Sunday, January 04, 2009

behind the scenes of the Just Posts

The January Just Posts, the last anniversary gift of my social justice marriage to Mad are on the horizon. And while we've got some exciting news to unveil on the 12th, we thought we'd seize the opportunity to give you a glimpse of what has gone on behind the scenes over these past two years. The following string of emails starts in early November and ends in mid-December.

Jen: am probably getting ahead of myself but I can't help it. There's an organization in South Africa that Helena is involved with that needs our help and I was thinking of doing a call to action to raise some money. But if you aren't down with this I can do it on my own and tie it into the JPs in the piece that I write. i realize i'm getting all renegade and don't want to speak for both of us. but damn, they are only asking for $1.71 per kid to ensure they each have what they need for Xmas.

Jen, I appreciate your enthusiasm but I can't do this. I just can't. I am so swamped with work, volunteer and home projects right now that I am hardly reading anyone's blogs at all. I don't feel comfortable asking people for money at the best of times but given how bad a blog a citizen I've been these last few months, I feel especially uncomfortable about it all right now. Besides, such a call to action requires a commitment to blogging that I have lost. I can scarce muster the energy for a post or two a week. To be on the ball enough--in December no less--for a joint fundraiser? Nuh uh. I also can't see myself asking people for money during a recession at Christmas. That's all there is to it.

Jen: I understand. I do. It's totally fine. Sorry to barrage you with this. I can do it and not make it an official part of the JPs. I know the recession is scary. It's terrifying me in particular for poor people. Non profits are closing programs even as more people are in need. We've seen many NEW faces needing help every month. Every month. New. It's staggering.
I love you. Sorry for being pushy. I mean it.


Jen: The activist side of me says we can get one more community fundraising project done with our last hurrah. sorry i can't help myself. but we could. don't kick me.

Mad: Here are my thoughts on community fundraising: When we did the Just Post fundraiser in June 2007, I gave $100 to the small community fundraising project you advocated. (I think I gave some to it and some to Stephen Lewis, I can't remember exactly.) As far as the Stephen Lewis foundation goes, that org is not a one-off for me. I will continue to give to it over the years for a whole host of reasons most of which have to do with social justice but some of which are more practical, like getting a tax receipt and knowing that I can always find out its profile as a charitable org.

The group you advocated was a one-off donation for me. B/c it's an American org, I can't budget my giving b/c it is always contingent upon the value of my dollar. I get no tax receipt to help maximize my gift, and it's not as easy to keep track of the organization. The problem with one-off gifts, though, is that the organization in question never believes any gift is a one-off. In the year and a half since I gave to said organization, I have received numerous funding requests from them. Each one has spent at least $2 American in postage--not to mention the costs of printing promotional material and photographs. This organization may have heart but it is not very well run administratively: just last week I received, all on the same day, 4 identical, huge envelopes promoting their Christmas campaign. The cost in postage alone was more than $14 US. By now, they have spent as much, if not more, than my original gift simply trying to woo me back. This breaks my heart b/c it feels as if I simply threw my money out the window when I could have invested it more wisely closer to home.

So -- fundraising. It is my fervent belief that if we are going to ask people for money, we should encourage them to pick an organization that they believe in and then ask them to take the leap to becoming an ongoing supporter. Who can't afford $10 or $20 a month deducted regularly from their account or put on their VISA? (I'm sure most of our readers do some form of this anyway.) This kind of giving is the only sure fire way to maximize the impact of the giving. If we were to ask that and then ask people to name the org and write a post about it, we could have a right proper send off next month WITH a lasting legacy. Just trying to be astute and not a killjoy. What think you?

Jen:You've nailed some of the principle laments of NPOs. We must keep asking. We ask and ask and ask and sometimes, yes, it costs more to ask than sometimes we receive. I suppose I'll forever fall into the camp of grassroots organizing. If it might cost $200 to house a child for a year in South Africa, then we can all give $10 and get it done without a major impact on any one person. Plus we collectively stood up against that issue.

And I suppose it frustrates me when folks say they have no money. They say they have no money in their nice car with their latte. They say they have no money as they buy four gifts instead of two. Some people really have no money, their budget keeps them housed and fed and that is literally and only all there is. I know this too.

People are dying every single day because we all have our heads up our asses in terms of resources distribution. We can't solve any of that b/c we get 30 people to give $5. I know this too.

One of the things that scares me a bit about our move is being broken hearted by new injustices of poverty in a 3rd world country. Sometimes I don't know how to manufacture my heart to beat any other way, I see the discrepancies and I literally feel I could go batshit crazy. I see my own hypocrisies and want to beat myself around the head. Last night I helped a mom w/ a four day old baby make a bed for herself on my concrete floor surrounded by 100 people from the streets. I had M with me so at first I think she thought I was staying there too. When I said to her that it was time to go she looked at me and said "you aren't staying?". So my 4-yr-old daughter asked if we could spend the night and yet I knew I would never, ever allow it and if I truly wanted to I could have let these people sleep at my house too. Instead her baby slept on the concrete floor wrapped in old blankets. He is four days into this world in the fucking united states of america. We drove home in a car with heat and had a snack with food from our fridge and went to bed in our home. He slept on the floor.

This work of mine has colored me. I like to think it's been for the best but i really do not know. You are balance. You can see the world in a way that I struggle to. It's more pragmatic. My way is an inconsistent albatross. It's a long way of saying I hear you. I do. And your way is a good way. Folks choose how they want if they want where they want and it's good.

