How I love crafting heartwarming holiday cards. Like Tiny Tim subverting the dominant paradigm of disability/charity.
You may not know this, but fundraising is a hotbed of subversion if you’re disabled (like me) and raising money to fight ableism instead of being used as an ableist prop by someone else.
You know what goes great with a paradigm shift? A new narrative.
One where disabled people lead the philanthropic work that affects them. As in:
You let me, a disabled donor, match your monthly gift that will support cross-disability civil and human rights defense led by disabled advocates at DREDF. If you take this action, you’ll be making a gift and helping make philanthropy more inclusive. So it is with real glee that I throw down this match offer to help support DREDF’s 40th year as our country’s leading cross-disability legal and policy defense fund:
If you become a DREDF monthly donor by 1/31/19, I will match your first $40. Ex.: If you give $20 per month, I will match the total of your first 2 months, or $40.
I’ll know it’s a match gift because you’ll include “Nothing about Tiny Tim, without Tiny Tim” in the note field of your online gift.
You may know me as the Queen of Sardonica or as A Crip in Philanthropy but my days are spent fundraising at DREDF where I’m often serious for up to entire minutes at a time.
Our education rights work alone tells you why: “Dickensian” describes schools that lock disabled students in closets, hold them face-down in 4-point restraints, and fail to teach them how to read.
Individual contributions are critical because both impact litigation and policy require a big investment of time and resources, and foundation funding for disability advocacy is scarce.
I’m a DREDF major donor now because I have complete trust in the integrity, independence, and brilliance that the staff (who are not me) bring to disability civil and human rights advocacy.
If you know, like I do, that DREDF has made the world better than it was 40 years ago, please join me in giving a year-end gift. Share DREDF with someone you know.
If a monthly thing isn’t for you right now, no problem. We appreciate every single gift that will fuel our 2019 work to defend those gains and – let’s hope – advance them over the next decades. Together!
THANK YOU AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Want in on the conversation about ableism? Check out what disabled advocates, civil and human rights activists, and philanthropic leaders had to say at the Twitter chat on 10/12/18 about philanthropy and inclusion. Then make your voice heard at #FundDisAdvocacy.
Foundation funding for disability advocacy dropped 23% between 2011-2015. Disabled people were the only group to see a decrease. Most funders are “aware” of disability but do they see ableism and structural discrimination? How do we make funders see disability civil and human rights as areas of actionable, urgent advocacy? A first step is recognizing disability as a constant but hidden set of variables in nearly all formulas for civil and human rights.
I’m writing to you in my capacity as a community organizer – which is another name for a social justice fundraiser.
I believe you and I share common ground on the importance of advocacy:
We know that the great civil and human rights gains of the last century, envisioned and organized by the grassroots, were built to last through the courts and legislation, and they will continue to be the battlefields for preserving them.
I’m writing because disability civil and human rights advocacy is missing from your funding portfolios.
The first step in changing that is frank communication.
When you do not explicitly say “disability” in funding advocacy, you send a message to us: Deny, disown, and downplay your disability identity. That denies all marginalized communities access to our hard-won legal tools and, worse yet, our expertise in using them.
You may understand this letter, at first, as pertaining to a discrete group: disabled people. But it is a fundamental mistake to think that civil and human rights for any community can be fully achieved if we neglect, forget, or disregard such a basic human condition as disability and allow it to be the “natural” cause of poverty and abuse. If we are not safe or free to be vulnerable, then we cannot call ourselves safe or free. Our society is not safe or free.
I represented DREDF in this conversation but it’s stirred up a big case of the feels about “choice” and being a liberal woman writer with a congenital disability, and the context this establishes for storytelling, and resisting and persisting. I continue, after 30 years of adult activism, to feel like I have an early shift of ableism — prepping the world to accept that I exist — while my nondisabled fellow human resisters and persisters get to sleep in. And if I weren’t white, conventionally educated, cis gendered, unthreateningly queer, and had all sorts of middle-class, married advantages, I’d probably never sleep at all. Image courtesy of the Disability Visibility Project.
Step 1: I Exist!
As many people who know me know — all too well — I’ve been writing a novel* for the past 400 years or so. The novel, The Cure for Gretchen Lowe, is the exploration of a what-if premise: What if a congenitally disabled woman were offered an experimental therapy that would cure her? The cure itself, Genetic Reparative Therapy (GRT), was never the point of the story because biomedical research, real or invented, never seemed like the most interesting part of the story. What I’ve been stuck on, like an oyster (or barnacle), since the idea first irritated my imagination was how I saw that my character’s situation began as a will-she-or-won’t-she question. From what I’ve observed in 50+ years of congenitally disabled life, that question isn’t typically a question to The Average Reader. “Well, of course a person like that would want GRT!”
I’ve considered that point of view quite a bit — 400 years allows for that — and much more seriously than I make it sound here. But that assumption also irritated me mightily: As a lifelong like-that-ter, I’ve run up against a lot of nonconsensual of-coursing when it comes to my bioethical choices. Simply opening my story — which I refer to as being “CripLit” — with a genuine choice, not a pro forma one, felt like I wrote in letters across the sky: I EXIST.
Sure, I’ve been critical of the charity fundraising model. Sure, I’ve had some harsh things to say about inspiration porn. And, yes, I’ve argued that children with disabilities can be valuable comestibles. None of that precludes me from providing a valuable Professional Fundraiser’s Assessment of the Shriners’ commercial above:
The problem with this ad for Shriners’ Hospital is that it doesn’t go far enough. It goes right up to the edge and hesitates.
Bottom line: If you’re not inspiring AND terrifying your audience, they’re not hearing why they should give to you to make you stop talking.
My 3-Point Pointers for Insperrifying™ Medical-Model Messaging (3M™)
- Love = Cure. You’ve laid the groundwork, now close the deal. You’ve got the kids believing love is about walking. Now have them say what you really mean: “My parents will hate me if I can’t walk!”
- Kids ♥ Begging. Whether it’s for a puppy or surgery, kids are world-class chin-tremblers. Yet you haven’t even given them the tools they need. What, Shriners’ can’t afford a couple of tin cups?
- Follow Your Non-Bliss. On-camera talent should appear in naturalistic settings that echo your message of disability = despair. A seclusion room in a badly run public school. Waiting at a stop where the bus rolls by them. Watching fundraising commercials for people “like that.”
Remember: Real World Fundraising™ measures itself on the Jerry Scale. On the Jerry Scale you have to scare to score!
Wishing you all a very happy #GivingTuesday on December 1st!