AFSC & Friends IV: A Suggested Survival Kit

Earlier posts in this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III

Here’s a quick quiz:

Two of these three church-related service projects are holding their own, and one is in trouble. Can you tell which one has problems?

A. The Mennonite Central Committee

B. The Mormon Church missionary program; and

C. The American Friends Service Committee

To help with your answer, here are a few clues:

Mennonite serviceFor decades, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has coordinated several hundred Mennonites working around the world, doing service and missionary work, with considerable support from their local churches. When these volunteers get back home, most resume their “normal” lives, including in their churches. There they typically become solid supporters and advocates for MCC: they donate and raise money for it, and help defend it against the vocal rightwingers in their denomination.

MCC logoThe Mormons do something similar with their young adults. Many young Mormon men go out on two-year missions, for which they raise their own funding.Mormon missionariesThese missionaries likewise later resume their “regular” lives, and typically become solid supporters of their church and its projects; and when their kids come of age, they eagerly go out in their turn. Unsurprisingly, the Mormon church is one of the fastest-growing denominations in the world.

In sum, both Mennonites and Mormons seem to have built a self-perpetuating “corporate culture”; neat.

Mormon growth
Mormon growth chart

Let’s turn to AFSC. Up until the mid-1960s, AFSC ran pioneering work camp and volunteer service programs, for Quakers and other like-minded folks, with lots of involvement by local Meetings. But then AFSC dumped the work camps and the whole idea of training and facilitating Quakers for service, in favor of “identifying” with “the oppressed.”

Now, back to the quiz: which of these groups is in trouble – I mean, really serious, organizational life-threatening trouble?

If you picked “C”, as in AFSC, you win. And Quakers lose.

It’s now generally admitted that this dumping-the-Quakers-and-service-projects move was a bone-headed idea. A disaster, not to put too fine a point on it. And I say this as one of the generation which bequeathed the notion to AFSC. What the hell were we thinking??

Well, there’s no rolling back history. Yet the culmination of the trajectory launched by this shift is now clear: a trainwreck.
Trainwreck
AFSC’s chickens finally came home to roost, and turned out to be buzzards.

How bad is it? According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, forty per cent of AFSC’s staff has been laid off, and its income has dropped more than thirty per cent, with little relief in sight. Inside sources suggest the decline has been even steeper.

Furthermore, AFSC’c crash falls into a very forbidding environment. A recent report by The Foundation Center lays it out: “The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression resulted in the biggest reduction in U.S. Foundation giving on record.” Another detailed survey held more bad news: “Only 12 percent of nonprofits expected to operate above breakeven this year (2010)”; almost two-thirds of the groups surveyed had less than ninety days of cash reserves between them and being forced to close. Internal reports to the AFSC board say their reserves are greatly depleted as well.

From an inside fundraiser’s perspective, the story appears still more grim: since the Sixties, AFSC has been sustained financially above all by the loyalty and largesse of a World War Two generation of donors which, as an internal AFSC report recently out it, “can remember the work‐camps and the heady days of AFSC receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947.”

But 1947 was 63 years ago. And these faithful donors had one big flaw: they were mortal (like the rest of us). Now they’re mostly dead, with the rest soon to follow. That means their donations have ebbed, and their bequests are largely distributed.

In short, AFSC has turned the Mennonite/Mormon formula inside out, and wound up with a self-liquidating donor base. Hmmm.

For years, when I’ve talked with AFSC staffers, especially those involved in fundraising, I’ve asked one question again and again. It is:

“Have you found a replacement for your World War Two generation of donors?”

Finally, this summer I got a straight answer from a national AFSC fundraiser; and the answer was, in sum: “No, not yet.”

I appreciate the candor, but this was a very ominous reply.

Consider the parallels suggested by our opening quiz: since the mid-1960s—for nearly fifty years– the MCC and the Mormons have been cultivating a growing constituency of dedicated supporters and advocates, rooted in their founding churches, and expressing their considerable spiritual and organizational energies. As their World War Two donors die off, there are plenty more waiting behind them.

Meanwhile, AFSC has been seeking new donors and supporters– where?

While there are a few exceptions to this gloomy sketch, I’ll tell you where, in AFSC’s own words: “people of many faiths and backgrounds who share the values . . . .”

