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Let’s talk Bunker Mode.

inauguration painting by Kristen Kalp

Now that the threat of Trumpism has been beaten back enough for science to once again matter in these United States, I have enough energy to talk to you about 2021! Hello, hi, we did it! We made it!

In some ways, it feels like the year of 2021 didn’t start until January 20th — when we saw a new President safely and peacefully installed in the United States government.

I wept when Kamala Harris was sworn in.
I wept when Joe Biden was sworn in.
I wept for the duration of Amanda Gorman’s poem. Her words are a living reminder that poetry can help us reach for and name our deepest struggles, as well as frame hope in such a way that we can feel it returning to us after being hidden for a loooooong time.

Today, I want to share a metaphor that helped me to weather the past year. A metaphor is a small thing — just a string of words — but also an enormous thing.

Naming what we’re feeling has tremendous power.
Feeling less alone has tremendous power.
Being able to articulate an experience has tremendous power.

So, let’s get into some tremendous power.

Psst! This is an episode of my podcast, That’s What She Said! You can find all 260+ episodes here.

Let’s talk Bunker Mode.

I first heard this term at a workshop with Rob Bell and Liz Gilbert. An attendee said that she wrote a script for Hollywood and sold the rights to it! A film was made! The thrill of having her work made into a feature length film was amazing! And then, the reviews. The reviews were so bad — so mocking, so derisive, and so lacking in positive critique — that this woman stopped writing. For years. She wanted to know how to start writing again. (If I read the room correctly, she also wanted to know if she could start writing again.)

That’s when Rob introduced this concept.

Bunker mode is exactly as it sounds: some vital and essential part of you goes into a bunker of the soul and refuses to come out.

Circa 2021, most people I see are in some form of bunker mode.

You’re wildly disoriented (WHUT THE FUCK IS GOING ON???? times ALL THE THINGS).
You’re exhausted from trying to live up to new challenges.
You cringe at the word ‘unprecedented.’
You’re trying to adapt to new policies and norms.
At a fundamental level, you’re scared. Your sense of security in the world has been threatened.

You retreat internally to that place where no other human can reach you, then hunker down and hang out, hoping no one will notice that you’re gone.

In bunker mode, we’re surviving. Not dreaming, not planning, not processing our experiences, not dealing with what is happening at any level.

Just. Surviving.

The trouble is, our society doesn’t allow for bunker mode. We point to those we perceive to be less fortunate and say THOSE people are allowed to be upset. THOSE people are allowed to be freaking out. THOSE people are given permission to shut down.

But you? NO BUNKER MODE FOR YOU.

We expect ourselves to Just Keep Swimming — no matter what.

So what if we’re facing a global pandemic and economic collapse, heightened calls for a white supremacist uprising, an ACTUAL FUCKING INSURRECTION, and a few million lives lost around the planet?

‘Just BE NORMAL,’ our asshole brain says.

‘Stop having FEELINGS. DEAL WITH IT,’ our asshole brain chides.

So we push it down. We do our best to stop having feelings. We wring our hands in private. We want to talk about ANYTHING but reality. We eat to stop having feelings. We refresh the news with increasing regularity. We doomscroll. (Or at least, I did!)

Objectively speaking, any one of the events of the past year is enough to trigger bunker mode. We go down deep into ourselves and/or our screens, and we don’t come out until the threat is perceived to be over.

Personally, bunker mode was cemented when I saw a police drone the size of my VW Beetle hovering above the house in Portland last June. I shook for days. D-A-Y-S. I couldn’t concentrate. I had obsessive thoughts about living in a dystopian novel. I panicked. I cried. I withdrew and did breathwork as much as possible. I started doing yoga to be able to cope with being alive. Which brings me to the big question…

Are you in bunker mode at the moment?

If yes, you’re in good company. Most every one of my clients is dealing with some form of bunker mode or another! Some industries no longer exist. Other industries are on their knees, barely surviving. Not one client has reported that homeschooling children in addition to owning a business is The Most Fun Ever.

Bunker. Mode. Is. Normal.

Since part of my job is to share my deeply personal experiences and shine a light on the ‘hey this is a universal human experience!’ parts of my life, please allow me to share what I currently know about this phenomenon.

When you find yourself in bunker mode, LOWER YOUR STANDARDS.

Maybe in 2019 you could bang out some portion of your work in 23 minutes, but now that same task takes more like an hour and a half. That’s normal. That’s everyone. Most people I talk to say they feel like they worked twice as hard to get half as much done in 2020.

It’s hard to concentrate.
It’s hard to plan for the future.
It’s hard to know what’s going to happen, at any level, in the coming year.

