In 2014 alone, the DC Abortion Fund screened over 3,100 calls and pledged almost $200,000 in grants to patients who needed financial assistance for abortion care. Of the 950 patients who were pledged these grants, 720 patients used their pledges at clinics and received funding. DCAF’s goal is to make reproductive choice a meaningful reality for all by removing some of the financial barriers that people face when accessing abortion care. But how does DCAF’s funding process actually work?
When a patient calls our helpline, they are asked to leave a message slowly stating their name, phone number, the estimated number of weeks they are pregnant, and whether or not it is OK to leave a voicemail should we be unable to reach them. Callers are prompted to chose from three separate lines; one for DC, one for Virginia, and one for Maryland and other states – this helps us staff the lines more efficiently.
This message will typically be answered within 24 hours. Each week, our line is staffed by anywhere from three to six case managers, with one to two case managers working on each line. Once the call is returned, we work with patients to fill out an intake form that allows us to better understand their unique situation and circumstances. One aspect of case management that makes DCAF unique is that our fund does not require patients to meet certain demographic or income criteria, or go through any type of screening process, to get our services.
After initial intake, we begin brainstorming ways to fill in the gaps in funding that the patient is faced with. Of course, time is of the essence, so we need to work quickly with the patient and our partner funds in order to best ensure that the money for the procedure is put together in a timely manner.
A key word that comes to mind when talking about the DCAF funding process is “collaborative.” Our funding process would be much more difficult if it wasn’t a collaborative process with patients, other abortion funds, and clinics. Are family and friends able or willing to help? Is someone’s partner involved able or willing to help? Has an appointment been made, and is it at the most practical, accessible, and affordable clinic for the patient? Once all these questions are answered, we move on to talking about funding. Often, we speak with a patient for several days before sending a pledge, and throughout this process, we are also in contact with other funding sources that the patient is eligible for. In an upcoming post, you’ll get to learn more about DCAF’s sibling funds. NAF, the National Abortion Federation, has a much larger, fully staffed fund that we collaborate with often.
Before a patient’s appointment, our case manager sends pledges directly to the clinic. We are lucky to have great partner clinics in our service area. The clinic staff keep the pledge on file, often with pledges from our sister funds, and the patient pays any remainder when they arrive for their appointment. After the appointment is complete, DCAF receives an invoice from the clinic and our finance team takes over!
Our funding line is completely free, and it is staffed entirely by volunteers. We case manage just about any case we get, providing financial counseling and referrals and working collaboratively with patients, even if we don’t wind up fund them directly. In addition to making sure that patients have access to the funding they need, a huge part of our job is to make sure that they have the information they need, and, most importantly, that they know they are not alone.
But Where Does the Money Come From?
Good question – let’s talk numbers. In 2014, about half of DCAF’s funding came from individual donations, another 30 percent came from events (which are largely individual donations and occasional organizational sponsorships), and 11 percent came from grants. The upshot is that our one-time and sustaining donors are a huge part of what makes our work possible, and we could not be more grateful.
The vast majority of our budget goes to patients in need of care. In 2014, pledges to patients made up about 81 percent of DCAF’s spending. The average pledge amount was about $231 per patient. The cost of the helpline itself and of outreach made up another 3 percent of DCAF’s expenses. The rest of DCAF’s spending went toward fundraising and administrative costs, which were the next biggest expenses, at 9 and 7 percent, respectively.
By volunteer Deepika S.