Breaking the Shackles

Writing Samples + History & Mission

Posted by Michael Banks on December 24th, 2018

Breaking the Shackles Gave New Light to Philanthropic World

Left to right: Founder (Cameron Harris), Photographers (Nolan + Micah) and Executive Director of Event Planning (Bradley Barker).

Before encountering Breaking The Shackles, I had a very small understanding of the word "philanthropic". I did not think that giving was fun and I considered philanthropy kind, but not necessary. I didn't trust the process of giving because there was no way to ensure that the recipitent was (trust)worthy.

Breaking the Shackles is a 501(c)(3), non-profit that did things extremely differently. It's employees had fun, fundraising! They canned on the streets of downtown Athens, GA, and performed acoustic sets at local coffee shops to drive donations. Once a year, members even put on a massive benefit concert! BTS fundraised differently. The organization caught my attention. I secretly loved BTS, but did not want to admit it to my spirit that distrusted philanthropy.

In 2014 Breaking the Shackles founder, Cameron Harris asked me to join the organzation. He wanted to end the epidemic of human trafficking. Although I was inexperienced at the time, he wanted as much help as he could get. I carefully considered, but decided that philanthropy wasn't "for me".

I was wrong.

For several months I was perturbed. So many suffered from the injustice of trafficking. 4.5 million people are trapped in forced sexual explotation globally. 100 juvenile girls are exploited in my state, Georgia, every night. The statistics made me nauseous.


3 months later, I went back to Cameron and begged to join the fight against trafficking (very late notice to our last conversation). To Cameron, the invitation never had expired--he welcomed me with open arms.

Breaking the Shackles was a launching pad for my career into the realm of NGOs and non-profits. I served for two years as a social media coordinator and one year as the Executive Director of Social Media and Marketing. This organization established foundations for my skills in event planning, design, social media and most importantly copywriting. I deeply cherish my memories with the organzation and continue to support it today.

And finally, a picture of myslef with the BTS team!

Coffee and Conversation: Little Required

Every September, we enjoyed coffee & community in a 3-part music tour. Local musicians volunteered to play for free. We partnered with Zombie Coffee & Donuts, Jittery Joes at Five Points and 1000 Faces in Athens, GA. See part of our online campaign that I directed here.


Launching the "Change Makers Conference"

We organized an annual conference (around 100 in attendance) to highlight NGOs and non-profits in our local community.

Each February, we organized an annual conference (around 100 in attendance) to highlight NGOs and non-profits in our local community. We enabled others to join the conversation by using the hashtags #WeAreChangeMakers and #UR2 on social media. This online campaign gave our members opportunities to be featured on the Instagram account. See part of our online campaign that I directed here.


Taking On the "Georgia Theater": Fundraising Can Be Fun!

The GA Theatre, day of our annual benefit concert, 2018.

Each year I helped host a benefit concert through BTS. We marketed the event using the phrase "sound of the movement". Historically, social justice movements have been characterized by sounds. Whether voices singing "We Shall Overcome" or boots synchronized in marching, we believed that a unified voice for freedom can change the world. We asked others to join our war cry in setting individuals around the world free from the yoke of slavery by coming to our concert! See part of our online campaign that I directed here.


Fundraising via Email

Fundraising via email is challenging but, nonetheless, important. Here is an example of a support email I sent to our larger donors during a summer campaign. Donors responded well and we made it to our goal that year. We tried to keep an overhead account to ensure that all proceeds raised during the year would directly benefit our partners.

Photographs courtesy of Breaking the Shackles Team.