General Secretary Report – Autumn 2020
Program and Ministry:
- Fall Continuing Sessions was held by Zoom on its regularly scheduled date, which fell on the Saturday after the election. In anticipation of having not knowing in advance what would be happening in our world on that day, Continuing Sessions focused on worship and youth programs only. It postponed business until Tuesday, December 8.
- Over 160 Friends gathered for worship with storytelling and traditional waiting worship. The election results were called during our worship.
- Participation in afternoon events was decreased as a result of the election results. Some Friends joined together for lunch by zoom in small groups. Some Friends returned for worship sharing in the afternoon.
- Youth Programs Virtual gatherings for Children & Families, Middle School Friends and Young Friends took place in the afternoon.
- Giant Children’s Meeting has happened on the fourth Sundays in September and October with the next one planned for November 22. The registration has grown to include 20 local meetings in PYM and guests from meetings in New York YM and New England YM. In addition to the children registered by their families, there are 9 MM Religious Education contacts who share the link for more children and families to join.
- Friends Counseling Service sponsored a 7-week series exploring the theory and practice of mindfulness meditation and ways in which the practice can enrich and deepen our experience of Meeting for Worship.
- In partnership with the Committee on Friends Education, staff planned and supported the virtual Quaker College Fair on 10/17/2020.
- Our partnership with the American Friends Service Committee on the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) continued: Helped promote A National Call for Moral Revival teach-in on voter engagement and protection (September 14th); Helped promote the Poor People’s Campaign’s mobilization of Meetings for two initiatives (poll monitoring and taking the Prophetic Pledge) in solidarity with poor voters in connection with the election.
- Young Adult Friends Grant Consultants project launched. This project aims to increase the involvement of young adults in the yearly meeting’s grantmaking. It engaged eight young adult consultants to serve on granting committees and to gather as a cohort to support. At the end of the program, the consultants will share their experience, feedback, and recommendations with the Granting Committee and the wider PYM community.
- Young Adult Friends ran a daily query Instagram project which inspired many – gaining over 100 new followers.
- There were many opportunities for worship and prayer collaboration with other organizations in the turbulence of the last few months.
- PYM and Pendle Hill jointly held space for an Election Day afternoon and evening worship.
- PYM was invited to lead an eight minute, 46 second ‘Worship in the Manner of Friends’ at Philadelphia’s Interfaith ‘Prayers for our City.
- On election eve, PYM anchored part of a 24-hour virtual vigil for justice.
- PYM staff served as facilitator anchor for post-election sharing circles offered by Interfaith Philadelphia.
- A series of gatherings (online, of course) were launched for people in leadership in Monthly Meetings and for people in leadership in Quarterly Meetings. Each gathering’s agenda includes items from the yearly meeting presiding clerks, from staff and items that are requested by the registrants. One meeting for monthly meetings and one for quarterly meetings took place in the fall.
- Staff participated in a Friends General Conference planning call to collaborate with a broad network of Quakers on issues facing Quaker organizers in event planning and related issues in the time of Coronavirus.
- The Clerks Group (PYM officers and clerks of councils) initiated a resource on voting information for the website.
- Young Friends Co-sponsored (with lots of other groups) the Youth Black Lives Matter March on 8/2/2020.
- Young Friends August Late Summer Gathering was online August 19-22 featuring a workshop on self-care for activists with activist from D.C.
- Middle School Friends held a well-attended “Hangout” and cooking activity on 9/20/2020.
- Young Friends “Virtual Peace Fair” the weekend of September 25-27 included letter-writing for “Books Through Bars” organization.
- Young Adult Friends held a retreat on relationships and sexuality virtually October 9-10; There were 20 attendees.
- Young Friends October 24 (in person, socially distanced) gathering with pumpkin carving.
- Middle School Friends held an in person “Hangout” and pumpkin carving on 11/8/2020.
- Young Friends held an in person, socially distanced gathering with outreach to YF postcard writing project on 11/8/2020.
- Friends in Fellowship hosted and evening on LGBTQ allyship on 11/12/2020. About 15 Friends joined the presenters and staff via Zoom.
Inclusion and Anti Racism
- After a long and careful search process, Oskar Castro joined PYM staff as a full-time Director of Human Resources and Inclusion. This is a position that supports PYM staff HR as well as our anti-racism and inclusion work.
- In response to staff recommendation, and with the new capacity gained by hiring the Director of HR&I, a staff Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Team has been formed. It includes six volunteer staff members. Two meetings have occurred with good energy around goal setting. A mission statement is being drafted to correlate with goals being set for the team.
- In response to a staff recommendation, we implemented a meeting for learning which takes place every other month. This time is designated for learning about microaggressions, anti-racism and related topics. The DEI Team is responsible for facilitating this meeting.
- In ongoing work with an external DEI consultant, the staff completed a Climate Assessment survey. The data has been collected and is being analyzed. The results will inform the mission and goals of the staff DEI work.