Instead of trying to hustle like it’s 2019, beating yourself up for being unable to weather a global catastrophe unscathed…what if you acknowledge that 2021 is different?

What if you don’t hold yourself to unattainable standards of perfection — just for this year?

What if you don’t decide to quintuple your income by working 3x harder — just for this year?

What if you let yourself rest and take breaks instead of doubling down on time at your desk — just for this year?

Screaming TRY HARDER at yourself in bunker mode doesn’t help.

I can confirm for you that screaming TRY HARDER at myself internally each day didn’t help much. Neither did forcing myself to sit at my desk and work. Dreaming about holding workshops at various event locales around the world when travel is banned made it worse. Beating myself up for failing to bang out podcasts and other forms of communication at my standard 2019 rate made me feel like I had even less to say.

What if you could be kind to your being and your body for weathering this ‘unprecedented’ storm by going into bunker mode?

What if you could find ways to be kind to your spirit and your body each day?

What if you’re not WRONG for being freaked out?

What if it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and anxious, grief-stricken and hopeful — all in the course of a few minutes?

What if your thriving in 2021 could be measured by ANYTHING but the traditional trappings of success — minutes meditated versus dollars made, paintings painted versus followers gained, words written versus sales created?

What if you set your own standards for your time in bunker mode — and you let those standards be entirely joy-based?

Regardless of where you’re existing at this moment, I hope this podcast helps you frame your experiences within the context of normalcy.

You’re behind on email? Obviously.
You’re overwhelmed by all the changes to the world as you knew it? Of course.
Afraid of contracting Corona but unable to stay inside for every moment of every day or you’ll lose your sanity? ME FRIGGIN TOO.

You’re not alone.
You’re not broken.
And you are, whether you like it or not, deeply loved.

If you’d like my support for weathering 2021 in your business — bunker mode or not — KK on Tap coaching spots are open!

You’ll work with me and about 20 fellow Tappers for a full year. If you’d like to make more money and meaning in your business, keep yourself accountable for doing your work, or deepen your experience of being alive on this planet, I’m ready to help! Head to kristenkalp.com/tap and check it out, or shoot me an email by filling out the form below!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

May you find the resources you need to survive in bunker mode. May you be kind to yourself when you’re unable to do what was easy for you in The Before. May you rest when you need to rest; eat when you need to eat; and work when you need to work. May you feel 47% less alone when you hear these words. And may you know that bunker mode can’t and won’t last forever, even when asshole brain says it will.

I love you, keep going.

Last week, I recorded this podcast episode to encourage you to keep going through the dumpster fire-y parts of life.  I published the episode and within hours the Capital Riot started.  For the record: I denounce the January 6th insurrection, as well as Donald Trump, Donald Trump’s remaining followers, and white supremacy in all its forms.  Here’s hoping this podcast episode is a bit of balm for your soul.  (Here are hundreds more episodes of the That’s What She Said podcast.)

We’re in class and she half mumbles: “I think I have hysteria.”

This lovely human clearly believes she’s handling this pandemic FAR worse than anyone else on earth. And because she’s handling everything SO poorly, there must be something wrong with her. And when something is wrong in America, a diagnosis is in order.

My sense is that this is common among the peeps I work with, since being a deeply feeling human is generally mocked, discouraged, or ignored. So, for the record:

You do not have hysteria.

For hundreds of years, women have been diagnosed with hysteria for symptoms as wide-ranging as having emotions, seizures, fainting, living at the edge of town, refusing to marry, infertility, anxiety, pain, deafness, and the inability to speak. Hysterical women were ‘treated’ with a wide range of techniques: amulets, exorcisms, orgasms, torture, interrogations, and executions are the stand-outs over the centuries.

If you identify as female in this lifetime, you carry this pathological heritage in your bones. We are actively cultivated as girls to be quiet, content, and small. The smaller the needs you have, the more likely adults are to like you. (Take it from the quietest, silentest, shrinking-est girl child that ever walked the earth: adults LOVE THAT SHIT.)

Eventually, we enter adulthood afraid to be too loud, too needy, or too emotional.

The only trouble is, hysteria was a sham.

“Social deviances, such as deciding not to wed, are no longer considered symptoms of psychological disorders such as hysteria. … During the 20th century, as psychiatry advanced in the West, anxiety and depression diagnoses began to replace hysteria diagnoses in Western countries.” [source]

So basically, hysteria was a bum diagnosis that helped to consolidate power into the hands of the patriarchy, and its popularity among doctors has decreased significantly since the mid 1900’s.