Which people is that?

And which values are these?

Why “Quaker” values, of course.
AFSC-Quaker Values

And what are those? “nonviolence and justice.”

We already talked about how inadequate these abstract “values” are as a base for anything “Quaker,” since who isn’t for nonviolence?? (Even the military says it favors that, “when possible.”) Or “justice”??

From a marketing perspective, a brand built on such platitudes is an empty vessel; it has no roots, no history, no identity, no culture of its own, nothing to distinguish it from the thousands of other groups working for “justice” or “nonviolence.” Especially when its stewards aren’t using the values as the Mormons and Mennonites do to build a trans-generational home base of support for the ongoing service work.

So from a rebuilding standpoint, AFSC is close to starting from scratch. How can it recover?

To replace lost donors, a group has to prospect, go looking for likely new ones. It needs to capture their attention, and (in fundraiser jargon) “cultivate” them so they gain a favorable view of the charity, then ask them to give, in varied and compelling ways that speak to their deep motivations and high values.

This process too is no news to insiders. And here’s how AFSC could get started on it.

The core prospects are the children and grandchildren of the Quaker segment of the “Greatest Generation,” especially those old enough to have living memories of the turmoil of the 1960s.

The material needed to gain their attention and loyalty is contained in the high points of this decade-plus of activism, and AFSC’s extensive involvement in it, from civil rights through the Vietnam War, women’s and gay liberation.

The compelling message drawn from this history comes down to this: there was a time in our lives when our Quaker witness and sacrifice for noble values helped make a big difference, in many ways. AFSC was there alongside you, and with your support, working together, we can make a difference again.

In one sense, this message is the flip side of that conveyed by AFSC’s latest big success, the “Eyes Wide Open” exhibit. That display made visible the futility of the troops’ sacrifices in the Iraq war. This new initiative would evoke the lived alternative.

This alternate history has been largely erased from public memory, even among many Friends: lost in the miasma of mindless distractions; diminished and discounted by decades of unrelenting rightwing propaganda; compromised by politicians; and counterfeited by consumerism. All compounded by our own failures to articulate and pass it along.

But it’s still there, and doesn’t have to stay in the shadows. There are several million now middle-aged Americans who lived it, directly or at close range, and they can still be moved by these fugitive, exiled memories and aspirations.

These memories of what once was, and the hopes for what could yet be, are not only a precious heritage. They are the keys to turning those who cherish them into AFSC’s next generations of supporters, i.e., donors.

Finding new donor prospects is an expensive and time-consuming process. It’s not clear AFSC has enough resources left to do what’s being urged here; yet it’s also not clear that any other path is viable.

“But why,” I can hear some object, “are you asking us to turn back to the past, when there are so many burning issues facing us now?”

Good question, and the answer is straightforward: this “look back” is not about nostalgia. It’s about finding hope for a potential generation of donors which has had a hard time sustaining hope.

Put more starkly: help the Boomers and their kids recover their hope, and they’ll send you money. (Then you can afford to take on the burning issues of today.) And you better start with Quakers, because those are your roots; then build from there.

What might this effort look like? Here’s one sample scenario:

March 7, 2015, Selma, Alabama. For the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma-Montgomery march, which won voting rights for millions of black citizens across the South, pilgrims came from around the world. President Barack Obama led the crowd of international dignitaries and thousands of anonymous movement veterans and their children across the historic Edmund Pettus bridge over the Alabama river.

AFSC is in Selma with a high-visibility major exhibit and program, focused on its civil rights work in the South, and in particular the murder of AFSC staffer James Reeb, who came to Selma to join the protests and was murdered by white toughs.
James Reeb
Two years in preparation, the exhibit was organized and mounted by a team of interns mainly drawn from Quaker meetings and churches around the country, working with movement veterans and local partners.

After the Selma celebrations conclude, the exhibit will go on the road, making stops at several sites in the South and elsewhere in the country.

Reeb monument
I look to Selma as a landmark of the era, because I was there; but such work doesn’t have to wait until 2015 to begin.

