You may have seen the recent message from SAA (Society of American Archivists) announcing the decision to sunset the SAA Foundation’s facilitation of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund (AWE Fund) on December 31, 2021, the end of the current pilot period. Responding to immediate needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the AWE Fund has provided grants of up to $1,000 to 188 archival workers since its inception in April 2020, thanks to donations from 998 individuals and organizations. The pandemic brought attention to the financial precarity of archival workers. Archival communities’ responses to the AWE Fund highlighted a commitment to addressing this issue. As members of the ad hoc AWE Fund Organizing Committee, we support the SAA Foundation Board’s intention to “develop a new strategic plan with a high priority on addressing archival employment precarity and supporting archivists in need through both new and existing programs.”
The decision to sunset the AWE Fund is illustrative of broader issues that go beyond any one professional organization or global pandemic. Tax laws, as they currently exist, make it difficult to give people money without requiring them to prove that they need it and/or document how they are using it. This reflects what Dean Spade (2020) describes as the “eligibility requirements” of the charity model (Mutual Aid, p. 22). It implies that some people in need are worthy of help, and others are in need due to some failing in morals or effort–an idea the Organizing Committee and the SAA Foundation rejected with the AWE Fund by taking colleagues at their word when they said they were in need of funds. To continue exercising this radical spirit of solidarity and generosity, we risk finding ourselves on the wrong side of U.S. tax law and the requirements it imposes on philanthropic organizations such as the SAA Foundation. Much as the AWE Fund raised our awareness of broader issues in the profession, so too does this decision by the SAA Foundation raise our awareness of broader issues in the tax law and other systems that are creating barriers for supporting the most vulnerable in our communities.
This is not the end of the AWE Fund, but a moment of transition. We have questions and ideas to discuss. Do we have the capacity and know-how to carry the AWE Fund forward as a mutual aid organization independent of SAA? Does solely focusing on the distribution of monetary support to our colleagues remain the most pressing need to dedicate our time and attention to? If not through distribution of funds, how else can we address the ongoing precarity entrenched in our profession?
The needs that inspired the creation of the AWE Fund persist among our colleagues in archives and beyond, as does the will to be there for one another and dismantle systems that make mutual aid a necessity. The Organizing Committee will be discussing our way forward. We invite you to participate in that conversation with us.
On January 28th, 2022, at 11amPT/1pmCT/2pmET we will be holding an open AWE Fund Organizing Committee meeting. Please join us to talk about what the AWE Fund has meant to you and add your perspective as we imagine our next phase. Watch the blog or follow us on Twitter (@AWEfund2020) for a link to register, coming soon. You can also sign up for our mailing list or join the AWE Fund Organizing Committee.
Thank you for your ongoing support of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund. You may have seen an email through our “Coffee for Colleagues” GoFundMe informing you that GoFundMe will no longer be able to process recurring donations after September 30, 2021. This change comes at a moment of transition for the AWE Fund. In addition to this change at GoFundMe, the fund’s pilot period expires at the end of this year. The AWE Fund Organizers are actively discussing how best to continue supporting our colleagues through current and future crises. The circumstances that prompted the creation of the AWE Fund are far from resolved, as we all know.
We will be reluctantly ending the Coffee for Colleagues Campaign on September 30th, but we are doing so on a high note. Thanks to both recurring and one-time gifts, we’ve come together as a community to ensure that our funds have stayed ahead of our needs. The AWE Fund has come to the aid of over 180 archival workers, proving that we can be there for one another and see each other through the most difficult of moments, even while highlighting and working to change the ongoing labor issues in our profession.
We want to stay in touch with you about the future of the AWE Fund, and we are offering a few options for doing so:
Sign up for our mailing list. We will only use your email to send the occasional message about the next steps for the AWE Fund as we know what they are, including updates on our fundraising platform.
Want to dig more into the work of the AWE Fund and discuss related issues surrounding labor and mutual aid in the archives? You’re in luck – there will be multiple opportunities to do just this at the virtual 2021 Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting. Consider attending one or more of these events:
The Issues & Advocacy Section meeting on Tuesday, July 27th at 4pm ET/3pm CT/1pm PT will feature a panel discussion about advocating for archival labor. You do not need to register for the SAA 2021 Annual Meeting to attend – registration is free and open to all.
Come learn more about us! Members of the AWE Fund organizing committee will be presenting at the SAA Research Forum poster session on July 28th from 3-3:30pm ET/2-2:30pm CT/12-12:30pm CT. Registration is free and open to all, and does not require you to be registered for the Annual Meeting. Click here to access the full agenda for the entire forum, which convenes on Wednesday, July 21st AND Wednesday, July 28th from 2-5:30pm ET/1-4:30pm CT/11am-2:30pm PT.