If you think you’re too sensitive and that 2020 has been freaking you out too much; if your asshole brain has been telling you need to ‘stop crying and get your shit together;’ if your mental and emotional bandwidth are no longer what they were in The Before…

You do not have hysteria.

You are not ‘broken.’

You are not feeling ‘too much.’

You are not lost.

You are not useless.

You don’t need to ‘get your shit together.’

That’s asshole brain reacting to a perfectly horrific year in a way that blames and shames you. (Classic asshole brain!)

It’s perfectly reasonable to be upset by a global pandemic that upends the world economy and that has killed more than 1 in 1000 Americans. That’s over 365,000 deaths at the time of writing. Further, the politicization of wearing masks and the debate about the existence of Covid-19 itself is deeply troubling. You’ve witnessed an all-out assault on public safety practices and on science as a whole.

You are surviving a slaughter of the American people led by its sitting President.

It’s normal to be freaked out by that reality.

Further! It’s normal to experience depression and/or anxiety when your ability to interact with other humans has been ripped away. We have all experienced tremendous loss since the pandemic hit, and we’ve done it largely alone. Where there would normally be gatherings and get-togethers — particularly to mourn and grieve the loss of life — we have another day of pandemic to endure in relative isolation. We are, as Brene Brown says, hardwired for connection. Without connection, we experience real pain. Not made-up or imaginary pain. Real. Pain.

You’re not ‘crazy’ because your brain isn’t functioning like it did in 2019.

You’re not doing it wrong because you’re asking questions like

What is a life?

and Why am I here?

and What is my work?

and How will I survive another year of this shit?

You don’t need to be treated for a nervous condition because your views of life, of society, of the human race, of politics, and systemic oppression have shifted in the past year.

If you’re disoriented and don’t know what’s true.

If you feel like you used to know things and now nothing is for certain.

If you’ve never been this tired and you know there are many months to go.

If the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t nearly bright enough or close enough to matter at this moment.

If your nervous system regularly shifts into freakout and panic mode.

Yes.

Of course.

Exactly.

I’m with you.

There’s The Really Hard Thing that’s happening: Covid-19 continues to mutate and circulate around the earth.

And then there’s beating yourself up for the ways you’re failing to handle The Really Hard Thing that’s happening.

It’s okay to feel lots of things right now.

It’s also okay to be a little numb.

Since the pandemic started, I’ve seen more of my own shadow and malice and hatred than I knew existed. I’ve gone to darker places than ever before, and I’ve also been tempted to give up on everyone and everything in all of existence. Multiple times a day, but particularly when I check in on what the remaining Trump supporters are up to right now.

If full and specific disclosure helps (WARNING: VULNERABILITY AHEAD), I’ve cried so hard I thought my organs were going to leak out my eyeballs.

I’ve considered walking into the street and yelling “Fuuuckkkkk!!!” at the top of my lungs every single day, just to break up the silence and make sure my voice still exists.

I’ve been hideously mean and angry and stomped around demanding to be left alone, then been done with being alone a few minutes later.

I have been moody, I have been frail.

I have freaked out.

I’ve given up on figuring anything out and smoked weed. So much weed. (Here’s The Cannabis Episode if you’re curious!)

I’ve spent hours brainstorming ways to humiliate and shame Donald Trump for his crimes against humanity.

Those feelings are normal human emotional reactions to chaos, fear, uncertainty, grief, dread, ennui, isolation, and genocide.

You do not have hysteria.

You are a human being

having profound reactions

to circumstances

that have shattered

the way the world operates.

 

We are all human beings

having profound reactions

to circumstances

that have shattered

the way the world operates.

Where you can laugh, laugh.

Where you need to grieve, grieve.

But please, don’t box yourself into a tiny corner in which your only option is to smile silently and endure.

You don’t have hysteria. You’re not broken. You’re not crazy. And you’re not alone.

I love you, keep going.

USEFUL THINGS ALERT!  A few things I’ve made that might help you handle those big feelings:

How to Breathe Through Panic with Josh Solar — this podcast episode will walk you through DEAD SIMPLE ways to root into your body when you’re experiencing intense feelings of any kind. Josh is a reiki master, breathwork practitioner, and musician, and you’ll meet him if you ever attend a Together breathwork class.

If you need a simple way to release unfelt emotions and process all the yuck that lives within you — nonverbally! — breathwork can help. YUP you can still sign up for monthly breathwork with Together! It’s $22 a month through August, and includes a library of past classes, secret podcast episodes by yours truly, and live breathwork classes each month!

