Sarah Fritschner: 5 Questions

Sarah Fritschner wears many hats. Kentucky native. Journalist and food writer. Cookbook author. Wife, mom of two, and grandmother. A value chain coordinator who matched local farmers to markets in her home state. In 2020 Sarah also became a Giving Circle Leader of the Bluegrass Blue Wave Giving Circle for North Carolina. 

What attracted you to working in the political space?

“Since 2016 I’ve been severely depressed and wondering what I could do. I’m a person who looks for solutions. I believe everyone’s strengths are also their weaknesses, and trying to solve a problem is a great thing to do, but it’s also hard when the problems are big.

“I marched. I went to meetings. I went to town halls where they put up the cardboard cutout of Mitch McConnell, because he would never show up in Louisville because we’re this tiny little blue bubble in this big red state. I donated like 50 bucks to Doug Jones, 100 bucks to Amy McGrath, but what is that going to do? I volunteered at the Democratic Committee, but I just didn’t feel like I had any agency.”

How did you first hear about The States Project? 

“I ran across Give Smart for the Virginia campaign and I gave money because the Virginia candidates were having a door-knocking contest. And I met Melissa. I started getting on her Giving Circle zoom calls, and really what got me was that it was basically “have a party, support a cause.” 

“The whole idea of cooking, inviting people over, having a party raising money, was a great use of my skills. I know a lot of people; I was a journalist here for 25 years. People know my name. I just thought, ‘This is the way to go.’ This made me feel like I had agency, that if five of us, or eight of us could get together and raise $3,500––I felt like we could move the needle a little bit.” 

Tell us about a standout moment in your Giving Circles work this past cycle:

The thing is, you’re not supposed to start a Giving Circle by yourself. You’re supposed to do it with co-leaders. But the girlfriend I wanted to work with didn’t want to be a co-leader. She said she’d do anything I wanted, email all her friends, but she didn’t want to lead. So that held me up a little bit. 

I was walking with another friend and telling him all of this, and he said “Just do it.” 

So I started by myself and then other people got involved. In that first zoom call, we had eight or ten people. They were all excited and on-board, and that’s when we went from a $3,500 goal to a $10,000 goal.

What did you learn through your work as a Giving Circle Leader?

“I always say that the reason I started was because of my state representation, particularly Mitch McConnell. I read a New Yorker article on Mitch McConnell, and I realized he’s all about money and power. And the only way to counteract that is to be about money and power. How can I be about money and power? I can get my friends together, pool money that makes a difference, and then collectively we have the power. If we get enough of us together, then we are powerful. 

I learned that the community is bigger and more generous than I’d ever thought. I didn’t think it wasn’t trusting, but you know, people are just ready to send $50 or $100 because their friend asked them to, and those are all people who believe in what their friends are doing. I learned that I need to be more trusting, more open to the trust people give me. My husband said, ‘You know you’ve been in this community for 30 years writing for the newspaper, and doing all this work with farmers, people know that your motives are good.’”

How does your work with TSP make you feel about the future?

“There’s a lot of work to do. Organizing and building power is a multi-year effort. I’m doing this one little thing in this one little part of the universe, but I feel like I’m contributing to the coalescence. I’m a cog, I’m not a big mover, but again with all the cogs, we can make one thing move. I’m still troubled about the future, but I’m very relieved that I think I found a one-person-sized solution that lets me use my talent and resources in a way that helps.”