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What Is a Donor Activist?

Sharon Kyle: Lori Grace didn't know exactly why she has strayed from her family's Republican roots, but thought that a trip she had taken to India when she was 26 years old may have been a turning point.

As the publisher of the LA Progressive, I'm often invited to co-sponsor events for progressive causes in Southern California. As a consequence of accepting these invitations, I sometimes meet fascinating people I would not have met otherwise. This piece is about one such person.

Lori Grace Progressive Donor Activist

Her name is Lori Grace. Ms. Grace will be honored for her role in protecting election integrity and supporting environmental causes at a fundraiser for the Progressive Magazine tomorrow -- Sunday -- in Santa Monica. Look for details below.

Because Ms. Grace, a woman of means, contributes to these causes, she is known in some circles as a philanthropist. But shortly into our telephone interview, I got the sense that Lori did a lot more than contribute money to causes. She also invests a considerable amount of personal energy which was evident by the number of times our conversation was interrupted for one urgent matter after another. Apologizing and then explaining that she was helping to organize several events – her dedication resonated with me and I thought – "Oh, this is a kindred spirit".

Although she had been characterized to me as a wealthy philanthropist, I wanted to know how she'd describe herself, Lori said, “I wouldn't say that I'm a philanthropist. I like to think of myself as a 'donor activist.'"'. I asked her to elaborate. She explained very matter of factly that she had wealth and used it to contribute to causes. She even co-founded a non-profit organization, The Threshold Foundationwhose mission is to mobilize money, people and power to create a more just world. But, she said, “I don't have the wealth of a Warren Buffet, so -- in addition to giving money -- I work”. Apparently, based on the number of efforts she is involved in, Lori works a lot.

She is active in the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment Defense Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Since training with Al Gore at the Climate Project in 2007, she has committed herself to teaching people how to substantially reduce their carbon output. She is a leader in the alternative fuels movement (both ethanol and biodiesel). She works with the Pachamama Alliance which connects indigenous wisdom with modern knowledge for a just sustainable world.

In addition to her work with the Threshold Foundation, she is also the Founder and Director of Sunrise Center, a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers the growth of a community by providing workshops and classes at its facility in Northern California. After 10 years of studying conflict resolution with Marshall Rosenberg, Lori practices and teaches Compassionate Communication (also known as NVC, or Nonviolent Communication). Then there is her work with election integrity where she has aligned forces with Bev Harris and Black Box Voting. The list goes on.

When we spoke, she had just returned to her California home after spending the holidays with her son and family on the East Coast. Coming from a Republican family, she avoided discussing political issues. Her return home meant that she had a lot of catching up to do.

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After learning about her comfortable background and Republican roots I was curious about what drove her – why was she so different from her family. She admitted that she didn't have an answer to that question but thought that a trip she had taken to India when she was 26 years old may have been a turning point for her.

In India she came to see that great differences in wealth lead to poverty which, she believes, is at the heart of crime and a host of other social ills. Commenting on the wealthy paying their fair share in taxes, Lori said, “I think it is fine to pay more taxes because less economic division leads to more peace”. She said she didn't think the wealthy should pay less taxes. “I know I pay as much of a percentage of my income in taxes as my secretary,” adding that huge economic differences lead to breakdowns in society that ultimately have a negative impact on everyone.

sharon kyle

Sharon Kyle

Lori Grace and I only spent about 20 minutes on the phone because we both had other commitments, but I look forward to our face-to-face meeting at the fundraiser in Santa Monica on Sunday and hope you'll join us.

Our conversation ended with her talking about campaigning with John Kerry in Orlando, Florida, and the power of “empathic canvasing”. All I could say was “I can't wait to hear more”. I'll be there with bells on.

Sharon Kyle


Please join Co-Hosts

Aris Anagnos, Cynthia Anderson & Tim Barker, Sylvia Aroth, Zane & Ricky Averbach,, Chris Bennett, Peter and Roz Bonerz, Joe Cicero, Jeff Cook, Gleam Davis (Santa Monica City Council member), Larry Frank ( LA City Deptuy Mayor), Lila Garrett, Lori Grace, Lyle Gregory, Chris Harding & Laurie Lieberman, Patricia Hoffman & Gene Oppenheim, Sharon Kyle, Jerry Manpearl & Jan Goodman, Nina & Marc Merson, Torie Osborn, Ed Pearl, Ilene Proctor, Ed Rampell, Will Ryan, Stanley & Betty Sheinbaum, Paul Allan Smith, Suzanne Thompson, Carl Volpe, and Dino Zonic, Dorothy Reik

Sunday -- 2:30 pm, December 2, 2012

Raise Cash and Consciousness for


Since 1909

Jim Hightower speaks

Jackson Browne sings


Ruth Conniff, Political Editor of The Progressive, (contributor, The Ed Schultz show, MSNBC)

Matthew Rothschild, Editor & Publisher of The Progressive

Will Durst, stand-up comic

Stay tuned for more progressive celebrities joining us

And Honoring Pioneer Philanthropist Lori Grace for her role protecting Election Integrity and Environmental Causes


At the Home of Jerry Manpearl & Jan Goodman

939 San Vicente Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90402

(N-W CORNER OF Larkin/10th & San Vicente Blvd)

2:30 (program 3pm)

$100 Donation Requested

$75 - Members of ADA, PDLA Sholem, SM, Palisades & Culver Democratic Clubs



310-458-7213 or

 Online Reservations and Donations: Go to

In the “Acknowledgment” box, write 12/2/12 and the number of tickets