Here’s what peeps had to say about breathwork:

Thank you, for offering up breathwork. It’s a tool I have loved having access to, that has surely helped me beyond what I can consciously recognize, and I am laughing even now at the fact that yes, somehow, with a global pandemic and all the injustice happening in this country and the dissolution of my marriage (the practical part, if not the legal part) and the whiplash of my employment situation (steady-ish, now)… somehow, I have arrived at such a loved and loving space. My sincerest gratitude. — Kerilee H.

I am a hard analyser and often get analysis paralysis and perfectionism issues. Dissociating from my body is normal. YOUR CLASS ALLOWED ME TO GET BACK INTO MY BODY and out of my head. — Noelle W.

The day I did my first breathwork session with you, was the first day in my life I felt that I broke through to real, fresh, tangible air. — Marissa H.

If you’re like, “Yah but I want to try that shit out before I buy anything,” head to breathehealrepeat.com and grab the free breathwork class. It’s simple, and you’ll feel lighter by the end of our time together, guaranteed!

Try breathing through panic.

Try breathwork for free.

Try breathwork in community for 2021.

No matter what: I love you, keep going.

And happy 2021!

P.S. No really — give breathwork a try now!  Here’s your free breathwork class, Lighter.

An Invitation to Let Your Deep Knowing Drive the Bus

deep knowing

I lost the future for a bit, there. The past four years got me so tangled up in Trump’s antics and generally FREAKING OUT that when the pandemic hit, I burned my plans and sat down for A Very Long Time.

Every human interaction outside of the people I live with: canceled.
Every workshop or class or retreat I wanted to make or attend or hold this year: canceled.
My sense of knowing what tomorrow might hold: ABSOLUTELY GONE.

If you’ve lost the ability to plan for or sense the future: hi, hello, welcome. Me, too.

Between American politics and the pandemic, I’ve never had more trouble connecting to my own depths, desires, and needs.

In fact, I’m tempted to spend every waking moment flailing like Kermit and/or freaking out like Moira Rose.

pop tv omg GIF by Schitt's Creek

This podcast episode is here to help you connect with your interior continent, ask deep-ass questions, and maybe even make some plans for your life and business in the coming months.

Before we dive in! One of the things that might help to keep you from drowning in your own life is actively creating structure, which is something I’ve taught extensively about on the podcast. Structure, rhythms, and routines are something we creative peeps fight against AND ALSO DESPERATELY NEED. These five podcast episodes are a highly condensed version of most everything I know about creating gorgeous, stable structures for your time and attention.

Listen to the Structure That Doesn’t Suck series now. 

Now, let’s talk money fruits!

If you suspect that you’d like to do something in your business differently in a year or two, start planting the seeds for the new thing now.

Take the class, get the certification, scope out the cost of renting a studio; write down the workshop curriculum, start a wait list, ask past clients to do a dry run with you; schedule time to write the sales page, shoot the video, make the course, or get the images you’ll need to accompany the project.

I read somewhere that we overestimate what we can do in a single year and underestimate what we can do in five. Go with that, holding everything that may happen as loosely as possible.

What would you like to have made, in five years?

Who would you like to have worked with, interacted with, or made something with?

What would you be heartbroken to tell people you HAVEN’T done in five years?

To reach the ripening of the money fruits, plan for constant experimentation. Adjust accordingly.

Most people treat plans and planning as a once-and-done activity best suited for the start of the new year, not an exercise in continuous canceling, crossing out, and readjusting the sails.

That promotion didn’t work? Adjust.

You thought you’d be having a glorious day of sex, but instead you ended up holding your best friend in the vet’s ‘comfort room’ while a vet named Dr. Stark put her cat to sleep? Adjust.

You figured you’d have budgets, credit cards, and all things financial figured out by now? Adjust.

There’s no shame in adjusting.

If and when you really, truly believe that, you’ll move through your life far more swiftly and with much less guilt than ever before.

As you get used to both looking forward and adjusting the sails for today’s weather, you get more of a sense of spirit, intuition, deep knowing, or whatever you choose to call this phenomena.

You beat yourself up less for being human or for letting life happen to you.

You also let the reins go a bit more, since you’ll never be in charge of things like whether today is rainy, whether a pet is sick, whether your client will show up to that meeting, or whether you’re going to get food poisoning from that new restaurant.

As you adjust, with ever more subtle listening and precision, you’ll find the way through life that is distinctly yours.

Here’s a diary entry from 18 months ago, and it’s profoundly vulnerable to help you see the wrestling as it happens:

“It feels like the river is flowing in a different direction and that direction is away from California, at least for now. It feels fuzzy to think about — no longer OBVIOUSLY CALIFORNIA YES — since I looked at Portland and discovered that Philly has had both the same amount of rainy days and more rain than Portland in 2018. So, myth that I cannot live there: busted.

