The History of SPEEC

SPEEC began as a gleam in the collective eye of a group of Portlanders with experience organizing kink events — Dirty Playground, The Twisted Party, KinkFest. From working on parties and cons, we saw the need for an education and event center that would meet the growing demands of the larger sex-positive community in the Pacific Northwest: kinky people, sure, but also practitioners of tantra; ecosexuals; snugglers; polyamory, asexuality and LGBTQ groups; swingers; everyone.

Starting in 2013, we began the long and detailed process of applying for 501(c)3 non-profit status, researching models, talking with similar organizations in other cities and with leaders in the Portland community, developing by-laws and articles of incorporation, consulting with an attorney, developing policies and documentation, giving structure to the membership organization, building a database, creating a fundraising plan, and working with commercial real estate professionals toward finding a venue. We also began the arduous process of working with the city to understand zoning, capacity issues, ADA requirements and other barriers we have seen other organizations and businesses struggle with or choose to not follow. We knew it would be a long-term drive to make a non-profit organization like this finally come true in Portland. The IRS granted SPEEC non-profit status in October 2014, and we continue to seek out exactly the right building to house us.

Why SPEEC? How is SPEEC different?

In her revolutionary book Come As You Are, sex educator Emily Nagoski talks about a paradigm-shifting way of looking at human sexuality: starting with the sex organ that is our brain, we all come with the same basic parts, but each person’s parts fit together in a way unique to them. In a sense, SPEEC is like that, too: same, same but different. Portland has a history of successful venues hosting parties, workshops and meetings for sex-positive groups. But there hasn’t been a non-profit organization to accommodate these needs on a larger scale and we see a large turnover of venues for various reasons often having to do with a business model that doesn’t meet the legal standards required. The plan for creating a non-profit is to allow the community to have ownership in the center and ensure SPEEC remains a community resource for many years to come.

There are other benefits of non-profit status. A non-profit organization exists as a legal entity in its own right, separate from its founders. Incorporation puts the non-profit’s mission and structure above the personal interests of any individuals associated with it. While many traditional businesses provide a crucial service to the community, when those businesses change or close, it’s the community that suffers.

The non-profit model means revenues go right back into the organization and its programs, making it better and better as time goes on. This model also allows the community to have a direct say in how the organization is run and maintained in order to serve the broader community rather than private interests. And it allows community members to get a tax deduction when they donate money or contribute goods and services.

Finally, finding the right space to rent for large sex-positive events is notoriously difficult. The space needs to be big enough to meet capacity needs of the community legally and have a landlord open to sex-positive events. There needs to be insurance coverage to offset liability to the owners of the building and the organization and to comply with local building occupancy and fire codes to allow for sustainability. The benefit of choosing a nonprofit business model is that the nonprofit status lends to visibility and credibility with landlords, insurers, the city and other businesses.

Why now? Why haven’t people heard about SPEEC before?

When the people who started SPEEC began thinking the idea through, we had seen this movie before — group after business after organization would talk about starting a center like this, and then it wouldn’t happen. We wanted to write a different ending. The core board members came together first as people who know each other. We brought experience in fields like fundraising, bookkeeping, and business and non-profit management — plus mad party-throwing skills. Our initial goal was to begin to research if SPEEC was even possible. During this time we made a strategic decision to stay private about our work in case this effort, too, didn’t happen. We didn’t want to put it out there until we had enough research and structure to feel confident that it would become a reality. We needed a solid foundation before we began asking for the community’s support.

Today we’re out. And we have three immediate goals: to expand leadership to others in the larger sex-positive community, raise funds to be a viable renter in the commercial market and find exactly the right building. We want your support, your ideas, your energy. We have the foundation; let’s create something spectacular.

Who is “SPEEC”?

Right now SPEEC has six directors on its board and about 40 volunteers from various sex positive communities. The directors include five of the original eight people who got together a couple of years ago with the vision to make this happen. The board is now and will continue to be selected based on non-profit experience, community experience, skills, leadership qualities, motivation, and available time. New directors will be selected from nominated individuals at the end of each term or in cases of attrition. No board member makes money from SPEEC, all money donated or earned by SPEEC goes directly back to the organization. Each board member has given personal funds as a tax-deductible donation to the non-profit in an effort to seed the launch of the organization. The three former board members who are no longer involved are still strong supporters and active as community members to help get SPEEC launched. Every person involved with SPEEC is a volunteer and we couldn’t do it without that heart and energy!

SPEEC sounds amazing! How can I help this resource happen for my community?

  • Come to our events, invite your friends and share the excitement on social media!
  • Volunteer!  To get started, just fill out the volunteer application. Offer just an hour or two here or there or find out ways to even more involved in leadership!
  • Help us spread the word to more communities to increase our diversity and help build bridges between the various sex positive communities in the Pacific Northwest!
  • Ask us questions if you want more information. We’re an open book!