by Wendy Hathaway
Resource redistribution and mutual aid are at the core of abortion funding. Over the last year, we saw not only an increase in barriers to abortion access, but also the need for essentials like food and baby supplies, and the responsibility to stand with those organizing for racial justice.
Two abortion funds—Our Justice based in Minneapolis, Minn., and All-Options Hoosier Abortion Fund, based in Bloomington, Ind.,—recognized the need to broaden the focus of their Fund-a-Thon campaigns and energized their supporters to join with them in funding community care.
All abortion funds faced unprecedented challenges over the past year. But in Minneapolis, the urgent need for true reproductive justice felt even more urgent in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in May.
As the oldest abortion fund in the Midwest (and the originator of the first Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon), Our Justice has deep community roots. They opted to end their Fund-a-Thon campaign early to instead prioritize supporting local racial justice and mutual aid organizations. Leaning into existing relationships with partner organizations like SPIRAL Collective and Minnesota Healing Justice Network, the fund supported efforts to set up food banks and assemble healing kits of teas, tinctures, and salves for BiPOC families and organizers, many of whom were on the front lines protesting against police violence. With SPIRAL, Our Justice also helped folks with transportation, navigating National Guard blockades to get to abortion care appointments, and a new Plan B home delivery program.
“The work of abolition and organizing and supporting is part of reproductive justice because we’re caring for the whole person and helping build networks of community care that exist outside the systems that restrict access to abortion care,” explains Megumi Rierson, Communications Manager at Our Justice.
The COVID-19 pandemic also drastically increased requests for financial assistance and other resources related to abortion care. Leah Soule, Development Manager at Our Justice, says the number of abortion assistance pledges increased 90 percent and the average pledged amount per person grew from $200 to $350. This played a significant role in the messaging to supporters around this year’s Fund-a-Thon event.
The virtual Brunch-a-Thon featured a local chef and food justice activist who demonstrated how to make a smoothie while a healer discussed wellness for people with wombs.
“It was a really engaging program that connected our work, our relationships with different Minneapolis communities, and our supporters and fundraisers,” Rierson says.
One fundraising team fully embraced the brunch theme. “Team Eggz” posted egg puns, photos, memes, and drawings to entertain their social networks and raised more than $7,000. One individual fundraiser traded brunch-related dares for donations from his Twitter followers. Another has been consistently raising thousands of dollars every year for more than a decade.
Rierson and Soule say these supporters are part of the fund family and they hope in the future to integrate their creativity and expertise into trainings and resources for fellow funders.
“We want to show that fundraising can be fun and different and doesn’t have to be uncomfortable emails or nervous phone calls,” Rierson says.
ALL-OPTIONS HOOSIER ABORTION FUND
The All-Options Hoosier Abortion Fund is just one of several mutual aid programs run by the national All-Options organization. So when the pandemic hit during Fund-a-Thon season last year, they were able to nimbly pivot their fundraising strategy to address rising abortion needs as well as diapers and baby supplies.
“I think that’s why so many people get behind us, because of the wide spectrum of issues we invest in,” says Evelyn Smith, State Programs Manager at All-Options, whose programs also include the Hoosier Diaper Program and the All-Options Talkline.
“We’re part of a bigger movement and willing to push for better policy at a state and local level.”
This year, the Hoosier Abortion Fund focused on one fundraising event—a virtual film screening and live chat with abortion access experts and supporters—and organizers say the laid-back vibe felt right for the moment.
“It accomplished exactly what we wanted: to bring people together and raise money for the abortion fund,” says Leslie Lopez, National Engagement Coordinator at All-Options. “People were able to just enjoy the time together as a community.”
Their Fund-a-Thon success is thanks in large part to a robust system of community partners who come out strong every year to raise money.
“Our partner organizations are really excited to support the fund because they know the money goes to people right in their community,”
explains Parker Dockray, Executive Director at All-Options. All-Options was the first, and is still the only, organization to fund abortion care across the state of Indiana.
Groups like Young Women’s Task Force of Greater Lafayette, Indy Feminists, and a church in Bloomington, Ind., engage with their networks and host their own fundraising events for Fund-a-Thon with logistical support from Hoosier Abortion Fund. In past years, this has included trivia nights, drag shows, and a tattoo parlor promotion.
With All-Options staff and volunteers located across the country, Dockray says, “Having these relationships with community groups is how we engage with the [Indiana] community, because they all know and support us, directly or indirectly.”
That nationally distributed support is also why Fund-a-Thon organizers are committed to including a virtual component to event planning in the future.
“We’ve added things to our toolbox as far as events and fundraising to connect with people across a broader spectrum,” Smith says. “We now know that we can come together virtually and get more people involved.”