Also Portland is the same price as here, and 90 minutes from the ocean like here, and otherwise my people’s home, since you can drop shrooms and smoke weed and read books and make art and have fantastic food and go outside every minute that it’s not raining, minus the Philly attitude and general East-Coast go go go go go-ness.

That decision also feels a bit logical, though, like: how easy and relieving is it to give up on California, when clearly it’s something I’ve wanted since the moment I visited? But when I consider bigger things, like will I like the people of Laguna/Orange County? No. Do I like the traffic? No. Is there public transport? No. Does it cost 3-5 times more than here? Yes. BUT WILL I HAVE THE OCEAN? Yes.

We could very easily live in the most magical place on earth but spend every minute trying to earn enough to live there, which would defeat the purpose.

It feels like it’s all up in the air right now. And that’s hard. Like, weeping hard. Giving up on a dream is hard. Switching dreams is hard. Not knowing is hard.”

Letting your deep knowing drive the bus often boils down to paying constant attention to your energetic and emotional weather.

I could have pretended that California was still the dream — “Yah, we’re saving, just a few more years!” — and used it as a reason to stay in Pennsylvania for a lot longer. But instead, Bear and I had conversation after conversation about what it might mean to move to Portland, including how that would look on the job front, the mental health front, the friend front, the financial front, and the business front. We had lots and lots of discussions, and lots and lots of enjoying of the current home we’ve made together. Portland might not be the most magical thing that’s ever happened to us, or it might; all we know is that it’s the next step, and we’re taking it together.

Letting your deep knowing drive the bus means noticing when energy for a person, place, or project drops significantly, as well as noticing when you can’t wait to work on something new.

Sitting here 18 months in the future, I can assure you that Portland was NOT the best thing that ever happened to us.

Making the decision to move away from Portland was predicated upon a number of factors. These included the daily sightings of police drones, military transport, and police helicopters over our home; the increased presence of Proud Boys and other alt-right groups in the city; increasing isolation due to extended lockdown and my own fear of walking alone in the city for any reason; and mounting costs to remain in an overpriced, under-resourced shoebox of a home thousands of miles from those we held dear. (TL; DR, it fucking sucked.)

AND being in Portland helped us trust each other more deeply, rely on each other more heavily, see ourselves more clearly, and take in the scope of the personal and political work before us with absolutely outstanding clarity.

Sometimes you make two cross-country moves in a year, ’cause you’re following the deep knowing where it leads. Bear and I can both see that with the way 2020 went, we wouldn’t have survived the outside forces pressing on us in Philadelphia. His job would have crushed him, and I would have spiraled out of control because there wasn’t a money-making imperative to keep my feet on the earth.

In some ways Portland completely crushed us;
and in other ways it completely saved us.

That’s the bullshit of following your deep knowing:
It might crush you.
It might save you.

And it might do both simultaneously,
just so you remember you’re alive.

Some questions to help you follow your deep knowing:

Does that dream apply like it did yesterday?

Am I actively letting myself dream a different life than the one I imagined at age 8 (I drew a Kmart in my house so I’d never have to leave it for silly things like groceries or sunscreen), the one I imagined at 18 (I shall be a poet — in a houseboat — who lives on sunshine), or the one I imagined at 28 (I will be married…to this one dude…forever…and life will always suck…)?

Are there any places where my attitude has shifted, my energy has dropped, or my emotional landscape has changed dramatically? What might that mean?

Is there anywhere that my reality conflicts with that of my family, parents, partner, or peers? Am I willing to step into the wilderness that our differing beliefs will cause?

Are there any plans that should be put on hold for the sake of preserving my own health or maintaining my inner landscape?

Is there anywhere that I just have to be patient? (THIS IS THE WORST. WHY THE PATIENCE? WHYYYYYYY?)

If I would let spirit/intuition/deep knowing drive the bus — truly, all the way — what would I stop doing immediately?

Likewise, what would I start doing immediately?

I don’t have any easy answers, which is mostly why I try and help you listen — by asking good questions, by pushing breathwork on you at every turn (a free class awaits you here, give it a try!), and by reflecting your truest desires back to you when I see them dart past, like a bright fish flashing past in murky water.

You’re perfectly capable of listening closely, adjusting accordingly, and then giving up the control of your life’s big picture to what wants to be made.

The life you’ll end up with is probably not precisely what you planned at age 8, but I’ll wager that it’s a damn sight more fulfilling than having a Kmart in your basement. 😉

P.S. Nourishing or numbing? A simple question to shift it all.

