Help Pay BIPOC SWs & Expand Our Membership
Hi, it’s your old reliable SW Co-op and Emergency Fund here! In the six years we’ve existed, we’ve seen our community through the shutdown of Backpage’s Adult section, SESTA/FOSTA plus the entire shutdown of Backpage, and now we’re facing our largest crisis yet as we move into the extended phases of the Covid pandemic. And we've done it subsisting on only about 1000/month in recurring donations and a handful of larger donations and fundraisers though each year since 2018!
As one of the longest standing public facing funds for SWs in the US, we have seen a steep rise in our request volume as the pandemic rages on and many newer funds are starting to close or pause assistance, but we’re still here and now responding to requests and sending out funds to workers across the nation 5-7 days a week without interruption even as much out of the outpouring of donations that occurred at the beginning of the pandemic have slowed!
Since April of 2021 we have now formally adopted 96 (and soon likely even more!) members from a pool of participants who have previously recieved funds from us to make us the ONLY fund of this type that we are aware of to have built in this type of member-led model into our approach to offering funds (although this approach is heavily influenced by groups we partner with like Whose Corner is it Anyway). As of August 16 2022, we are sending out our first paid mamber vote and the announcement of a paid writing workshop for our members to participate in with stipends funded by the first grant we have ever qualified through in our history through the Effing Foundation!!!
We would like to keep these member stipends going on a more frequent basis, to raise amounts from the fund back to the full 200 amounts for multiply marginalized POC SWs, and raise a new round of stipends for some returning and hopefully some new core members as well as provide facilitation stipends for members who would like to lead workshops or skillshares for other members and we need your help to make this happen!
Our Fundraising Goals:
-Open up more inclusive stipend work to more members of our community. We could use more hands on deck, especially for keeping up with posts to social media, fundraising, organizing meetings, coming up with ways to improve the accessibility of the fund to street based workers, building up new leadership capacity, and maintaining longer term relationships with folks who we assist with funds. Offering remote, flexible, low pressure, paid work as a longer term mechanism of support while there is so much added risk to seeing in person clients seems like both an important investment in the long term well being of our community and in our own growth and maintenance. We’re already building partnerships with groups like Whose Corner is it Anyway and Brooklyn G.H.O.S.T. Project to this effect and would love to be able to offer a higher level of resource sharing to members of these groups and others doing similar work. Once we have raised enough to build a budget for this we'll start posting available positions! Like everything else we do payment will be sliding scale and priority will go to multiply marginalized workers, especially ones who were working in person and are moving to trying to monetize their online presences.
-Expand our membership and build up a restructuring budget. After almost 3 years of working on restructuring in conjunction with responding to the pandemic, we now have 96 formal members who are about to participate in their first paid member vote and a paid writing workshop!!! Re-structuring as a member led cooperative is a necessary part of maintaining our longevity that we had planned to be taking on the spring before Covid hit and responding to the pandemic while many of our own core members have been experiencing housing and income instability has significantly slowed this process. Despite these challenges, in December of 2020 we kicked off the beginning of this process by conducting a paid survey among people we had previously assisted with funds. In April-June 2021, we conducted paid member interviews with 85 of the initial 150 people who had been interested in membership before having to pause interviews due to lack of funding. We have kept the offer of membership open to new fund recipients, and as of August 2022 have 96 formal members with the option of a paid member interview open to everyone who recieves funds from us.
Our membership is currently made up of 67% Queer and/or Trans members, 79% PoC members, 74% Chronically ill or Disabled members, 62% houseless or housing instable members, and 45% parenting or caregiving members who could all use more ongoing support than small amounts of cash assistance a few times a year!
