Eli Cloud co-founded Sister Supply with a straightforward mission: eradicate Period Poverty. After raising over $5,000 on ioby in 2016, she was able to expand the impact of her organization. Since then, the number of menstruation products she has been able to provide for menstruating people in Memphis has nearly quadrupled.
We sat down with her to learn more about her work and the changes Sister Supply has undergone since the launch of her ioby project.
Can you tell me about the origins of Sister Supply and how your work began?
In October of 2014, my husband was working at a country club here in Memphis. One night, when it was nearly 8 degrees outside, a homeless woman who was having her period came in looking for menstruation products. She bled onto the couch, while the security guard called the cops instead of helping her. After that, I began looking for organizations I could donate money and supplies to in order to help homeless women in need of products. But there were none.
So I decided to take action. It was a “see a need, fill a need” situation. Back then, there were only 3 or 4 organizations doing this work nationally. Now, there are hundreds. There’s been a global awakening, of sorts, to its importance.
When we started, we were being fiscally sponsored by a local church, Shady Grove Presbyterian. By 2018, we expanded to our own 501(c)3.
What is your mission?
Our mission is to eradicate Period Poverty. To get there, we have 3 objectives. The first is to supply the need through providing disposable pads and tampons. The second is to destigmatize menstruation so that we’re talking about it out in the open. The third is to provide access to sustainable products, which if taken care of properly will last someone up to 10 years.
Can you talk about your usage of the word menstruators and why it’s important?
When we first started out, we were using the phrase “women and girls” to describe the folks we were helping. Our eyes have been opened up since then, because we want to be as inclusive to this process as possible.
The definition of menstruator is simple: it’s anyone who is menstruating and has an uterus. It doesn’t matter how you identify.
Unfortunately, we’ve been met with a lot of transphobic rhetoric online. It’s a normal occurrence at this point on our social media.
We have helped many people who aren’t cisgender women who come to us to feel safe because of the inclusive environment we are creating. We have also learned about the product preferences and needs of trans men and continue to grow our work in response.
At what point did you decide to work with ioby and what were the results?
At the time, I was attending Shady Grove Presbyterian and one of my friends through the church had an ongoing ioby project. She told me about ioby and how the platform takes less money in fees than other crowdfunding platforms and provides one-on-one support.
Prior to Sister Supply, I had no experience working with nonprofits or fundraising. I was doing business development for an architecture firm, so I was way out of my league. We were just getting started. We didn’t have any of the knowledge and facts we have now. ioby came along and partnered with us side-by-side. They had us asking the important questions. We had a very successful campaign and even exceeded our goal.
The campaign also resulted in a lot of PR exposure. One of the local PR firms in Memphis came across our ioby project because I invited him to make a donation. They reached out and offered to partner with us and ended up developing our marketing materials!
People were incredibly willing to give, we never had issues meeting our goal.
How has your work grown since your ioby project finished?
When we started this work, we thought the majority of our time was going to be spent providing menstruation products to homeless women. We immediately realized there was a far bigger need in the schools for school-aged menstruators living in poverty. There are so many young people missing school because they don’t have access to essential products. Our goal is to provide them with as many menstruating products as possible.
In terms of impact, we distributed 19,000 products in 2015. In 2022 alone, we distributed over 309,000. Over the years we’ve continued to grow our reach and distribution networks.
We’ve also been able to provide sustainable products to menstruators about to turn 18 who are about to age out of the foster system. This will allow them to go to school or work without having the financial burden to purchase products.
Our work has definitely grown, but I want to make clear: I don’t want this to be a career. I want it to be a problem that’s been solved!
What’s some advice you would share with any current or future ioby project leaders?
The process works! When you have a coach alongside you helping you form your campaign, it really helps you think about what you’re trying to accomplish.
It’s especially helpful for people like me who don’t have a background with nonprofits or fundraising. Having an expert guide our way was invaluable, because they were helping us ask the right questions.
I don’t think we would have been able to successfully run this campaign without ioby. Other crowdfunding platforms wouldn’t have led us to the right solution and would have left us without support.
So, yes, trust the process!
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