New Resources for AAUW Members: Grassroots Organizers
During this season of giving, we’re sharing stories about how AAUW’s programs affect real women and girls all over the country. The following story originally appeared in the 2013 AAUW annual report.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in the first six months of 2013, state legislatures enacted 106 provisions related to reproductive health and rights, family planning, and sex education. And for the first time in a few years, the news wasn’t all bad. While states continue to enact restrictions on abortion, this year also saw expanded access to comprehensive sex education and emergency contraception, as well as a new equal pay law in Louisiana. That momentum shift is thanks, in part, to AAUW members working at the local level. Now members in 20 states are getting a boost from six full-time AAUW organizers hired to help them do what they do best: advocate for women and girls.
These new organizers are already supporting members as they coordinate community activities around public policy issues, work with campus leaders, recruit new members, and implement other AAUW programs. The organizer program, which will be piloted through the end of June 2014, was developed using lessons learned from the 2012 It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard voter education campaign.
“Last year’s It’s My Vote campaign was a huge success because of the work that AAUW members did in their states,” explains Samantha Galing, associate director of field operations at AAUW. “Members said that having help from the state organizers we hired through It’s My Vote was crucial, so we decided to try that concept in a nonelection environment to see how it worked.”
More than 30 states applied to be a part of the pilot program; 20 were ultimately chosen. Each organizer is now covering three or four states to help AAUW members develop individualized plans to support and enhance their membership, fundraising, and programming efforts.
“Each branch has different priorities and needs, and the members know better than anyone what they need to be successful,” explains Kimberly Hayes Pollard, state organizer for Maine, New Hampshire, and New York. The state organizers will help members with everything from building coalitions to creating a social media presence.
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During It’s My Vote, AAUW state organizers and members helped defeat state ballot initiatives that would have removed the separation of church and state and imposed restrictions on abortion funding. Now, the new organizers are encouraging members to amplify their voices by taking stands on fair pay, voting rights, reproductive freedom, and so much more — and along the way inspiring new people to get involved in branch and state work.
“Our organizer, Kimberly, is such an incredible force multiplier for us,” says Donna Seymour, public policy vice president for AAUW of New York. “I tell people that this is our dues at work for us.” Member dues and donations make the program possible.
“The members of AAUW are educated, experienced, and passionate advocates for their communities and each other,” adds Pollard. “It is an honor to be working with them to achieve their goal of empowering women and girls.”