AWE Fund organizers will be participating in two different conversational lounges during the SAA Annual meeting. The first conversational lounge, “Putting Collective Leadership in Action,” will take place on Thursday, August 5, at 5pm ET/4pm CT/2 p.m. PT/5:00 p.m. ET. The second conversational lounge, “Mutual Aid and Solidarity During and Beyond the COVID-19 Crisis,” is scheduled for Friday, August 6th, at 5pm ET/4pm CT/2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET. All registered SAA Annual Meeting attendees are welcome to join these discussions.
The Diversity Forum on Friday, August 6th at 12pm ET/11am CT/9am PT will address over-reliance on temporary contingent workers for core archival functions. The forum will discuss the Diversity Committee’s March 2021 report, which recommends prioritizing recruitment and retention of BIPOC workers.
Prepared by Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Katharina Hering, Lydia Tang, and Jennifer Wachtel, April 2021 (Access this report in Word (.docx) or PDF formats)
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, as repositories were closing and many archival workers were losing their jobs or getting furloughed, Jessica Chapel and Lydia Tang began brainstorming for a mutual aid fund for archival workers, noting that SAA had a fund for archival repositories in crisis but not for individual workers. Responding to Jessica Chapel’s posts on social media and professional listservs, a group of volunteer archival workers gathered in March 2020 to create the Archival Workers Emergency Fund (“AWE Fund”).
After a whirlwind number of days drafting the proposal to the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and with generous seed money from the SAA Foundation, the Fund was established. With the support of over 800 individual donors, 26 SAA Sections, many regional archival and allied nonprofit organizations, collectively we have raised over $140,000 and directly assisted over 176 archival workers in need. This number is simply astounding and it is due greatly to the community rallying around this fund.
While the AWE Fund itself is administered by the SAA Foundation, the ad hoc AWE Fund Organizing Committee continues to meet regularly to creatively and energetically fundraise, organize discussion panels, and issue surveys tracking the impact of the pandemic on archival workers.
The Review Committee consisting of members of the Organizing Committee and Foundation Board, created an initial report for the SAA Foundation Board in November 2020 to assess its effectiveness as a fund and successfully advocated for its continuation. This Organizing Committee report overlaps somewhat with content from the SAA report, but is intended primarily to report the activities of the volunteer Organizing Committee over the span of the AWE Fund’s first year and transparently communicate with our colleagues who so generously have made this fund possible.
Fundraising and Outreach
The principal purpose of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund is to distribute cash grants to archival workers in financial crisis due to COVID-19. Thus, one of the core priorities of the AWE Fund Organizing Committee is to fundraise to ensure donations outpace need. Our goal is that every eligible applicant receives funding and that ideally no applicant must wait longer than two weeks to receive funds. Remarkably, we have been successful in meeting our goals and applicants’ needs.
This is greatly due to the creativity and energy of the Organizing Committee in mobilizing networks of support by compiling a contact list of student chapter organizations, regional archival, vendors and allied nonprofit organizations, to signal boost and donate for the cause. Throughout this process, Carady DeSimone volunteered her talents in graphic design to create the recognizable AWE Fund logo and endearing images for our various fundraising campaigns such as Coffee for Colleagues.
Applications for funding are reviewed by a committee made up of members of the AWE Fund Organizing Committee and the SAA Foundation Board. Applications are reviewed on a weekly basis based on the publicly available rubric. Applications are submitted and reviewed through the SmarterSelect application software used by SAA which protects the privacy of applicants by withholding personally identifying information from Review Committee members.
As of April 1, 2021, the Archival Workers Emergency Fund Review Committee has approved 176 applicants and disbursed a total of $147,625. Grants are awarded in the amount requested by the applicant, up to $1,000. Currently, applicants are only eligible to receive one grant during the pilot period of the AWE Fund (April 15, 2020 – June 30, 2021).
If donations are made through the SAA website, 100% of the donation goes to the AWE Fund and eventually into the hands of approved applicants. The majority of donations made to the AWE Fund in its first ten months were made through direct donation to SAA. Some of these donations were made by individuals and some were made by regional archival organizations and allied organizations.
