In response to grantees sharing fear for their own safety, unspeakable doxing and harassment online, and sheer exhaustion, in 2020 Proteus launched the Grantee Safety and Security Fund (GSSF). The Fund awards grants to promote the safety and security and health and wellness of our donor collaborative grantees. In this conversation with Mad Phelps, of grantee partner OutFront Minnesota, we discuss OutFront’s use of the Fund.
OutFront, based in Minneapolis, works to create a state where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are free to be who they are and live without fear of violence, harassment, or discrimination.
OutFront felt compelled to support the safety of our organizers as they traveled to and worked in the state capitol during the pandemic and during a time of increased white supremacist violence and harassment of LGBTQ organizers. We had to remotely support LGBTQ+ victim/survivors of violence during a rise in overall hate crimes; remotely support youth who, due to the pandemic, no longer have access to their external support systems and are sometimes isolated in unaccepting home environments We are also going through a large organizational leadership transition, a data and operations transition, and absorbing the events in Minneapolis, our home base, after the murder of George Floyd.
In short, our staff needed both physical support to keep them safe as they traveled to and from the capitol and wellness support as they navigated the challenges of doing frontline social justice work during the pandemic, a racial justice uprising centered in Minneapolis, and significant organizational change.
OutFront will provide staff with a wellness stipend that they can use to address their health and wellness needs as they see fit. We took this approach because our staff hold a variety of identities and experiences, and as a result, there is not a “one size fits all” solution to relieving staff burnout and stress. Our wellness stipend, therefore, includes three types of support: Mental health (e.g. therapy appointments, a meditation app subscription, medication, etc.); physical health (doctor’s appointments, acupuncture, health club membership, etc.); and/or Work-life balance (personal coaching, wellness trainings, etc.).
For physical and digital security, we will use this funding to provide staff COVID tests, PPE, parking passes close to the capitol to avoid the dangers of walking during a contentious time, and other travel expenses for our organizers to ensure their safe travel to and work within the capitol. We will also purchase new, more secure technology for staff who work with sensitive operations data.
Organizing in the capitol can be incredibly stressful and even hostile for our LGBTQ+ organizers. Safe travel and PPE will allow them to feel more peace of mind as they do their important work and will help prevent them, their co-workers, and families from catching COVID-19. The new operations technology will ensure the data security of our staff, partners, and supporters. The health and wellness support gives staff the flexible resources needed to help them heal from the trauma of the past several years and build a healthier workplace culture during our organizational transition.