Let’s talk about 2020.

…in which I use this episode of the That’s What She Said podcast to a.) share every major thing I’ve learned in 2020 (vulnerability alert like WHOA), and then b.) challenge you to see 2020 a little differently.  With less hatred, shame, guilt, derision, fear, and/or overwhelm.

This is NOT an exercise in the art of ‘good vibes only’ or spiritual bypassing.

This IS a dare.  I dare you to mine the difficult and awful aspects of this year in order to find some of the depth and richness available to you right now.  Even when you’re stuck at home and wondering daily if you’re going insane while doomscrolling and hoping today will just be OVER ALREADY.

Mostly, this is a perspective check so that you’ve got a fighting chance against asshole brain.

Asshole brain is the mean voice in your head that says you’re not enough while also calling you awful names and whispering that you’ll never be able to __________ anyway, so why even try?  I’ve been calling it out for years now, and recommend you start here if the concept of asshole brain is new to you.

Grab a notebook, a pen, your headphones, then get to work!

P.S. Joy is not canceled.

How to build everyday fundraising into your business

This is an episode of That’s What She Said, and you can listen to all podcast episodes here! Read a close-to-transcript version below, or listen in for the full monty.

THE QUESTION:

“I’m really feeling like it’s inappropriate to promote my business at the moment, and honestly I’ve just lost momentum/motivation. It just seems like my/our collective attention needs to be on the BLM movement and the pandemic. I don’t feel good about self-promotion right now. Do you have any thoughts on how to either regain your business mojo OR how to better honor the collective ‘pause’ and not feel guilty for pulling energy away from your own work? My heart hurts. And I want to give all the love I have right now to the collective, not my own work.” — one of the peeps in Together, a year-long soul care program (think monthly breathwork and live unrecorded gatherings) which you can join for $22 a month right here!

THE ANSWER:

First: I feel you.

Continuing with ‘business as usual’ right now seems absolutely absurd. Do I need to save 40% on fast fashion offers, or buy a stockpile of ever-more-fashionable masks, or buy some guns to outfit my dope-ass bunker full of canned beans? No, no, and we both know I don’t have a bunker.

I wish I had the answer to the capitalism conundrum, like, “Okay burn this system down like in figure A, then in figure B, we’re all free! SO EASY!!!”

I don’t know of a way to dismantle any massive system of oppression that’s been operating for hundreds of years in one fell swoop, so we’re gonna do the second best thing.

We can work within the confines of the shitty capitalist system to subvert it at every turn.

Let’s stop as many bullshit systems of oppression as we can from continuing to flourish. One of the ways we can do that is by raising and donating as much money as we business owners can generate, as steadily as possible over the long term.

A few caveats before we go any further! I am not a teacher of or an authority regarding race or racial justice in America. My job is to keep learning, to listen harder, and to point you toward the gorgeous beings who are and who have been teaching me over the years.

I am a business coach with access to many people who own businesses. Sharing the following information is a direct route to getting money into the hands of the organizers, activists, leaders, movements, and teachers who have been doing justice and liberation work for a long, long time. (If you’d like more info or to join the biz coaching wait list, shoot me an email: k@kristenkalp.com.)

Finally, I’m only sharing experiments in giving that I’ve completed over the past 11 years of being in business. Sharing lived experiences is the only way I can assure you that variations on these starting points are effective ways to get money to the movements, nonprofits, and causes you most want to champion. I’m asking you to interpret this NOT as some sort of Polyanna-holier-than-thou-showing-off shit — but as ‘Here’s some stuff Kristen has done that worked, and some that didn’t, and now I feel freer to go try some giving experiments of my own.’

Let’s walk through a few ways to actively build fundraising into your business starting right now, bit by bit and experiment by experiment.

If you’re a white person spinning in the land of “WHERE DO I EVEN START????” regarding the reality of seeing white supremacy enacted again and again through outrageous levels of U.S. police brutality — and now, the President’s refusal to denounce white supremacy — you can always start with money. You can fundraise, donate, and repeat.

You have a business — which generates money — and money can always be redistributed to champion the people, organizations, movements, and ways of being you wish to see in the world.

First up: you can create and sell a one-time, limited edition product to fund a project, cause, or nonprofit.

You know this is an option, but your mind probably gets complicated by the details: which organization? Which products? For how long? What if I don’t sell any of the items for fundraising and I look like an idiot?

Don’t panic, ’cause we’re gonna walk through some options and handle that asshole brain flare-up of questions, too.

If you’ve got (or know of) a worthy project with a set budget, you can set up a business offering to cover all or part of that budget!

