Meet Our Member: New Moon Network

Melodie Garcia Headshot

As an intermediary funder and capacity builder advancing sex worker rights in the U.S., the New Moon Network recently joined Funders Concerned About AIDS’ member community to learn and connect with like-minded funders. In our latest member feature, Melodie (pictured left) talks with FCAA’s Sarah Hamilton about why sex workers’ rights are a “linchpin” issue, finding common ground with different donor networks, and what intermediaries and other philanthropic organizations can learn from each other. 

Sarah Hamilton: Please tell us about New Moon Network and the work you do. 

Melodie Garcia: New Moon Network is an intermediary funder and capacity builder advancing the sex worker rights movement in the USA. We do that through capacity building programming for individual advocates and sex worker-led nonprofits, and we do some donor advising and philanthropic education as well. We’ve been incorporated officially as a fiscally sponsored project for about a year and a half now and in operation for about two years. 

We also have a micro-granting program, where we give out five $1,000 grants to sex worker- and survivor-led groups across the USA. We’ve done some seed funding for particular projects and 0% interest loans for different groups as well, which have been really successful. 

Sarah: Talk to us about the connection between sex work and HIV. Why is it so important to create networks that lift up the needs of sex workers? 

Melodie: Sex workers’ rights are really a linchpin issue. Sex workers tend to be canaries in the coal mine for different policy rollouts that affect marginalized folks. Sex workers have also been at the forefront of HIV prevention and intervention since HIV was discovered in the U.S. and abroad. 

Both at a systems level and an individual and community level, the sex worker community is doing direct services work that provides harm reduction interventions. And it doesn’t stop there. Our grantees and the folks that we work with are doing a mix of direct services and policy advocacy. So they’re moving their work upstream to talk about how folks with lived experience need to be at the table in terms of deciding on policies and funding that affect HIV. Many of us also have mutual aid collectives, where we’re trying to get folks who are HIV-positive or at risk of being HIV-positive the resources that they need in order to survive and thrive.

So I think for us, especially in thinking about how we tap into different donor networks and educate folks, we really use that linchpin mental model to elevate where within different funding portfolios sex workers tend to be. They tend to be in HIV funding and education, LGBTQ+ rights and liberation, poverty alleviation and economic mobility, women’s rights, all of these things. So what we’ve been really trying to do is find not only funding in these pockets and show the relevance to sex workers’ rights, but also really learn the broader funding ecosystem as it pertains to that portfolio.  

Sarah: What prompted New Moon to join FCAA’s member network?

Melodie: One of our primary vehicles for achieving our mission is donor education, so it’s really important for us to be a part of this ecosystem of funders as an intermediary. We joined Funders Concerned About AIDS, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, ABFE, and a couple other smaller philanthropy groups to really make sure that we’re aligning our giving practices. 

We’re learning the language of philanthropy, because both myself and our founder and co-director, Savannah Sly, come from [the] movement, and not necessarily from philanthropy. So, I think it’s really important for us to be able to not only participate in this funder ecosystem as peers, but to also network and learn from you all about how to tackle the beast that is philanthropy.

Sarah: That’s great. Thinking about the flip side of that equation, what can FCAA members learn from New Moon’s work in community-led participatory grantmaking? 

Melodie: I think this movement, along with harm reduction, actually have been pioneers in getting participatory models to be highlighted for mainstream philanthropy. We do a lot of mutual aid, community care, collective giving, which feels like it’s at a place now where philanthropy is starting to really see those models as best practice. And so I see more of that moving forward in traditional philanthropy, which is really awesome. 

More folks are using an advisory board with community members who have lived experience in their issue area to help make grantmaking practices more equitable and community-controlled. So I’m hoping to see more of that, because I think we’ve all done a really good job of showing that those [participatory] models are possible and actually uphold the integrity of what we’re trying to do in the first place, which is to keep our communities well and well-funded.

Sarah: Are there any upcoming initiatives for New Moon that you’re especially excited about? 

Melodie: One of our more successful capacity-building programs is called Spokes Hub, which we run in partnership with the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, our fiscal sponsor. 

Spokes Hub is basically a virtual academy for anyone with lived experience in the sex trade. It’s a peer learning model, so folks will come and talk about what it takes to write a grant for a sex worker-led organization, media literacy skills, how to talk to a legislator, things like that. It’s really kind of exploded in the last year, and we’re building up a lot of really great content. 

We’ve also now launched an award-winning directory, where we have over 500 peer-reviewed resources that are advocacy tools for folks in the adult industry. So [if] we are trying to convince a legislator that the model around [decriminalization] works in a specific region, for example, we’ve got all of those vetted community reports in one place. 

Sarah: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share with our community? 

Melodie: I really love the work that FCAA does, and I’m really stoked that you all are so forthright with having sex workers and folks with lived experience leading a lot of your work. I hope more funders and individual folks follow that model and continue to see how sex workers are relevant to the work that you all are doing as agents for change, direct service providers, and community educators. Sex workers have been around forever, and we’re not going anywhere, so fund us, please.

Interested in learning more about membership? Our community of 50+ members, who represent half of all HIV-related philanthropic funding, gain access to exclusive events, resources, and connections to pursue a shared vision of a world without AIDS. Meet our current members and learn how to join here