Following up to our End of Year Message
January 31, 2018
At the end of December, we sent a year-end fundraising appeal to our list of supporters, which also provided an update on some changes we are making within the EMA Fund. In response to that letter, we received some questions regarding the nature of this restructuring process, as well as our operating procedures. Hearing the call for transparency, we are doing our best to respond openly and fully. We hope the information below provides some answers, and we are looking forward to continuing the conversation with you this year as the EMA Fund strives to better uphold anti-racist and anti-oppressive values. Thank you to those who held us accountable to these values and pushed us to be more transparent. We also want to reassure all of you that our hotline remains open; that will not change during this process.
What specific steps is the EMA Fund taking to transform us to an organization that genuinely prioritizes anti-racism?
Under the leadership of several fund members who have held us accountable to the anti-racist values we aspire to, the EMA Fund agreed that we needed to take a significant amount of time to focus almost exclusively on transforming our culture and practices to reduce the harms of racism and white supremacy within and at the hands of the the fund. In order to focus on this work, we chose to put a substantial number of non-essential tasks and projects on hold. Our goal was to continue only what was necessary to ensure abortion funding needs were met, and devote the rest of our energy and resources to a process of organizational transformation.
Transformation and growth, while necessary, are stressful, and this process has been challenging us in new ways. While everyone who has remained an active fund member is committed to this process, we vary in our levels of understanding of the way in which white supremacy affects the work we do (generally and in the EMA Fund specifically), and are developing practices to hold one another accountable to these goals. In taking care to be very deliberate with this work, we are moving at an intentionally slow pace.
It was clear that in order to truly understand the ways in which we have failed to live up to our values, an outside perspective would be necessary, so we will be engaging a consultant or consulting group that works on organizational development with a racial justice focus. We envision that this individual or group will help design the steps we need to take and lead us through the difficult work of looking inward and making change.
At the end of 2017 we developed a Request for Proposal that we circulated to recommended consultants, and we have begun having conversations with some of them about working together. If you would like to suggest an individual or group to work with we welcome your input, though we do hope to have an agreement in place by the end of February 2018. We will work with the consultant(s) to map out the process, so the exact timeline and specific steps are still to be determined, but we expect that at minimum, we will be focusing on anti-racist transformation through the end of 2018.
Why did we say we are going to be communicating less during this process?
EMA Fund volunteers put considerable time into reviewing all projects and tasks we had been pursuing, and decided which of these could be put on hold in order to free up capacity for working with consultants, holding meetings, updating procedures, and otherwise putting our energy into shifting toward an anti-racist focus. As an all-volunteer organization, we must consider our volunteers’ limitations of available time and energy, and ensure that all understand that this work needs to be our highest priority alongside funding abortions.
The work that we decided to pause was that which was not immediately necessary to continue funding abortions in eastern MA. These paused projects include things like changing to a new electronic filing system, building a network for abortion funding in New Hampshire, recruiting new volunteers and board members, and nonessential communication to supporters. We wanted to ensure that we are able to devote our full energy to changing our organizational culture and take this opportunity to assess practices that may contribute to a racist and oppressive culture within our organization.
The work that we agreed needs to continue includes staffing hotline shifts, paying grants to clinics, and raising funds so that we can keep funding abortions–though there will be less fundraising activity.
However, if our donors, supporters, and the community we serve and work within need more communication during this time, we can make it more of a priority to send regular updates. We made these decisions with much deliberation, but are very open to feedback.
Why did we reference Reproductive Justice in our letter?
We included the definition of RJ in our end of year appeal to clarify the lens through which we hope to restructure our fund. This inaccurately projected the impression that we believe we already successfully practice these values, and for that, we apologize. As a fund, we acknowledge that the Reproductive Justice movement was founded by, is led by, and centers BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals. We also acknowledge that we have incorrectly and inappropriately claimed to be an RJ organization in the past, and as a fund mostly run by white folks, we can not and should not identify as an RJ organization. As part of this process, we are intentionally stepping away from this language and instead seeking to understand how we can best support the movement, letting others take the lead.
