I cannot even believe it’s been 5 years since we started this journey. In 5 years, we’ve gone from a team of 1 working on my couch, to a team of 4 at my dining table, to a team of 10 in my garage, to a team of 17 making magic happen each from our own home offices.
In 5 years, we’ve gone from a successful small business pilot program to our social enterprise, Gifted by FreeFrom, employing 9 hourly staff and generating over $1.4MM in revenue for survivors.
We’ve gone from supporting survivors one by one in understanding their avenues to compensation to providing the same info to over 13,000 survivors in all 50 states through our Compensation Compass.
We’ve gone from an “on-a-whim” GoFundMe campaign to raise money for survivors at the beginning of COVID to having disbursed 7,200 grants to survivors in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
None of this would have happened without you. All the care and love you all have poured into FreeFrom has helped us grow and create a truly thriving organization and community. Not an ounce of it was wasted and we cannot thank you enough.
In this newsletter, we’ve shared our proudest achievements and our plans for what’s next. Here’s to a future in which everyone can afford to be safe and live a life free from abuse.
With immense gratitude and hope,
Sonya and the FreeFrom team
“Being a part of the GIFTED community has completely changed my life and my children’s lives. The community has caused me to become connected and helped to diminish the feelings of loneliness and isolation. Financially my life has improved drastically; while the journey still persists, I am empowered and have reached a number of substantial milestones…I no longer feel like I NEED my partner thanks to GIFTED.”
In just five years, our successes have included the following:
- We have given over $1.6MM in 7,200+ small cash grants directly to survivors who are struggling to make ends meet and stay safe. Through these grants, we are building a trust-based community of thousands of survivors working towards financial security and safety together. Survivors are leading our work by sharing their needs, stories, and expertise by experience with us.
- The Biden-Harris Administration cited FreeFrom’s work in a pledge to provide $5Bn in direct cash assistance for survivors as part of its Plan to End Violence Against Women.
- We launched and are expanding our 1:1 Savings Matching Program to support survivors in building an emergency savings of up to $500 over 6 months. We are already supporting 87 survivors through this program and we are excited to support 500 more in the coming months.
- We are building a national network of survivors across 44 cities who are engaged in our peer financial support groups. Through these small groups, survivors are working together and supporting each other in reaching their financial goals.
- We have directly compensated survivors with $1,425,708 through Gifted, our social enterprise. We’ve paid $810,668 to the Gifted entrepreneurs and $615,040 to the Gifted store staff and hourly workers.
- We trained 218 people from 22 organizations through our Survivor Wealth and Wellness Certificate and Training Program. This program supports advocates working directly with survivors in getting the tools and support they need to reach financial security for themselves and be able to better serve the survivors they work with.
- We also started our service provider newsletter with 549 people subscribed so far to share resources, knowledge, and opportunities about financial security for survivors.
- Recently, one of our trainee organizations piloted a flexible cash assistance program for 8 months for 6 survivors – each survivor will receive $500/monthly to spend on housing application fees, savings, reducing debt, etc. This organization used FreeFrom’s model and trainings to draft the types of questions they asked and their intake process for the program.
- FreeFrom supported service providers with successfully advocating for raises and promotions at their workplaces. One trainee advocated for a 2% increase in their annual merit increases from 3% to 5%. Another trainee recently received an 8k raise and promotion after coaching calls with FreeFrom.
- Trainees have also started their own small businesses after completing the online modules and 1:1 coaching calls. Some trainees created income as a basketball coach, photographer, and artist. They have also supported their clients in creating income as an esthetician and chefs.
- We released our Survivor Safety Banking Guidelines and are working in partnership with members of congress, federal agencies and regulators, and several banks to ensure that survivors have safe access to their bank accounts.
- U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez amplified the need to protect survivors when they bank after working with FreeFrom and using our data in a recent meeting of the U.S. Financial Services Committee. With this momentum, we anticipate the creation of federal banking protections for survivors within the next year.
