Giving the Gift of Excellent Sexuality Education and Support

holiday_giftIf you're someone who takes part in end-of-year giving, we'd like to ask you to consider giving to Scarleteen.

As you may already know, Scarleteen was one of the first online resources for young people about sex and sexuality, and remains the leading, most visited online resource expressly created and maintained for young people to get extensive and excellent sex and sexuality information, education and support.

We provide opt-in, youth-driven content and direct services every year through articles that don't shortcut, but give young people the depth they ask for, advice columns done with the aim of support and education, not entertainment; a staffed SMS service and fully moderated message boards available seven days a week, 24 hours a day, where young people talk to real people with the skills to do so well, not templates, machines or some random yahoo on Yahoo; an ever-growing database of referrals to direct, in-person services and to other credible websites or organizations; in-person workshops and talks, both for young people and for adults who want to better serve them; engaged social media channels to help people of all ages stay abreast of news, data and trends in and about adolescent and young adult sexuality; mentorship and leadership opportunities for our fantastic young adult volunteers and more.

So far, in 2012, we've served nearly 5 million unique visitors online. Our SMS service has had distinct conversations with over 900 unique callers in 2012, with over 4,500 texts sent total. Nearly 1 million of our 10 million site pageviews in the last year have been at our message boards, where our staff and volunteers have personally and directly engaged with users -- with real conversations of depth, sometimes over days, weeks or even months -- in around 3,000 of their initiated questions or topics. (And this has been a slow year.)

We continue to do what we do without any foundational, state or federal funding, on an operating budget that typically is around or below the median annual income of a single family in the United States. We also do all of what we do with a much smaller staff and pool of resources than any other organization we know of who serves at the level and volume we do. We depend entirely on independent donors and supporters like yourself to keep our doors, literal and virtual, open.

When you ask sexuality professionals where they send young people online, they will usually say Scarleteen. We think that's for good reason. We're deeply committed and dedicated to doing what we do and to doing it well. And we're committed to doing our best to keep on doing our best, no matter what, but money to do the things that cost money -- like paying our server and development bills, and providing our staff a living wage -- sure makes it a whole lot easier.

We, as so many of our users do, strongly feel we provide a pioneering, valuable service without peer when it comes to in-depth online resources specifically intended to provide  young people progressive, inclusive, accurate and accessible sex, sexuality and relationship education, information and support. And we think, as so many of our users do, that's something young people continue to direly need even with -- and most certainly without -- school or home-based sex education. We think that supporting young people as best we can, particularly in areas like sex and sexuality in which so many are so unsupported, is one of the best possible uses of our time and energy. And because we think that, we also think that a gift to help support Scarleteen is an excellent way for everyone to do that.

As we enter into our 15th year, we'd like to keep providing all we do for young people, sustaining the quality, integrity and volume of our services, and we'd like to also keep growing. For 2013, we've new articles in the works, and also aim to make improvements to our mobile service. We would additionally like to add a live chat customer service line to Scarleteen to better help users find exactly what they want and need, at our own organization or website, or outside it, like by connecting them to in-person health and other care services, or other sources of information and support online. The point is, we've got plans and new things we want to do.  We've got the desire and the ability to do them, but we also need the funding.

When you support Scarleteen, you're supporting young people in building healthier sexualities and sexual lives. When you support Scarleteen, you're providing the support young people want and need in an area of their lives where support and sound information can be so hard to find, whether they're looking for help understanding the realities of their bodies and their feelings, navigating sexual or dating relationships, caring for their sexual health and making reproductive choices, coming to terms with their sexual orientation, gender or sexual identity, surviving and healing from sexual violence or abuse, or any of the many other challenging issues we have always been there to help them with.

We'll do our primary fundraising for 2013 in February, but if you're someone who likes to do end-of-year donations or gifts, we'd be so grateful for any support you can give us today.

Maybe we're not your #1 pick for an end-of-year donation. If not, we hope that if you're in the position to give, you choose at least one other organization in need that specifically helps young people navigate sex and their sexuality. We have many allies we think are doing excellent work who we think would also be excellent recipients for your generosity. Right now, we'd like to make sure you know about the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, who are doing their end-of-year fundraising now, and who could also very much use your help and support. We think they're one great example of an allied, grassroots organization doing fantastic work on a very low budget like we do. The NYSHN is youth-led by and for Indigenous/Native American young people whether in urban centers or in remote, rural, and northern territories. The work they do is fully inclusive, and incredibly passionate and thoughtful about delivering the sexuality and reproductive health, rights, and justice initiatives young people they work with want and need. 

In the event that you aren't in the position to give any end-of-year financial gifts right now, we ask that you still find a way to strongly support the young people in your life this holiday season. For those who celebrate the winter holidays, this time of year can be perfect to reconnect with younger siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, young people you perhaps have taught, coached or otherwise mentored. It can be a great time to remind them that you're here for them: ready to listen when they need a listener, have their back if they need someone to have it, and to provide or find information or feedback for them if they want it, including with sex, sexuality or their sexual or romantic relationships. If we know anything about young people from the work we do with them, it's that all too many have too few people in their lives who have offered that to them, and who are and will be there for them, no matter what, in those ways when they want and need them, specifically in this part of their lives.

We do this for them every day, but we're never enough: having someone already in their lives step up to that plate is a gift -- one that costs nothing -- we can safely say all of them will consider one of the most valuable they ever receive.

Our very best this holiday season to our supporters and donors, our allies and colleagues; to the adults who do their best to care for and about young people, and to all of the young people we consider invaluable, deeply cherished and highly valued members of our (very big!) family. We hope that those of you who celebrate the holidays have wonderful celebrations, and wish all of you joy and love, care and kindness, peace and pleasure in the coming year.