For example. I created a limited edition course called Becoming to fundraise for a volunteering trip to India with two other people circa 2011. I sold a bunch of seats in a class to raise about $9,000 for all expenses associated with traveling to and staying in India for three weeks. (You remember, when flying was a thing we did?) Sales of this class were particularly effective because I was transparent with my intentions and shared the project budget openly from day one. Those who purchased the class knew they were helping me complete a multi-week volunteering project near to my heart.

So long as you’ve got a clear budget — yours or that of a nonprofit — and a product or service to pair it with, you’re good to go.

You can offer your product or service at no charge or at a reduced fee to those who donate $x to the organization of your choice.

For example. At one point, my goal was to see how much giving I could get to happen by encouraging direct giving to a nonprofit. I handed out 1,000 free copies of my then-new book, Go Your Own Way, when peeps forwarded their donation receipts for Flying Kites to my inbox. In this way, we raised over $10,000 for that nonprofit within a few weeks. (Go Your Own Way: free yourself from business as usual is pay what you can priced here!)

You can also make a one-time, limited edition service to fund those same movements and nonprofits.

Just as you would in the case of products, you can create business services to fund raise for the cause of your choice.

Both used and unused talents apply here! Fundraising is the perfect spot to break out of your ‘niche’ and embrace the full spectrum of your talents.

If you’ve got a yoga teacher training certification you never use, hosting a pop-up fundraising class online might be a welcome treat for those who love you. Reiki trained? Donating a portion of the proceeds from this-month-only remote reiki sessions is an option.

The point here is not for me to list every single thing you might possibly do! It’s to ask where you’ve got unused talents or untapped resources that can be leveraged to raise some money for cash-strapped movements and nonprofits. So…

Where do you have unused talents or untapped resources that can be leveraged to raise money for rad people, movements, and nonprofits?

You can build a set donation percentage into the sale of existing products and services.

For example. I donate 25% of breathwork class proceeds to Together Rising and/or Flying Kites, which means I’m making monthly donations based on any breathwork classes I’ve sold each month. Some months yield just a few dollars in donations, while others yield hundreds. The point is not to hit a Very Specific Funding Goal, it’s to deliberately donate money after month.

You might be feeling shame about how ‘little’ you can do right now. I get it! AND. Donation shame isn’t a worthy use of your energies. Whether you sell one item with a donation promised or thousands of items with a donation promised, you agree to donate the proceeds and try again.

Acting as if donating $____ isn’t ‘enough’ will only make you feel more frustrated with fundraising as time goes on.  Unless you’re regularly donating billions, there will never be ‘enough’ money to solve the world’s problems once and for all.

When you want to change it up, you can also change it up! I’ve got an ongoing Breathwork for Coping with 2020 fundraiser that’s donating 50% of proceeds to Black Lives Matter. As of this moment, that class has raised $561 and counting for the movement.

We are all being asked to do what we can, with what we have, where we are. We’ve got businesses, and we can use them to bring positive change into being.

You can pay everyone for the work they do, with extra cash considerations given if you’re benefiting from the work of a member of a marginalized community.

Remember that time I lost $43,000 from hosting Brand Camp in 2014?

When asking around later, I learned that I had WILDLY overpaid everyone who spoke at the event. Turns out, most people who speak at large conferences (and are not the headliner) do so for free. Or for a nominal fee that covers room and board. Exploiting people’s labor is both accepted and encouraged when it comes to the enormous events and conferences circuit.

The same working-for-free mentality is also true for online ‘summits,’ for those who offer ‘exposure’ as a means of payment, and for those who assume that all those with smaller followings than their own should be thrilled to work for free on behalf of the empire. <– This is an example of capitalism gone wild, which exploits free labor in any way possible, at all times, for any reason, with the promise of a later benefit that generally fails to materialize, particularly for those who are already marginalized by societal systems of oppression.

Those invited onto my podcast are offered a fixed interview fee, which they can choose to receive or to have donated to Together Rising. Paying people is one of the really simple ways we can all help to build a culture of paying for the emotional labor and sharing of lived experience needed to create life-giving interviews.

You can add coaching, mentorship, and/or learning resources offered by members of marginalized communities to your monthly business expenses.

Many artists and scholars I admire offer ongoing support opportunities through their websites or through platforms like Patreon. Please find and use these means to pay those living humans you admire for doing the ongoing work of making the world a better place.

Which peeps does my business pay each month?

adrienne maree brown‘s work never ceases to touch me. She’s written two timely books — Emergent Strategy and Pleasure Activism — and her most recent poetry series, written during Covid-19, is fucking breathtaking. Support her monthly here.