Mad: Yes. Folks choose where they want to give BUT WE INSIST THAT THEIR GIFT BE SIGNIFICANT AND ONGOING. We can even recommend orgs that we believe in. It is the only way. What we should do, Jen, is post these email exchanges. Your heart and your dire f-ing reality vs my pragmatic head. We've walked a tightrope with this for two years straight. I think the Just Posts have been made better by the way we balance each other out. We have both changed considerably b/c of our conversations off-blog. Let's say goodbye by making those conversations, that struggle, public.

Jen: I'm in.

Dear Readers, What say you? Are you a pragmatist or a Heart of Gold? Or are you some other kind of hybrid altogether? Will you join us in becoming an ongoing financial supporter of a cause you believe in? Will you write about it on your blogs or in your tweets? Will you help to raise money AND the profile of organizations that desperately need aid?

And that's what we are asking for as our farewell gift. Send us your link by the 8th and we'll include it in our last Just Post Roundtable on the 12th. You can send your links to me at girlplustwo(at)yahooDOTcom.

Cross posted under Mad's hat.

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Kyla said...

I love you two.

deezee said...

I'm really glad you posted this dialogue.

I confess that I've been bothered by the degree of solicitation by the same organization the Mad discusses. I understand the depth of the need (okay, maybe it's impossible to understand the depth of the need), but I am now unwilling to further contribute to this specific organization. Maybe that is failure in me, but I feel put off, and I now feel more careful about my contributions.

I think I also fall between the two of you. No, wait. I'm far off to some odd sideline because I don't do a fraction of what you both do!

I applaud you both and cherish the awareness you create.

metro mama said...

Sean and I are very pragmatic when it comes to our donations (though I'll do the occasional small one-off at the request of someone I know, we both feel strongly we're more effective to choose one charity and give a significant amount.) Though the charity has varied over the years, these days we've decided to stick with Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders).

I will try to get my post up by the 8th!

thailandchani said...

Living on a fixed income, my contributions are certainly far from earth shattering and I have to be very pragmatic about the amounts and the organization. There are two or three critical questions that have to be answered before I'll contribute. There has to be no cultural hegemony, no propaganda and the majority of the money has to go to helping the people it purports to help.

I have one or two favorites and that's generally what I stick with.


Christine said...

i posted this at mad's, but wanted to put it here, too:
right now it probably won't do much good to explain how when or why i give or who i give too. writing about it on my blog isn't practical as i have almost no more readership.

i do my best and will continue to give of my time and money when possible to those in need.

thanks to both of you for the just posts. they were inspirational and moving. your dedication to helping those around you will continue to inspire me. my time as a blogger is fading, but i'll always remember the just post series.

flutter said...

like I said at mad's house, I am totally in. even when I have little, others have less

Anonymous said...

As tweaked as I was by getting all that mail last month, I'm definitely in the heart of mush group, though this is a very good time to hit me up for an ongoing commitment, as I do like to change from time to time and will be working out our annual budget this week.

Cold Spaghetti said...

Now I remember why I am officially 'that woman who is interested in Belize's health data' with the country's ministry. Because any one who writes:

"People are dying every single day because we all have our heads up our asses in terms of resources distribution."

Is totally and completely someone I want to work with. Nailed. It.

I'm afraid this post made me hop on the soap box... I just hope I didn't jump too hard and burst it through.

I'm pragmatist truly. Yes, yes, I am. But my heart is there and true and what I want more than anything in the world is to keep putting it before that practical pragmatist. That's what I'm aiming for a bit each day.

Here's the soap box. Oye.

QT said...

I, too, have a few causes that I give to on an ongoing basis. But I definitely fall in the pragmatist camp 100%.

alejna said...

I'm so glad you've shared this.

I will take your words to heart.

hele said...

Sister. I don't know. I'm struggling to write a post in response to this but I have so many conflicting emotions on this issue I struggle to find my voice.

I have seen money going to causes resulting in the communities on the receiving end feeling humiliated and bitter. I have seen people make good money from working as consultants in the assisting the poor industry.

I have seen L loose first her social life, then her income and lastly her health. I have seen how little things have changed in the community she assists. I have also seen how much things have changed. Children who learn new skills, confidence and trust that no-one can ever take away from them. Adults who are now ready to teach others what they have learned about permaculture.

Should we give to an organization so far away that we don't know how much money reach those we want to help? Should we rather find someone close to home and try form a relationship where we allow them the dignity of mutual aid. Should we rather stop supporting the systems that surround us which feeds on inequality?

I don't think there is an answer yet I dream of a time were each person on this planet starts asking these questions of themselves and of others.

Magpie said...

The two of you rock. I loved reading this exchange. Really.

carrie said...

I can't thank you enough for getting my family and I, especially my son, involved in raising funds for Open Arms Home for Children in South Africa. The efforts of Wyatt's fundraising blog last spring completely knocked my socks off (who knew a 3rd grader could make such an impact?) and their organization is, and forever will be part of our giving, all year long.

I have you to thank for that.

As far as locally, I just keep on doing what I can - giving as much as I can when I can and trying to help others find a way to give as well. I'm certain I'll be like this the rest of my life.

Beck said...

I think that insisting that financial gifts be "consistent and ongoing" can be exclusionary to people who are NOT in a financially secure situation but who want to feel like they're doing some good.

Her Bad Mother said...

You two? Are wonderful. The spirit of this is extraordinary.

Janet said...

I am pragmatic.

We tend to give to the same causes, year after year, but the giving only occurs once per year for each organization. Much of it is community-based giving. I would like to do something monthly because, right now, we can. I just need to figure out where to focus. Thanks for the impetus. I admire you both intensely.

crazymumma said...

This year I am flinty with organizations and free with those on the street in my everyday.

i love how you two, you relative honeymooners, speak with each other.