-Set up a cooperative funding pool and work on developing larger scale support options for members. CARES Act assistance has ended with many SWs unable to qualify, many new people have entered the industry out of desperation after losing other income sources and housing, and community based donations to mutual aid funds has slowed as needs greatly increase. One time assistance for most of our current applicants is just not enough to make much of a difference in these circumstances. 152 of our survey respondents reported experiencing housing instability, with 15 additionally reporting that they were currently houseless or being evicted. In more detailed member interviews 62% of our new members reported being houseless or housing instable. The most frequently mentioned housing barriers were:
No proof of income/income instability 77
Need larger scale financial resources 58
Cost of living too high/gentrification 20
Credit score 20
Record/warrants/arrest/legal issues 11
Prior eviction/lack of rental history 6
Disability/chronic illness 4
Mental illness/substance use 4
No ID 3
Other barriers mentioned were lack of child care, lack of transportation, Landlord issues, immigration status, age, and abuse.
If we're able to raise enough we'd like to be able to offer larger scale assistance towards things like housing needs and put together a funding share pool through which we could set up some membership perks like sliding scale monthly payouts from this cooperative pool. If we are able to raise enough funds to begin this project we'll release details on what membership etc... will look like. If we are not able to raise enough through this fundraising effort we'll probably still try to find a way to move forward with filling out this plan through additional sources.
-Bring back the full $200 amounts to workers in areas that do not have other funds. We have spent most of 2021 and 2022 only able to offer $50 every six months in most cases as we continue to see a high level of need in our community despite having a consistently low balance in the fund. Workers in smaller and more conservative areas face very different challenges to organizing and community building than those in more metropolitan, liberal parts of the country. As many of these cities now have at least one or more additional mutual aid funds going for workers in their areas, we want to be able to focus on getting these resources to workers who don’t have other options to turn to. We will continue to offer amounts of $50-$100 to workers to supplement amounts offered by other funds or in cases where our faster request turnaround is required to meet a time sensitive need.
-Partnering on business development. After several years of routinely being turned down for grants and having to rely primarily on fundraising to maintain our level of growth during SESTA/FOSTA and the pandemic, it seems like focusing on these alone as primary funding sources is not a good long term option for groups like ours that center specifically on offering funds directly to individuals. The power of support that comes with solidarity from SW business owners is apparent in the no-strings attached funding we’ve received from entrepreneurial artists and event producers like Emily Iris, the Kink Out crew, Stoya, and Jacq the Stripper. Supporting the buildup of SW businesses was already a part of our mission statement, but recently we’ve been looking at this more seriously as a necessary means to generate long term, sustainable funding and income for our community that exists outside of non-profit systems. To this end we’ve been working on partnering with POC SWOP for the past two years to help build up businesses owned by Black SWs, that benefit marginalized SWs, and that put profits directly back into our community. As of our 6 year anniversary in November of 2022 we have now fromally filed our new joint entity Rouge Support Network LLC and will be operating under this name for banking and money handling porposes moving forward! This is a long term goal that we don’t have specific numbers attached to yet, but the more successful our fundraising efforts are now, the more we will be able to focus on developing our own structures to get us through this crisis and hopefully make us more prepared to tackle whatever is coming next.
-After yet another hiatus due to lack of funding, we would like to resume our $125/week stipends for Jenna, Jae, E'jira, and Yaya from $125/wk and add more core members from our members through a voting process if possible. This is to both help compensate them for their work with us and to further their own community work. We know many new funds are very proud of being entirely volunteer run and we have struggled to raise these stipends in the past. Please keep in mind that doing volunteer labor for extended periods is much easier for high end workers, able bodied workers, workers who have partners/families with stable income, former workers who have successfully transitioned to other reliably paid advocacy work, white cis workers, and workers who are not supporting families. Everyone in our community is experiencing significant income and lifestyle upheaval and the people organizing community aid are no exception to needing financial support right now! (We do not and have never had funding for any type of full time paid positions and pay stipends on a sliding scale basis with the expectation that more privileged workers contribute on a volunteer basis)
Thank you for reading, sharing and contributing! Our community has done so much to get us this far and we are incredibly appreciative of how SWs come together to care for each other when times get tough.
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