MO' MONEY MO' PROGRESS
WNW Member Cari Sekendur tells us that before her latest project, there had not been much of a political or social edge to her work. But like many WNW Members, Cari feels that there's now a fire lit under her. It's why she created Mo' Money Mo' Progress, which ties in with the gift-giving season and makes it easier to give a gift that matters. As Cari tell us, "Mo’ Money Mo’ Progress was born of a desire to mobilize progressives to take action. After the election, my partner Laura Zax and I knew we weren't alone in asking ourselves what we could do to protect the parts of our society we value most. So we decided to merge her background in philanthropy with mine in graphic design to create this platform."
We talk to Cari about this newfound drive, how she and her partner Laura determined which non-profits to include, and what she sees as the responsibility of creatives in addressing social issues in their work. "Visual communicators, artists, musicians etc have the opportunity and responsibility to use our skills to move people to take action. Our ability to make confusing or disparate information engaging and easy to understand is essential."
Tell us a little bit about your creative background. Who is Cari Sekendur and how did she get here?
I’m a graphic designer and art director who dabbles in illustration. My work tends to be either a little bit quirky or very clean and understated.
My path to where I am now has been a winding one. As a kid, I loved making things and told everyone I was going to be a "rainbow painter” when I grew up. That's essentially what I do now... but it took me a little while to get here. I didn't study design in undergrad and started my career in marketing and operations at tech companies. I transitioned to design about four years ago when I was given the blessing-in-disguise of being laid off by a turbulent start-up I worked for in Berlin. Since then I have spent most of my time doing branding and web design in both freelance and full-time capacities.
What is Mo’ Money, Mo’ Progress? What was the inspiration behind this new project?
Mo’ Money Mo’ Progress was born of a desire to mobilize progressives to take action. After the election, my partner Laura Zax and I knew we weren't alone in asking ourselves what we could do to protect the parts of our society we value most. So we decided to merge her background in philanthropy with mine in graphic design to create this platform.
Our first initiative is a holiday gift guide that makes it easy for people to donate in lieu of (or in addition to) giving gifts this year. The organizations we've featured are ones you may not have heard of, but they're all doing critical work -- whether at the grassroots, within the legal system, or at the level of policy and advocacy. And they all need our support now more than ever.
Who else helped in making this idea a reality?
We are lucky to have had support from many of our friends and family members. The exceedingly talented Heidi Chisholm, another WNW member, created some of the illustrations. Laura led the charge with research, vetting and copywriting and had help with some writing and editing from a handful of our friends, siblings, and parents. Leigh Nelson, owner of LMNOP Creative, where I spend my days, has kindly lent us time and resources.
What were some of the challenges of bringing Mo’ Money, Mo’ Progress to life?
One big challenge has been time constraints. Laura and I both work full-time, so this has been a classic nights-and-weekends labor of love.
But, the very biggest challenge has been getting people to donate. People have been so willing and eager to share the site -- it's been viewed by thousands of people in under two weeks -- but that has translated to fewer donations than we had anticipated, especially given the overwhelming positive response we receive at every turn. It's just plain hard to get people to give away their money.
How did you select the non-profits?
Vetting non-profits isn’t a science, but we want to break down the thought process—and rigor—behind our selections.
Within each category, we aimed to select organizations tackling distinct and timely issues. We strove for a balance of organizations working at the grassroots, within the legal system, and at the level of policy. We favored those that you may not have heard of, recognizing they may be overlooked this giving season.
For each category, we researched between 10-20 different organizations, investigating leadership, scouring press mentions, hitting up friends in the field, and of course pouring over financials.
For all 501(c)(3)s, we looked at the organizations’ 990 tax filings. Where possible, we investigated their Charity Navigator profiles as well, looking in particular at fundraising efficiency, CEO compensation, and the percentage of revenue going toward programming.
The list we’ve arrived at is by no means conclusive or exhaustive. In particular, in an attempt to make this resource broadly applicable, we skipped over some outstanding organizations working exclusively at a local level (Standing Rock excluded).
What social causes are you most passionate about?
I’ve been thinking a lot about intersectionality lately. It’s hard to pick a single cause since so many of them are intertwined -- Standing Rock is both environmental and racial justice oriented, Southerners on New Ground is a LGBTQ+, racial justice and immigrant cause. That said, I’ve always been a passionate feminist, and my undergraduate degree is in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. However women’s issues, too, extend throughout all of the areas we are focusing on.
Is there often a political or social edge to your work, or do you feel a certain immediacy these days?
Before we started Mo’ Money Mo’ Progress, there had not been much of a political or social edge to my work, but Laura spent the first six years of her career doing social impact work in the non and for profit sectors. As is the case with many progressives, the current state of affairs has definitely lit a fire under me to use my skills for action.
What do you see as the role of a creative in addressing these issues through their work?
Visual communicators, artists, musicians etc have the opportunity and responsibility to use our skills to move people to take action. Our ability to make confusing or disparate information engaging and easy to understand is essential.
What’s next for you?
Once the holiday season is over, we are going to to expand Mo’ Money Mo’ Progress to include resources related to volunteering and organizing, education (suggested reading and film lists), and other ways people can use their time or money or skills to continue fighting for our shared values.
Who are some other WNW Members whose work you admire and why?
Heidi Chisholm, I see her every day and yet her talent and good spirit never ceases to amaze and inspire me.
Jing Wei, I love the whimsy and fun in her work. I especially love her little monster creatures and the magical hairdos she uses in her illustrations.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If Mo’ Money Mo’ Progress strikes a cord with you, help us share it. Spread it around your company Slack channel, your Insta, Twitter and Facebook, send it to your mom or your Uncle Jerry. If you have ideas or comments or want to get involved, get in touch!