How does the EMA Fund spend money? Why does EMA need to ask for money?
The EMA Fund has been fortunate to have a growing budget in the past few years, raising more than $100,000 annually, mostly from small donations. The majority of this money goes toward funding abortions:
- In 2016, 79 percent of our ~$118,000 budget, around $80,000, went toward funding our callers’ abortions. These numbers are not inclusive of the administrative costs of running the hotline. This past year (2017) we have pledged roughly $1,800-$2,000 per week, most of it directly to clinics to pay for abortions for our callers, and some to pay for transportation and lodging for callers traveling to appointments. The amount we pledge often differs from the amount we ultimately are asked to pay to the clinics for several reasons (e.g., a caller learns they are eligible for MassHealth and no longer need our grant, or the cost of their procedure was different than originally anticipated), so it takes a little bit of time to confirm our expenditures each year. We are currently working on reconciling the difference between the amount pledged and the amount invoiced in 2017 so that we can share that information (usually finalized around March)
- The remaining 21 percent of our 2016 budget went toward other essential costs like our phone line, access to language interpreting services, meeting and training expenses, and maintaining organization operations. This includes sending volunteers to the annual National Network of Abortion Funds summit and other trainings and conferences that support our education and growth. In 2017 we also redesigned our website, which was a large one-time expense that was crucial to ensuring callers can find and contact the fund.
- We build the EMA Fund’s annual budget around the amount of money raised in the preceding year. In line with best practices for 501(c)(3) organizations, we have money in reserves for worst-case scenarios, and we raise and expend funds on a rolling basis in order to remain fiscally healthy. We have been in a strong financial position for the past few years, and generally do not need to turn callers away due to lack of funds. In 2015, when we finished the year with a surplus, EMA redistributed that money as a solidarity grant to a fund in a lesser-served area the following year.
- We are working on our 2018 budget and, in response to the calls for transparency, plan to share it once it is finalized. We can tell you that in 2018, we are increasing our weekly hotline budget, allowing us to provide larger grants and further lessen the financial burden on our callers, especially in light of growing barriers to abortion access. We are also exploring new ways to support our volunteers and meet their needs, as well as those of our callers.
- We sent an end of year appeal to ensure we could fund abortions in 2018 at or above our current funding level by ending 2017 on-budget. Thanks to your generosity, we did accomplish this and met our 2017 fundraising goal.
Why did my email to firstname.lastname@example.org bounce?
The email@example.com email was down due to a technical oversight on our part. This was easily and quickly corrected, but the incident served as an important reminder to incorporate a review of our operational process into this organizational change and make sure there are no gaps that could affect service to callers.
How can I support the EMA Fund moving forward?
We have a lot of work to do this year. We ask for your patience and compassion throughout this process as we acknowledge our individual and communal shortcomings and seek to rectify them. We may make mistakes along the way, but we are committed to learning from those mistakes and emerging as a stronger, more effective fund. This is hard work, but we enter 2018 ready to take it on.
Ultimately, the EMA Fund’s primary mission is to fund abortions. We will continue to provide funding, logistical support, and referrals to people who live in, or are having abortions in, Eastern Massachusetts and are unable to pay for their abortions. But this work needs to be done thoughtfully and with care, so our goal with this transition is to prioritize anti-racist intervention so we can fund abortions in a way that uplifts our callers, both avoiding and actively combating the perpetuation of systemic harm. Regardless of how long this process takes, we will continue to fund abortions, and apply our learnings to this work.
We appreciate your emails, calls for accountability, offers of support and ideas for moving forward. We are fortunate to be part of a community that expects the best from us, and know that this process will make us a stronger fund. Thank you for holding us to a higher standard and caring enough about this work to put in the labor to help us learn.