FUNdraising: Making the World the Way You Want, a real unfolding situation

sometimes there is a short story worth telling. I think I have one of those.

Here is what happened. As fate had it I emailed Bob Whitacker a very brief proposed project which I was happy to lead or assist with in case MIA was already doing something similar. I will slightly shorten Bob’s response to share that he wrote “I do appreciate your writing and your suggestion, but I know that there isn’t the energy at MIA to take on something of this scope.” So I emailed back “wondering” if I could “lighten the load”.

Bob responded “… Mad in America is peripherally involved with helping Rethinking Psychiatry organizing a series of five presentations in Sundays in October related to Soteria and respite houses. The leader there is Grace Silvia, and I know they are looking for help promoting the events on social media, etc. I thought of you, and mentioned to Grace that I knew someone who might be willing to help. Could I give Grace your name?

I had never heard of Grace Silvia but if Bob points me in a direction, I am going to go- given I had a little time to do an extra project for MIA and while Bob decides what I might do for MIA I can assist someone else. The next day (Sunday) I spoke with Grace for 30 minutes and the day after that I understood more deeply what she and her team needed.

They were convening the first International Peer Respite and Soteria Summit: Creating Compassionate Alternatives for People in Crisis and Distress. The Summit was virtual on every Sunday in October (3, 10, 17, 24 & 31) from 12pm- 3pm ET. Bob Whitaker was moderatoring four impressive speakers on Day 1. Okay, I’m getting hooked.

If you are not familiar with peer respite or Soteria House, or you need a refresher as I did mostly because I needed to hear their conceptualization and approach for this Summit, below, is some of their informational material which I found quite helpful.

The Soteria House and peer respite models are both ways of supporting individuals in extreme states. Both models allow individuals to stay voluntarily in a homelike environment, and come and go as they please, while enjoying 24-7 support from non-clinical staff. Neither model forces people to take drugs yet both have been documented to be very successful at helping people avoid psychiatric hospitalizations.

David Oaks once called the founder of the first Soteria House, Dr. Loren Mosher. M.D., the ‘Schindler of our people." Former residents of both types of houses say that their experiences and what they learned was life changing. Come find out more about these incredibly promising alternatives to forced psychiatry from experts, including people with lived experience. Even better, find out what you need to know to bring a Soteria House or a peer respite to your community!

Collectively, we have the power to build safe places in every community in the world, replacing the use of force and coercion in the mental health system!

Okay, I hooked full on. On the 3rd day after meeting Grace (Tuesday, Sept 21, 2021) I began my short-term project. I will say that Grace is a visionary, process person which is lovely but I said to her on our 2nd time meeting via phone, I am strategic, intentional and goal-oriented. I like to know where I am going and why I am going there. I asked her how much money she wanted raised by Oct 31, 2021 (the last day of the Summit). I told Grace I saw this as the end date of my involvement. I think she was completely taken aback by this question of How much money? I really loved her responses, after some brief befundlement, she said “$15,000, is that doable?”

I had my marching orders. By the way I do love process but there is a time for process and there is a time for A-C-T-I-O-N!! And I am a woman who likes to get things D-O-N-E, especially this project and this 6 week time frame. I have not had this type of challenge in a few years.

Grace is working with a highly experienced and knowledgeable team of 5 people to fundraise. They had not raised any money yet via asking people to donate, however, they had somewhat of an organized plan to do so. Grace sent me the nicely laid out table of who was asking whom for money or an in-kind donation.

Their funding needs were very basis and clearly thought out. Assistance was needed for American Sign language (ASL) interpretation, editing the video of the Summit’s sessions, some web development, and post summit $5,000 was needed for monthly offerings of technical assistance and support they were going to continue to provide for groups who wanted to develop a peer respite or Soteria House in their community. Very honorable intentions, I could clearly see how this stellar group of volunteers had, over the years, developed Rethinking Psychiatry into a powerhouse-in-becoming. And they partnered with MindFreedom to bring about this Summit. The National Empowerment Center (NEC) was their fiscal sponsor for the Summit, so the money simply passes through NEC. Being a fiscal sponsor is never really that simple but for the purposes of this blog we will leave it at that. It takes time, energy and resource but most of us are psychiatric survivors so we get it. It is about love and passion and not about Money. It is about making the world right, accessible, inclusive, juste and healthy. All the honorable intentions on my check-list are being met. The stars are alligned for this project!!!! A few more stars and a few more dollars would help but we are on our way.

Leah Harris taught me a few things about FUNdraising. I witnessed her do it with enthusiasm and great passion. I am thinking specifically when Will Hall did his Go-Fund-Me and Leah led that effort very successfully to my great delight. It funded the writing of Will’s latest book which I hesitate to say I suggested he write a while back.

The other important lesson I learned about fundraising came from working on the Sunrise Center, an project to help people get off psychiatric drugs. I learned that fundraisng was about fun, it was about making the world the way you want it.

Day 1 of my engaging the Summit fundraising team, Tue, Sep 21, 2021 at 8:14 AM the email subject line was:

“SUMMIT — FUNDRAISING GOAL $15,000 by Oct 31, 2021, We’ve got this!!!!”

Part of the email I sent is copied below.


My FUNdraising thought this morning is IF someone – who????- could do a go-fund me. I have a sense that A LOT of people would give a little bit.

Yes? Maybe? Thoughts?

In the meantime here is our up-to-date data thanks to Judene Shelley at NEC:

1) How many people have registered so far? 149-the number changes each day

2) How many people are you expecting to participate/attend the Summit? 300-500 people

3) How much have we raised so far – including donations from people who registered? All from people who registered, $1,500

And shortly after that email I sent another one which was my first “update” email.

I just got off the phone with Al (Galves). He previously sent a request to his 1st org for $500 with marketing materials. For his 2nd & 3rd org (listed on the organizing sheet) he is going to ask for $1,000 and he is thinking about having someone join him in a conference-call ask.

and I just donated $1,000.

peer-respite / Soteria is one of the greatest loves of my life. When I worked for the NCMHR I LOVED speaking to legislators and their staff about it and they loved hearing about it – with outcome data of course- especially when there was one in their state.

KNOW, please, that we can and will reach this goal.


Collectively, we have the power to build safe places in every community in the world, replacing the use of force and coercion in the mental health system!


Dear readers, you too can be part of this historic 1st International Peer Respite and Soteria Summit: Creating Compassionate Alternatives for People in Crisis and Distress.

As of 9/22/21: $3,395 raised, 190 people registered.

Contributions of any amount are very much appreciated. Please press the “Register here” button.

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