Business and Finances
- We completed the FY20 fundraising cycle. In the year of Covid-19, we exceeded the Annual Fund goal by about $10,000 and raised an additional $10,000 for specific purposes.
- The Finance Committee approved transferring $125,000 to the Capital Reserve Fund at the end of the fiscal year to fully fund depreciation and maintain adequate capital reserves. This is the same amount transferred in 2019 and represented budgeted depreciation in both years.
- The Finance Committee reviewed the budgeted Admin Fee and approved maintaining a fee of 1% for PYM restricted purpose funds whose value at June 30, 2020 was in excess of $435,000 and of 0.75% for funds with a value less than $435,000. This maintains the effort of recent years to charge a lower fee to smaller funds. The Admin Fees covers the costs of administering restricted funds.
- The Finance office began the FY 2020 audit; fieldwork has been completed.
- PYM received a D’Olier grant for two projects for the full amount requested
- We received a grant to deliver a copy of the film ‘Quakers the Quiet Revolutionaries’ to each Friends School, Meeting and Continuing Care Retirement community in PYM.
Communications and Technology
- Well over 30 original news stories were posted to the feed since the beginning of September. The stories are written primarily by communications and program staff and supplemented by community members. The postings included stories about reopening meetings, the election, new leadership, Quaker history, social justice initiatives, grant opportunities, Quaker educators, and business people.
- PYM and PYM Friends were featured in a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Quaker View on Waiting, in the week after the election.
- Our website has had several key updates in design including redesigned home page banners with changing themes based on featured events, a redesigned calendar for a fresh look and enhanced features, and a new block quote style.
- The website news and calendar categories are updated to highlight the five PYM Threads (Threads are the work that is common to all meetings), and to calendar RSS feeds for Young Adult Friends and Youth Programs.
- The social media focus at this time is on Instagram. Our Instagram following grew from 342 to 500. We have a redesigned look and feel to reflect Quaker simplicity and be more targeted, visually appealing to younger audiences, and engaging.
- The advanced email system that integrates with our database Pardot is now the consistent platform for sending communications to small and large groups of Friends. The powerful system allows us to track communications with a range of metrics which provide baseline data and feedback for how to communicate most effectively.
- We enhanced the Pardot system with dedicated email templates.
- The weekly News & Events email that goes out to all subscribed PYM Friends every Thursday has been updated to include a section on information about Grants.
- Staff supported monthly meetings and a quarterly meeting with technical support and access to zoom.
- A two-part orientation to the work of PYM governance was provided to all council members. Council clerks are planning to continue that orientation and education.
- The Clerks Group (PYM officers and clerks of councils) is responsible for implementing a sprint to manage our work and discernment around PYM membership and belonging. Their authority for this work was approved by the governance committee. They are taking the draft charge for the work to the three councils for feedback and then will populate the sprint.
- A sprint to review the governance and strategic directions of the yearly meeting was launched. The sprint is under the care of the Admin Council. It has just started meeting and developing its course of action. The sprint includes one member for each Council, one person who served on the implementation committee for the governance and directions, a young adult, three people of color and a staff member.
- A variation of a way to activate a sprint on structural support for the yearly meeting’s commitment to addressing racism has been articulated. The current timeline for the conclusion of the work is March 2021. The approach involves the sprint members participating through a series of interviews and consultations rather than trying to get all of the people in a “room” together.
- We employed our crisis response process to imagine and prepare for what may happen post-election. A series of resources and stories to support meetings, families and friends were a result of that consultation. They can be found in the news feed on the website.
- PYM is 100% staffed up! Not a single vacancy. This is the first time in a while. It’s a great note for Oskar to come in on. At least, this was true until:
- Arch Street Meeting House received grant funding to allow it to hire a Membership and Communications Associate and the search is in process – with a very healthy number of applicants.
- Staff annual performance reviews are mostly completed with only a few exceptions outstanding. Those not completed in October should be completed in November.
- We received information about 2021 health care benefits. The costs have come in under budget!
- We continue to watch for ways in which we can support staff members and our work in the midst of a pandemic. Additional support and procedures have been put in place to support working from home and maintaining health and capacity of staff.
- Grace Sharples Cooke made the following visits IN PERSON (!):
- Horsham Monthly Meeting–8/30/2020-Visited Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Business (masks worn, 6 feet apart).
- Third Haven Monthly Meeting–9/13/2020 -Visited Third Haven Meeting for Business and Meeting for Worship (all was socially distanced outdoors).
- Quakertown Monthly Meeting–9/20/2020- Visited Worship (masks worn & distances) and had lunch with a Meeting member afterwards This resulted in three articles in PYM News.
- Plumstead Monthly Meeting–9/23/2020 Visited with Olivia Brangan for outdoor, distanced, mid-week worship.
(photo courtesy of Annie Spratt on Unsplash)