The Power of Giving
Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a simple concept in mind: Dedicate an entire day to efforts that encourage people to do good. Since then, it has grown into a year-round global movement inspiring hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity. We love the Giving Tuesday time of year because it centers acts of kindness in all its forms at the very same time we are culturally encouraged to “give thanks' ', and at the same time that we navigate complicated retail concepts of giving. But regardless of how you spread joy, it’s really about making someone smile, helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving some of what we have to those who need our help. Every act of generosity counts; everyone has something to contribute toward building the better world we can all live in.
What isn’t simple is the myriad of ways one can participate in Giving Tuesday, especially when the world feels like it’s in a constant state of chaos, with active destruction of countries, communities and families everywhere, and where the fragility of our very existence feels hyper-present. It's easy to be overwhelmed! So let’s break down the ways to participate in Giving Tuesday in a way that is manageable, helpful and lends real meaning to the values behind this global effort.
The Gift of Time
Time is the most precious resource any of us have because once it's gone, it's gone forever. The clock - and its evil twin, “the calendar” - keep ticking in a forward direction and we are neither able to stop it, redo it or rewind it. As Saint Dolly Parton says “Time marches on and sooner or later you realize it is marching across your face”. This quote isn’t just representative of wrinkles or aging; this is about how time affects your demeanor, your outlook and how you express yourself to the world. When we give of our time to a specific cause or movement, we are sharing the thing we have the least of…the thing that is the most uncertain…the thing that is the most fleeting.
When we volunteer the valuable and finite resources of our time, it's completely natural to want to get a little bit of satisfaction that we accomplished something positive. We want to know it was meaningful. We want to know it made a difference. We want to know it was time well spent. We want to know we didn’t waste our time.
The Gift of Talent
If you have a unique skill or professional expertise, you can use this talent to give back to your community, or anywhere there is a need. “Pro bono” services are not only rewarding but also highly valued because they provide a service or expertise that is often out of reach for the recipients. This kind of giving is incredibly helpful because it provides a service or expertise that is often far more expensive or sophisticated than what individuals, families or organizations could afford or acquire on their own. But professionals like lawyers, doctors, dentists and even therapists are not always particularly knowledgeable of the needs and challenges of many of our movement oriented social justice issues, carried under the weight of capitalism, trauma and fear. Additionally, because of the complications that most clients from vulnerable populations require, there is rarely a perfect fit with professional expertise, and it can sometimes take an army of lawyers, physicians and other professionals to manage the needs of a single client. And while these kinds of professionals are technically donating their talent, they also invest a great deal of time - the most precious resource - to serve the needs of their community.
The Gift of Treasure
Much has been said about donating money - or treasure - in the past three years as Covid laid bare the huge gaps in assistance to vulnerable and marginalized populations. Mutual Aid, or the direct donation of resources to individuals from individuals, gained a great deal of popularity and research has indicated that this kind of direct giving is indeed the most helpful and can really make a difference if all the other pieces are in place for an individual to find the things they need. Since 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has eroded confidence in the ability of the government to perform its most basic functions. This loss of faith in the state has been accompanied by a renewed belief in the voluntary and reciprocal care of others, commonly referred to as mutual aid. Demonstrations of direct giving characterizes mutual aid as solidarity, not charity, and stands in stark contrast with the conservative faith in tax havens that masquerade as philanthropy. These two philosophies converge on critiques of the government’s capacity and willingness to provide for the many.
But Mutual Aid can’t do it alone. In fact, none of us can. The gaps that prevent the tangible and intangible things people need to not just survive, but to thrive, require an “All Hands On Deck” approach where each of the pillars of giving are utilized to manifest meaningful change. The more we work to bridge a gap, more gaps are exposed.
As Giving Tuesday approaches, we hope you consider all the different ways you can contribute to the things you care about with these three pillars of giving. And we hope that you will consider allowing SWOP Behind Bars to be a part of your philanthropic strategy.
SWOP Behind Bars recognizes the importance of the many ways to donate your valuable Time, Talent and/or Treasure and our opportunities to serve are a perfect fit for many of our community members and allies.
To donate your time…SWOP Behind Bars hosts a membership database of incarcerated people who have written in and expressed a desire to communicate with people who are outside the walls of prisons either on a one time only basis 4 times a year. This Winter Holiday season, you can sign up to send cards and letters to 10, 25 or even 50.
If you are looking for a little something to add to a holiday event or with friends that also support Incarcerated Sex workers, plan a Pen Pal Party and send cards and letters of encouragement to some who need it more than you could possibly imagine! We have Incarcerated Pen Pals in 35 of 50 States and they would love to hear from you! Live or travel Internationally? Our incarcerated members LOVE to get postcards from abroad and you don't have to wait around for a response!
Mentor By Mail
If you want to extend your generous gift of Time with an ongoing exchange or letters and emails to incarcerated folks, you can combine this donation of Time with your Talent of lived experience and become a Mentor by Mail to up to three Incarcerated Pen Pals.
Mail to Incarcerated Sex Workers is a Harm Reduction Strategy, especially people who have traded sex and queer and transgender folks! Mail Call often happens in public spaces in the prison. When someone hears their name called by a prison guard during a Mail Call, it is a reminder that people on the outside care about that person. It is also a message to the guards and other incarcerated people that this person has support and is not forgotten.
Time PLUS Talent!
If you are a former or current sex worker or a survivor of exploitation, domestic violence or have expertise in non-judgemental listening and problem solving, this highly valued Talent can be put to use by volunteering with SWOP Behind Bars by answering our National Community Support Line or Chat for Support.
We have as little as dedicated 5 hour monthly increments with a wide array of available time slots and training for the Community Support Line will be starting in January.
Talent and Experitise
We are accepting applications for the Spring Semester of interns for students of Social Work, Political Science and Public Health, as well as a robust program of Organizational oversight for students seeking their Masters or Doctorate within these same fields.
Send your updated resume to firstname.lastname@example.org and schedule a time to speak with one of our Program Directors about these unlimited possibilities!
You can send books to incarcerated Sex Workers and Survivors from their custom created Amazon Wishlist! It's a great way to easily and quickly provide support and encouragement to people who are experiencing the repercussions of criminalization!
Our wishlists are updated monthly and be sure that you include a gift receipt so your gift isn't turned away by the facility!
And finally, your direct donation to SWOP Behind Bars is greatly appreciated and allows us to provide the valuable services of support that “filling the gap” of desperately needed assistance for our most vulnerable community members in the areas of Mutual Aid, Communication, Case Management, Urgent Housing, Food, Court Support and Transportation. Financial Donations to SWOP Behind Bars allow us to continue to provide a light in the dark for those who need it most! We are a 501(c)(3) organization and your deduction is tax deductible!