Do you know Samantha Irby? If not, please stop everything ever and go read her books of essays, which are legit laugh-out-loud-and-worry-about-your-bladder-strength-because-you’re-trying-not-to-pee-yourself funny. Grab a copy of We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. (Thank me later.)

Sonya Renee Taylor‘s voice is unmistakable, powerful, and wise. Her book, The Body is Not An Apology, is stunning and brilliant, you can order it directly from the author to minimize Amazon’s profit-taking here. She also has the particular gift of making me feel called on my bullshit without triggering massive defensiveness and eruptions of white fragility. Support her monthly.

Jessamyn Stanley teaches yoga for every body on her Underbelly Yoga platform, and I love her classes. PLEASE ALLOW ME TO HYPE HER FOR A MOMENT: Jessamyn’s classes are funny, swear-y, honest, and real. She gets yoga for not-tiny-stick-bodies because she doesn’t live in a tiny stick body, and I’ve never before had the pleasure of learning yoga from a person with a body that looks like my own. Get the yoga.

Ron Finley’s Masterclass is a.) highly informative if you’re new to gardening and b.) entertaining as fuck. HOLY SHIT Watch it! You can also support The Ron Finley Project to help green up and garden up the food deserts of Los Angeles. HE IS A GODDAMNED WIZARD AND I AM WRITING IN ALL CAPS TO CONVEY HIS MAGIC TO YOU.

You may or may not resonate with these people and their projects! The point is not to agree with me about how awesome and life-changing these people are…

The point is to find AND THEN PAY people who are doing the work you want to see in the world.

Particularly people of color. Particularly members of marginalized communities. Particularly women. Particularly work that is often overlooked or undervalued (read: emotional labor, education, and managing the droves of people who are quick to criticize others’ efforts but aren’t doing a goddamned thing to help make a better world themselves).

There are ENDLESS ways to explore the places where donations and your business meet.

Rather than spinning in overwhelm for the next few weeks or months, consider that the hardest work in the world — that of liberation, of undoing bullshit systems of oppression, and of making the world a more livable place for every last being already in it — isn’t going anywhere.

In addition to donating X% of proceeds from a specific product or service, you might pledge to donate $Y per month as a recurring business expense. Monthly giving enables those responsible for managing nonprofit funds to better plan their budgets and effect change for the long haul. Further, monthly donations for a set amount are a magnificent entry point if you’re new to using your business for fundraising.

For example.  Recently, one of my coaching clients realized she no longer wanted to pay to participate in Toastmasters, so instead she’s donating that monthly fee to a local nonprofit fighting food deserts in St. Louis.  You can do that, too!  Cancel a $9.99 recurring fee for a service you don’t use, then redirect it the funds to a cause of your choosing!

Another example.  My business currently sponsors a child’s schooling and care through Flying Kites each month without being tied to the sale of a specific product or program. <– This isn’t some sort of performative OOH LOOK AT ME shit! This is me putting my money where my telling-you-how-it-might-be-useful-to-proceed mouth is.

Built-in giving comes in an endless number of forms, so let’s play with how your fundraising might work in everyday life.

The point here is to play with the places where your talents and your generosity can overlap. There’s no one ‘right’ way to do this and no gold stars will be rewarded, so check in with your intuition to determine which option you can implement in the coming weeks.

THE RECAP OF OPTIONS YOU’VE GOT AT THIS MOMENT

+ You can donate X% of specific product or service sales to your fundraising efforts for a set period of time.

For every [product or service] purchased by [date], I’ll donate $____ to [your chosen nonprofit]!

+ You can donate 50% of all business proceeds for a few days via a flash sale.

Hey, I’m splitting profits with ______ until ____ [date]! Buy now, everyone wins!

+ You can donate up to 100% of profits for a single class or event.

The class on [date] is donation-based, and X% of donations will be sent to _____________.

+ You can set up a recurring payment to a nonprofit that comes directly from your business funds.

These setups automatically provide people with a feel-good factor just for purchasing what they would normally be buying anyway. It also builds giving into your business in a short-term way, so you can experiment with different forms of fundraising before making any long-term commitments.

The point here is not perfection, but to get out there and raise some money for the people, organizations, movements, and nonprofits who so desperately need it right now.

We can use our businesses to perpetuate worthy projects, no matter their size.

Love,
K

P.S. Fundraising regularly through your business is inherently anti-capitalist, since capitalism dictates that you’re supposed to take every penny you make and turn it into MORE pennies.

If you’d like to hear more about how to incorporate anti-capitalist practices into your business, you’ll love this interview with Bear Hebert. They are fucking phenomenal!