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A couple quickies (not the fun kind)

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Submitted by Heather Corinna on Wed, 2014-03-05 11:18

Just posting to make a quick addition to this post to clarify a couple important things.

While people are being mostly incredibly supportive of us right now -- and we can't thank you enough, but will do our best to try in another post soon where we can talk about nothing but how awesome some of you are -- we've seen a few comments out and about that either aren't so supportive, but which also advance some misunderstandings or misinformation.

I want to make sure we address them so we can all be on the same page. These are the two statements or sentiments -- which are probably just based in false assumptions -- I want to address:

1) We're in this spot because clearly we have just needed someone to do fundraising full-time from or for our organization, and we are silly not to know that.

We so need that! In other words, we agree! Just not with the silly part.

Labor costs money, and professional fundraisers, particularly, do not come cheap. We don't have money. We have never had that kind of money. We have typically barely had enough to work with to even pay me, our executive director, for all my hours (let alone pay me anything close to fairly for them), or the couple part-time freelancers we have needed over the years now and then to keep things running smoothly here and have been able to figure out a way to compensate. A criticism that we obviously just don't have enough staff or the help we need is what's silly, because we know that, and that's part of what we've been trying to make clear now, and over many years now.

Every now and then, people who fundraise have volunteered us a little of their time, which has been greatly appreciated. But those offers have been few and far between, and to date, that help has not resulted in a real fix to all of this, even temporarily. And it won't, sometimes: just like sex educators aren't magicians, neither are fundraisers. Even those who are great at the work they do can't hit it out of the park every time.

As we all know, there are only so many hours is a day, and for most people, ourselves included, there are also limits on our individual skills and talents. We're really good at providing sex education and creating new models for it. We're really good at connecting with those who we serve. We're less good at fundraising. You just can't be good at everything. But even if we were amazing at all of those things, there are very few hands-on-deck here in the first place, and there is still also only so much work we can do in a day.

If we can start getting some real financial footing, and have the money to hire someone to expressly work on fundraising for us, you can bet your bottom we will be doing just that. We are very much aware that this is one of the needs we have. So aware.

2) If we had just properly used the financial stability we had when we started, and when it was clear Scarleteen was landing with the people we served, we wouldn't be in this spot right now.

Had we ever had any real funding or financial stability to work with, we'd agree. The thing is, we haven't. Ever. We get assuming we have, as we've done a lot of work and have been around a lot of time, so it might seem like we had to have had something really good to work with at one time or another. But all of that's far more a testament to our dedication and stubbornness than it is to us ever having any stable, sound funding to work with.

We have never had more than $60,000 in an annual budget to work with in a year, and most years we have had considerably less than that. What we're looking for now is not only support to help us keep all our doors open but to hopefully, ideally, give us a little bit of a leg up so we can finally have the chance to BE in a position of financial stability to work with.

It's important, I think, to realize that Scarleteen was not planned. It was something that very organically grew out of young people first contacting me over 15 years ago via a different website, asking for answers and help, and I responded, because when someone needs a thing and asks me for it and I can give it to them, I give it to them. (If you're interested in a bit more on that history, this talk I gave and transcribed in 2009 is a good place to start.) But those asks increased incredibly fast, and Scarleteen grew like one of those little sponge animals you just add water to that look so small at first and then very quickly, become many times their initial size. Well, if any of them could grow to be skyscraper size, that is. And when we started, I was living in a largely unheated basement generously rented to me at a discount by the kind parent of a once-student of mine because I was otherwise at great risk of becoming homeless, even before I started this. That's the kind of amazing financial stability we started with, y'all.

When we started, we were funded by whatever pennies I could personally throw into this from my own pockets from doing other work, all while also doing this work. All of our content, our design and development, all the things, happened because either I did them myself, without them being funded at all, or got some help from friends. Like a lot of indie businesses, I kept doing other jobs while staying up nights to do this one until there was simply no time or way to really do both full-time and I decided to go all-in with this, knowing full well it would be a struggle, but figuring it was very much worth it. And it is.

We've been racing to keep up with all of this from the get-go, and often by the seat of our pants in so many ways, because before we started doing this, there really was no model, at all, for sex education the way we do it. There was no one to consult on what we were doing or how because we were truly the first of our kind.

What didn't happen at any point though, despite us never having the kind of support we needed, was what most typically, and understandably happens: we didn't close down or stop working even though we were not adequately supported. We -- and by we, I mean myself, our volunteers, the supporters we have had, wonderful people in my life who lend me their support -- just kept slogging on doing what we could to get at least some of the support we needed, and fueling the Scarleteen engine, as it were, with primarily blood, sweat, tears and more than our fair share of coffee.

However, as we have again been saying for a very long time, largely self-sustaining can just only work for so long, especially with the level and breadth of service we have provided, still provide and very much want to keep providing.

We are very much hoping that maybe, just maybe, this year is the year we can not only keep the whole thing from going under, but finally start on our feet in a real way. And if that happens and we blow that? Then by all means, that critique will then be beyond valid. But what we do matters deeply to us, and the whole team here at Scarleteen and deeply intelligent, committed people. I feel confident saying that if we can finally get some stability, we're not going to blow it: we're going to do things at least as amazing as we have done without it, and probably much more amazing with it.

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By the by, should anyone have questions like this, or assumptions they're making without information about us, information they want, please know you can always leave comments on a post like this, and we will answer them, or email us. One of the hallmarks of Scarleteen as an organization is that we are intensely engaged with our users and supporters, and when asked to engage, we do. There's no need to make guesses or assumptions with us, you can always just ask. :)

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