Reassuringly Restless 7: Money Matters (part 2) - requesting, negotiating and knowing when to walk away
This post is inspired by Marija. After she read Money Matters Part 1, she wanted to know how activists could practically ask for reimbursements and/or stipends to cover the costs of taking part in activities.
This blog post is specifically written in mind for people who are invited to take part in something that is happening on an international scale. Whether that be an event, project, organising committee etc.
If you have been invited to engage and participate, it is because the requester recognises the value that your involvement will bring. You may bring a different point of view, you may strengthen the project with your skillset, your presence likely increases the credibility of the whole thing!
It is important that you recognise the value you bring, the same way they do. This will (hopefully) reduce your likelihood of being taken advantage of.
A stipend is a fixed sum of money that is mean to cover costs. I believe that if you have been invited to take part in an international event/project/organising committee, all costs should be covered through a stipend and this should be sent to you before you start your trip (so that you do not incur any costs from your personal pocket).
Some people have said to me “but what happens if they transfer the stipend to you ahead of time and you don’t show up?”
My response to that is simple: if you do not trust that I will turn up, then you really shouldn’t be giving me a platform to speak at your event, influence the direction of your project or recommendations for your research. There is a contradiction there that just does not make sense. Also, many international organisations transfer stipends upfront. It is not an unreasonable or outlandish request.
International conferences are not cheap, the people contacting you are probably doing so in a paid capacity. At the very least you should not be out of pocket for your involvement (short-term or long-term). Here is a template that you can use, feel free to amend and use as necessary:
Many thanks for the invitation, I appreciate it. I am interested in taking part in this event. I would like confirmation of the logistical and financial support your provide.
Please can you confirm if you provide a stipend to cover the following:
Travel costs (including airport transfers and costs of travelling to pick up visas)
Where applicable, visa charges
Additional communication costs
Any other costs I will incur due to my involvement in project/event
If you do offer a stipend, please can you tell me what payment process you follow (I.e. do you transfer the money ahead of the trip or reimburse on the day/after receiving receipts)?
I will only be able to attend if your organisation transfers the stipend in advance, as personal financial costs (even in the short-term) is too great.
[sign off with name]
I mentioned before that if you have been invited you have some sort of appeal and you may be able to use that appeal as leverage. Your leverage may be used to ask organisations to change their reimbursement process or to state that you cannot talk about engaging (for example) young people, whilst you knowing that their youth volunteers are incurring personal financial costs from being involved in their project. I and some of my peers have done this before. Processes can change. With a push, they can, they have and they (inevitable) do.
Ultimately this is about ethical engagement. It’s not enough to have a range of voices represented on a stage, if the most marginalised among them incurred costs to be there whilst the most privilege were paid to be there. We need to burn that model of engagement.
Can activism really change the world? I think it’s the only thing that ever has, but we need to be strategic with it. This is the seventh of a monthly blog series. If there is anything that you would like me to discuss in future blog posts, please email email@example.com
Bakita Kasadha (aka BAKITA:KK) is an HIV activist, associate trainer and writer. She is the Chair of the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV. She is interested in self-care, ethical engagement and power dynamics within social movements.
Through this blog series, she aims to share some insight to navigating activism and advocacy spaces, for those thinking about it and for those figuring it out. All opinions are strictly hers.