- Facebook, Bumble, ASOS, Blue Shield of California, The Kering Group, Berkshire Bank, The Workers Lab, and Great Place to Work have implemented paid leave policies for survivors in the workplace.
- We launched our Compensation Compass, a tool to support survivors in understanding and pursuing various different avenues to compensation for the harm they have been subjected to. So far, over 13k survivors have used the Compensation Compass and 85% of users say they are more likely to pursue compensation after using it.
- We launched the National Survivor Financial Security Policy Map and Scorecard, which serves as both a resource and a roadmap for action. This tool outlines existing laws impacting survivors’ financial security and provides state-specific policy recommendations that will ensure that all survivors have access to the financial resources and support they need to thrive. 3,177 people have used this tool since it launched in May 2021.
- With FreeFrom’s support, 3 states have begun working on expanding their intimate partner violence definition to include economic abuse, advancing coerced and fraudulent debt protections, and increasing access to its domestic violence tort.
- FreeFrom contributed to a number of survivor-centered components of the Breathe Act, drafted by Movement For Black Lives, Essie Justice Group, and Civil Rights Corps, to give survivors more autonomy in criminal proceedings, help survivors get relief from coerced and fraudulent debt, increase access to Victims of Crime Act compensation, and invest in survivor-centered sources.
- We have shown our commitment to building a survivor-centered workplace through implementing policies and practices that equip our staff with the resources and care they need to thrive. We pay a living wage of at least 80k annually and we offer an abundance of benefits such as unlimited paid vacation, paid and protected gender-based violence leave and emergency grants, unlimited menstrual leave, a professional growth stipend, and a wealth-building stipend to name a few.
- Finally, we published 5 groundbreaking reports, including Measuring the Economic Impact of Covid-19 on Survivors of Color, Making Safety Affordable, Survivors Know Best, Trust Survivors, and Prioritizing Financial Security. View all of our reports here. We’ve also embarked on a series of research initiatives to – for the first time – measure the financial impacts of abuse disaggregated by race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, immigration status, and ability. Using this data, we can finally design solutions that work for every survivor.
“Receiving a grant [from FreeFrom] no questions asked was like being looked at and received by people who trusted me unconditionally. That’s extremely important for a survivor who has often been shamed, had to deal with people gaslighting and creating false stories about their integrity and believability.”
-Safety Fund Grant Recipient
What’s next for FreeFrom? Join us as we continue to build a resilient ecosystem of support for survivors in which they can build the financial security necessary to support their safety, healing, and ability to thrive. We look forward to being in community with you over the next five years as we:
- Create tools, resources, and environments to support survivors’ collective economic and community power. We are fostering a network of thousands of survivors across the country who are coming together to build financial security, share their expertise through lived experience, and innovate with us.
- Continue supporting the movement against gender-based violence in centering economic security for all survivors. Through this work, we hope to address these 4 goals over the next 5 years:
- Illuminate challenges and systemic barriers that exist in the GBV movement in a way that is restorative and easy to understand.
- Create a coalition of GBV service providers who advocate for change at their agencies, with their boards and funders, and in the community.
- Create and implement accessible and sustainable solutions that the movement can use to create a survivor-led and centered movement.
- Create a movement that invests in the long-term safety of all survivors.
- Bring in our society’s institutions (e.g. banks, employers, city, state, and federal governments) to be part of the ecosystem of support for survivors across the U.S.
- Continue to engage in constant dialogue with survivors to ensure that all of our solutions are supported by data and rooted in what survivors of different, intersecting experiences identify as their needs and build the compelling evidence necessary to support our solutions and make it impossible for institutions to ignore their roles in addressing gender-based violence. Using this data, we can shift the narrative from one of crisis response to one of systemic change that works for all survivors.
“I would ask our representatives to please take a look at Freefrom’s list of political and banking reforms so we can accomplish the kind of change we need. Money is wonderful, but it’s only a temporary fix. Getting to the root of issues would make lasting change which could help us overcome this tremendous setback.”
-Safety Fund Grant Recipient