“How much can I Venmo request you for?”
It’s a phrase you’re likely familiar with. The oft-used Venmo request is perfectly situated for college living. Everything is fair game in the world of mobile payments, from groceries to Dubra to rent (or, if your roommates are annoying enough, the 50 cents you borrowed to do laundry last week). Today, I ask you to add another Venmo interaction to your list.
In the past, the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project Fast fundraiser has operated using donated student meal swipes, raising over $10,000 for New Haven nonprofits every semester. Because of the campus shutdown last semester in March, peer organizations helped us raise nearly $28,000 for three New Haven nonprofits. While this increase in fundraising was partly due to the tireless work of other organizations and the YHHAP Fast fundraising team, it also reflected a momentary national spike in generosity at the onset of the pandemic. As the first coronavirus cases surged across the country, so too did donations and our individual senses of philanthropy. This influx in fundraising has dwindled over the past few months, but the need for resources has only grown. As we enter a campuswide quarantine, this semester’s fundraising is especially precarious.
The time to renew our collective interest in supporting local community organizations is now. Coming off the tails of a landslide election that led to celebration, it’s easy to think that our work is done. A tumultuous year coupled with constant newsfeed fatigue makes the lull of the status quo look enticing. But before you breathe a sigh of relief at Biden’s proposed “return to normalcy” and slide into deeper complacency, I implore you to remember that normalcy has never protected those who are most vulnerable. Rather than taking the success of political organizers as a sign to stop, use this momentum to critically examine how you support your community.
This semester, your donations will benefit four New Haven based organizations. Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, one of YHHAP’s closest community partners, has served New Haven for over 30 years. DESK works with those who are experiencing homelessness or living in poverty by providing food assistance and services that promote health, community and equity. The HOPE Family Justice Center is a multidisciplinary team of professionals who work together to provide coordinated legal, social and community services to victims of domestic violence. The Semilla Collective of New Haven is a grassroots collective that fights side by side with immigrant and working families to operate the New Haven Mutual Aid Fund and a food garage that provides food-insecure residents with immediate assistance. Our fourth partner, the New Haven Housing Fund, unites unhoused people in New Haven to build networks of mutual aid, supplies, support and solidarity.
Our community partners have worked tirelessly not only to provide emergency services but also to change the way people think about charity. This semester’s fundraiser supports two mutual aid networks — the Semilla Collective and the New Haven Housing Fund — precisely because their operations challenge the standard model of one-off donations. They provide people with extended networks of care and resources. In an activist climate where momentum behind movements dwindles rapidly between each news cycle, we’re proud to support community organizations that commit to providing long-term solutions.
To donate to the YHHAP Fast, you can Venmo @YHHAP or visit yhhap.org/donate. The fundraiser will run until this Friday, Nov. 20. Every dollar helps.
I want to emphasize one thing: Recommitting yourself to community care doesn’t look like dropping everything and founding a nonprofit that burns out in five weeks. This week, it might look like contributing to your friend’s donation bingo board. Next week, it might look like sharing donation links in your GroupMe. And because not everyone has the privilege to contribute monetarily, it might look like checking out non-monetary ways to volunteer, uplift and get involved.
Whatever you do choose to give, don’t lose momentum. Mutual aid, like all community involvement, is inherently continuous. Supporting these organizations now will give them the resources to keep providing these essential services long after we’ve left New Haven.
So, how much can I Venmo request you for this week?
MONIKA KRASNIQI is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards college and the co-director of the YHHAP Fast. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.