Setting Goals and Meeting Them: RuthAnn Deveney
Dressember advocates often find creative ways to advocate. One advocate, RuthAnn Deveney, has spent the past three years going beyond the challenge of wearing dresses to wearing the same dress for the whole duration of December and setting monetary goals enough to fund 10 rescue operations.
RuthAnn first joined Dressember in 2014 because of her familiarity with International Justice Mission, one of Dressember's partners.
“I liked the idea that we can all do something to fight human trafficking,” Deveney said. “I am proud to be an advocate, and I'm looking forward to my fourth project this year.”
Being an advocate has pushed RuthAnn to not only research more in order to be well-informed, but it was also a turning point for her in regards to her knowledge of the realities of modern slavery and injustice in the world.
“I learned about children in forced labor, widows whose homes were taken away, police corruption, and yes, [sex] trafficking,” RuthAnn said. “Reading and watching videos about the injustice around the world lit a fire in me.”
Ruth Ann’s first impression of Dressember was that it was full of social media posts and fashionistas, but she soon learned that the campaign is full of meaning and is creating an undeniable impact.
“There is a real heart behind the campaign, and I like how the advocates all do it in their own way,” RuthAnn said. “So much money has been raised and ‘ordinary’ people are empowered to talk to their friends about really hard subjects. That's huge. Being a Dressember advocate taught me about modern slavery and it also shows me the power of the accumulation of small efforts. It's encouraging and energizing.”
RuthAnn didn’t find the style challenge that difficult, so she decided to challenge herself further by wearing the same dress all month.
“Over the course of 3 years, I raised over $9,000, and I really think that the gimmick of wearing the same dress motivated people to contribute and see how long I would go. I would definitely challenge Dressember advocates out there to try this. It is logistically difficult (the laundry alone!), but it makes a big impact because it shows major dedication,” RuthAnn said.
RuthAnn originally found it difficult to have tough conversations about ending human slavery and trafficking.
“Over the years, it's gotten incrementally easier, but the hardest part of Dressember for me is endurance. I always sign up as soon as I can, and that means being a vocal advocate for about 4 months straight,” RuthAnn said. “It's tough to keep that up without becoming complacent, feeling like I'm always ‘selling’ something, or nagging people who have seen every social media post I put out there. I try to keep a healthy perspective in that what I consider difficult is merely inconvenience, and the people I'm advocating for are the ones who are truly dealing with hardship. It's less of a guilt trip and more of a pep talk so that I can shed the self-pity and keep going strong.”
2017 will be her third year organizing her own team. She set a personal goal of $1200 her first year, which amounted to one full month of investigation work at IJM.
SInce then, she has set even more goals for herself, including 30-day fashion challenges, specific prompts for a series of days, alongside the challenge of wearing the same dress every day.
“I told my network that for every $40 donated (because $1,200 divided by 31 days in December is about $40), I'd continue to wear my one dress for another day. I ended up wearing my dress for 37 days and raising $1,450!” RuthAnn said. She continued to wear the same dress: 39 days in 2015 and a record 47 days in 2016! And it's been the literal same dress - a plain black jersey dress. RuthAnn said, "People recognize it now! They ask, 'Is that The Dress?' whenever I wear it, even outside Dressember."
According to RuthAnn, the experience taught her that people are really generous, especially when they are contributing toward a specific goal. It also made it more exciting when her friends considered their donations to be a "dare" for her.
“I think Dressember is SO much more fun in a team. I love cheering on my teammates and fostering camaraderie in our group! It's awesome knowing that we are all in it together.”
RuthAnn’s team is aiming to fund 10 rescue operations this year, after being named the top team in 2016 and raising over $45,000.
“We are so excited and a bit nervous about our big goal! Last year, my team's goal was to raise $31,000, or as we called it: $31K in 31 Days,” Ruth Ann said. “I wasn't sure how attainable this was, but I wanted to shoot big. It helped that our slogan rolled off the tongue easily!”
This year, as RuthAnn brainstormed with some core team members, she knew increasing that goal was what she wanted. The team turned to the IJM “gift catalog” for help, and decided on a freedom package, which includes one sex trafficking rescue operation, aftercare for ten survivors, and trauma counseling for a group of survivors. IJM estimates that cost at $6,850.
“I asked, ‘Would it be crazy to shoot for ten rescue operations?’ Aiming to raise $68,500 represents almost a 50% increase from our previous fundraising total, which is why we are kind of nervous! But we knew it was the right thing to do. ‘Ten Rescue Operations’ is already a rallying cry for us, and I think it resonates strongly with our team, our friends and family. We are sending rescue!”
RuthAnn said organizing a team (pictured below) has been a learning curve for her.
“My top priority as a team organizer is to help all of my team members have a great experience and reach their goals, whether it's fundraising, building the courage to start conversations, wearing a dress for the first time in however long, or inviting friends to join the team,” RuthAnn said.
“I asked, ‘Would it be crazy to shoot for ten rescue operations?’ Aiming to raise $68,500 represents almost a 50% increase from our previous fundraising total, which is why we are kind of nervous! But we knew it was the right thing to do."
RuthAnn said that although she is not doing the one-dress challenge this year, she will be aiming to meet that financial goal while wearing stripes!
“Instead, I'm challenging myself in the fundraising area by aiming to fund one entire rescue mission, or $6,850. This is 50% more than I raised in 2016, so I will need to push myself to reach out to more people and ask my contributors to advocate for ME. This is scary for me! But I really want to push myself and aim high,” RuthAnn said.
Overall, RuthAnn is happy to be an advocate, and is willing to keep pushing herself so that others see how dedicated she is to the cause, and also how much of a problem slavery and human trafficking are around the world.
She wanted new advocates to know that they already have what they need.
“When someone tells me, ‘I don't have enough dresses,’ I share about my own one-dress challenge,” RuthAnn said. “That's part of the reason I have done it: to prove that it's possible! But this is extreme - I only put it out there as an example. Don't get hung up on the fashion part - use what you have and be creative!”
RuthAnn also said that advocates shouldn’t be dissuaded by a lack of contacts or confidence.
“Don't worry about the money - help your friends and family understand that modern slavery is real,” RuthAnn said. “[Also,] Don’t feel pressure to be an expert— tell your story.”
Thanks to RuthAnn for taking the time to be interviewed by us, and congratulations to her team for already raising over $17,000!
About the Author
Miranda Lintzenich is an analog girl stuck in a digital world. A little quirkier than most, Miranda enjoys 70s music, odd clothing styles, working at her school newspaper and serving pizza on the side.