Coffee for Colleagues (Tea on Me) Campaign
Since the SAA interface does not allow for recurring donations, we established a GoFundMe Charity campaign to support this donation approach. The idea is that while making a large donation can be difficult for many individuals, committing to smaller recurring donations is doable and actually more sustainable for the fund. To that end, AWE Fund organizers reached out to GoFundMe and arranged for the minimum recurring donation for our campaign to be reduced from $10 to $5. Currently, Coffee for Colleagues (Tea on Me) brings in $374/month from 30 committed “Caffeinators” (recurring donors) with individual recurring donations tend to range from $5-$25 per month. The GoFundMe Charity platform assesses a 1.9% + $0.30 transaction fee per transaction, which amounts to about 2% of the total raised funds given the average donation amount of $21.00. The remaining 98% of funds donated through the Coffee for Colleagues (Tea on Me) campaign are transferred to SAA on a regular basis.
To celebrate the one year anniversary of AWE Fund, the AWE Fund Organizing Committee announced a special birthday campaign in April 2021. Organizers set the goal of $1,000 a month in recurring donations and 100 recurring donors by the end of the AWE Fund’s birthday week, April 8th-15th. The birthday campaign uses the same link as the ongoing campaign and is publicized on the AWE Fund Organizing Committee birthday blog post.
In July 2020 the AWE Fund Organizing Committee teamed up with the crafting collaborative Persistent Stitches (also run by Anna Clutterbuck-Cook) to host an online auction fundraiser, #Auction4AWEfund. Crafters donated a variety of items to the auction which was held July 1-4, 2020 to coincide with the start of FY21 and the 4th of July holiday weekend. The auction offered 62 items and generated $2,165.50 in donations to the AWE Fund. The success of this event led to a second auction on February 5-10, 2021. The #Auction4AWEfund #Take2 event offered over 70 items and raised an additional $1,312.50 for the fund.
To track the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on archival workers, the AWE Fund Organizing Committee has created and launched two surveys to date. The summary of the summer 2020 survey is available on our website.
The summary of the second survey will be available on the AWE Fund site later in the spring of 2021.
Question and Answer Panels
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the AWE Fund Organizing Committee has sponsored occasional Question & Answer panels to support outreach, advocacy and networking among archives, museum and library workers.
We are currently accepting self-nominations for speakers for future discussion panels. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. To self-nominate, please submit this speaker nomination form.
“LAM Mutual Aid & Solidarity” (July 2020) featured Callan Bignoli (Protect Library Workers), Anna Clutterbuck-Cook (AWE Fund), John Chrastka (EveryLibrary’s HALO Fund), and Paula Santos (Museum Workers Speak). Panelists discussed mutual aid models of community care and community-building solidarity efforts among library, archives, and museum workers.
“Making and Talking Money: LAM Salary Transparency” (September 2020) featuring Brenda Flora (Association of Moving Image Archivists Advocacy Committee); Elena Colón-Marrero and Melissa Gonzales (Society of American Archivists Archival Compensation Task Force); and Michelle Millar Fisher (Art + Museum Transparency). Panelists discussed salary transparency efforts within libraries, archives, and museums organizations and spaces.
“Disclose This! Advancing Disability Awareness in Libraries and Archives” (October 2020) included Jasmine Clark (chair, DLF Digital Accessibility Working Group); Michelle Ganz (chair, SAA Accessibility & Disability Section); and Karina Hagelin (librarian, activist, and organizer). Panelists discussed disability awareness and representation in libraries and archives, the intersection of race and disability, the politics of disclosure, and advocacy for self and others, and answered questions from the audience during the Q&A portion of the event.
In December, we organized “Countering Crises with AWE: The AWE Fund Retrospective” (not recorded). This panel discussion featured members of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund Organizing Committee and recapped the work of the fund organizers and the impact of the AWE Fund within the archival field. Panelists and attendees also discussed ideas for how to evolve the fund sustainably into the future. Panelists included: Jessica Chapel, Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Courtney Dean, and Lydia Tang. Jennifer Wachtel moderated the panel and Sarah McLusky and Steve Duckworth facilitated.
As the pandemic and AWE Fund stretches beyond a single year, the AWE Fund Organizing Committee continues to actively fundraise and search for the next step in its evolution. The initial pilot period was extended by SAA to June 2021 and we look forward with anxious optimism to what lies ahead. The pandemic, exacerbated by concurrent acts of racist violence, natural disasters, employer budget volatility, and continuing inequity relating to contingent and precarious labor practices within the field, demonstrates the ongoing need for this fund and the necessity to advocate for expanding its scope beyond “just” addressing the pandemic.
Thank you so much for reading our first annual report. This fund has persisted thanks to your support, whether it is monetary donations, crafts, your expertise, and your passion, and the Organizing Committee looks forward to learning and growing together with you in this next year. If you would like to join us, we welcome new members to our team! Join our Google Group (and/or see our welcome document) to attend future Organizing Committee meetings. You can also get in touch with us at email@example.com.
The Archival Workers Emergency Fund Organizing Committee