse life experiences at the table, how can you be sure that you are properly serving them?”
“I heard a story on NPR yesterday morning about a nonprofit that is in the process of revamping itself because they had diversity by numbers, but it wasn’t necessarily diversity and inclusion whereby the voices and opinions of the people of color on staff were a part of the decision making process. So, they are in the process of taking that into consideration and changing the corporate culture of the organization to be more inclusive.”
“It’s not always going to be that viral moment that’s going to have 3 million views in the span of 10 minutes. It’s the constant conversation that also helps move the needle.”
“We’ve seen between 2015 and today, how much has changed when we have taken a concerted effort of just talking about it and talking about it and talking about it. Others start to pick things up, and it changes the mindset of what leadership looks like, it opens people’s minds to the possibilities that exist.”
“We were just two women that had an idea, but it was because of the commitment of our network, and now our network’s network, to move this needle forward that we have been able to accomplish that. So it is challenging because there’s so much to be done, but it is also really exciting because we are very reliant on our members and our activists to help push the conversation forward, as well.”
“It was really the precipice of being in the trenches for so long, raising money and working on campaigns and seeing how the black women donors, the black women activists, the black women elected officials were being treated and marginalized and often ignored or pushed to like, “Oh, you should just go and do field. Can you organize some voters for me?” Instead of saying, ‘This woman has means. She wants to be engaged, she is very savvy about the issues. Let’s bring her in to be a thought leader and a thought partner about how she can get her network to be supportive of this candidacy in this campaign and really engage with her. Maybe we have her sit on a task force for something,’ instead of just saying, ‘Oh you can pass out flyers or help us knock on doors.'”

Questions Answered on this Episode

Higher Heights has more than 90,000 members. What have you and Glynda tapped into to create such a powerful movement?

I like to trace the patterns of movement building and think about how influencers and celebrities shape what’s important to the broader audience of stakeholders. Have you seen specific actions from well-known personalities or celebrities that have helped raise more awareness for Higher Heights? Have you had any instances where it has had a negative impact?

As you think about the ways you’re creating urgency around more inclusivity for communities of color and the opportunities for women, are there any specific steps that you have seen that have really helped to move the needle?

What are the top three goals for Higher Heights for the 2020 Presidential election? What is required to achieve them?

We’ve seen the power of black women in the political process, as well as in numerous social movements. Do you think that we are making any progress in the way of intersectionality?

Higher Heights is the only national organization dedicated to harnessing the power of black women to elect black women, influence elections and advance progressive policies. What’s been the most challenging aspect of this work?

Do you think the organization has influenced how others look at black women, as it relates to not only our political power but our potential to lead, to create change and to shape the world that we live in?

Prior to co-founding Higher Heights, you owned a fundraising consultancy for a number of years. How does that experience compare to fundraising specifically for black women?

What do you see beyond the 2020 election as it relates to your work?