Some Invitations for Interpersonal Cross-Class Giving
We all need systemic changes – turning a system built on extraction and harm into one built on regeneration and care. It’s obviously not the role of people with class privilege to try to “save” poor people. There are, however, many meaningful ways to show up in cross-class relationships, including — but certainly not limited to — funding poor and working class-led grassroots organizations, mutual aid networks, and direct giving to individuals. Many immigrant communities, communities of color, and working-class communities have long, deep traditions of resource sharing. Below are a few suggestions built upon the wisdom of those cultural norms and practices. Holding these invitations central may help to undermine dominant class privileged patterns and power dynamics, creating a more liberatory experience for all those involved.
Things to keep in mind in the offering:
be vulnerable — poor and working class people often have to share an enormous amount of life story and data in an attempt to gain access to services. Flip this dynamic by offering your own vulnerability. This does not mean your whole money story but a little bit of your own story and context to increase mutuality.
be heart-led — tap into why you want to give/share/donate/redistribute. Find that place in your heart and make an offer from there.
be proactive — when appropriate put people in a position to say yes rather than to have to ask.
be clear — get as specific as possible and set any clear boundaries early on. There is a time and place for open-ended offers (“if you ever need something let me know”), but only if it’s genuinely what the person with fewer resources is most likely to respond well to.
be systemic — help to make the situation less personal by zooming out to the larger context we are all living within. Society constantly reinforces poverty as individual deficit and wealth as individual achievement; disrupt that narrative directly.
Example 1: I am making XX amount right now at my job which is more than I need to live off of. It doesn’t feel right to have more than I need when so many people are suffering. I’m giving the extra to grassroots orgs and to people I’m in community with. I know you’ve been struggling right now, I would love to chip in YY amount this month towards your expenses. I’m wondering if that could feel good for you and between us. I care so much about you and I know it’s not right that you get paid so much less than me. How would you feel about me getting to chip in? To be clear, it would just be for this month.
Example 2: I wanted to check in with you about possibly sharing some money with you. I received an inheritance years ago and don’t believe that it’s money that I need or earned in any way, and am committed to redistributing it to grassroots orgs and people who need it now. I know you’ve been dealing with a lot these last couple months. I really care about you and you deserve to have some breathing room & to be able to meet your basic needs. I wonder if it would feel good to you to talk about me offering you some financial support? I could offer X amount this month (consider offering a larger amount up front if you can/if someone has a backlog of bills), and then could support you with xx amount each month for the next 6 months. If that’s something you’re interested in, could we talk on the phone about what you and I would both need for that to feel ok for both of us? Our relationship is really important to me, and I know money can be really hard to talk about & brings up a lot. Here for those conversations, and any answer is totally fine.
Things to keep in mind in receiving a response:
be flexible — maybe what you offered was helpful yesterday but today there’s a new need. Be willing to let go of what you thought should happen for what is actually wanted. Ex–you offered to help with rent but childcare is the more pressing need.
be sustainable — if you are giving amounts that put you in an actually precarious financial situation or is building resentment, check in with yourself and/or trusted peers to see if there are specific boundaries you need to establish or renegotiate.
be proportional — lots of times when people with class privilege give money they make it a big deal and have big feels. It does not have to be a big deal, try not to get weird about it. How would you act if interpersonal giving were totally normalized, and can you act as though that is the case already? Acting from this place helps you take up a proportional amount of space.
be open to repair — we all have shit about money. There is a risk that something you offer will not land well, there is also risk in not offering. Weigh the risks and be thoughtful of the dynamics within each relationship. If something doesn’t go well, tend to impact regardless of intention. Hold lots of compassion for that fact that many of us on all ends of the economic pyramid have deep internalized shame because of the ways that money and worth get intertwined.
be accountable — if you said you were gonna do a thing, do the thing. Swiftly. Your yes should be grounded and clear. If it’s helpful to have a buddy, ask someone with class privilege to be your accountabila-buddy.