To repeat, the donor marketing rationale here is straightforward: the Boomer activists and their children found a sense of achievement and promise in Selma (and similar events). But that sense has been buffeted and battered since. Remind them of it in an inclusive way, and you can help them regain their hope for today. Do that, and you can ask them for support for current projects.

Of course, any such connection has to be reinforced; donors need to be “cultivated.”

Fortunately, history provides a succession of similar landmark events in the period 2015-2025. Consider just a few:

1966/2016: The movement for open housing in Chicago; the debate over “Black Power.”

1967/2017: Dr. King joins the antiwar movement; big antiwar protests; second wave feminism begins its rise.
And AFSC’s Centennial. (What a combo!)

1968/2018: The murder of Dr. King; the Poor Peoples Campaign; the Chicago Democratic Convention.

1969/2019: Stonewall; the AFSC’s “March Against Death,” a powerful, dignified antiwar action in Washington.

Etc.

This list could spark a whole series of events. Let’s call it the “Half Century of Hope” campaign, bringing back this past not for its own sake, but as the basis for a renewed future.
Half Century of Hope Campaign

In this history there are plenty of “hooks” with which to gain and then hold the attention of Boomers and their older children (and done right, their grandchildren after them). AFSC was involved in much or most of it in one way or another. But again, the purpose of this campaign is not antiquarian. Connect with those who lived through this epic time of hope, especially as Quakers, and you can gain their support for programs of today and tomorrow.

As this recovery of hope is expressed in concrete projects, a parallel task will be to “embed” –or better, “re-root”– AFSC in the donor constituency. This process will involve some analogue to the work camps. Not the same thing (we can’t go home again), but intentional efforts to involve the target donor community in the group’s work, on as broad a scale as possible, on a continuing basis.

This is, after all, the “secret” of the Mormons’ and Mennonites’ success: self-propagating, not self-liquidating. What a concept.

And there’s more to this “embedding” idea. American Quakers have not all been idle since AFSC dumped us. Numerous small-scale projects have sprung up, not only domestically (such as, for instance, Quaker House in Fayetteville/Fort Bragg NC) but internationally as well, from Bolivia to Africa. For the most part, though, they work on their own. I suggest AFSC take on a ministry of service to these groups, for instance by offering to convene consultations where they could could share and brainstorm and, as way opened, collaborate.

Something similar would be advisable for Shan Cretin and her new leadership team. What if they made it part of their regular routine to visit widely among American Friends — not to talk, rather to listen and learn. To ask, “How can we serve Quaker work and ministries?” and make notes on the responses.

Doing so would mark a sharp break with the routine practice I and so many others have been accustomed to (and alienated by) for decades: AFSC dog-and-pony shows showcasing (bragging about) all their projects, dunning us to support them, and sidestepping challenging questions. Such a process would be a stunning (and overdue) example of organizational humility. It would also likely yield some valuable insights and ideas, once they got the hang of it.

For that matter, I would include the pastoral and evangelical groups on the itinerary. Shan might have to put up with some airing of old theological and political grievances, and more altar calls than a liberal Quaker prefers. But much is to be learned there as well. Most of these groups are in ferment; and there will be openings for those who know how to discern them and respond creatively.

One more thing: if the new leadership was ready to make a truly dramatic, visible break with AFSC’s failed order, here’s a radical proposal: move the main offices OUT of Philadelphia.

In fact, I’d leave Pennsylvania entirely; maybe head for North Carolina, where there are actually more Quakers. But most any state that was in “flyover country” would do. I bet it would save money too. After all, the Mennonite Central Committee is headquartered in Akron, PA, a hamlet in the heart of Dutch country. And the Mormon missionary program is run out of Provo, Utah. Being in flyover country seems to suit them just fine. (But, Akron PA?)
Akron PA

Note that I’m not suggesting AFSC somehow put itself under the authority of Yearly Meetings or any other body. But the changes contemplated here involve becoming a participating “member” of the Quaker community, rather than some sovereign entity taking time from power lunches in Geneva and Capitol Hill to mingle with the bumpkins. (Lots of these bumpkins haven’t been fooled by that routine for a long time.)

If this sounds snarky, don’t get me started repeating all the comments I’ve heard from highly accomplished Quaker professionals about being patronized, put down and ignored by self-important AFSC poohbahs over the years. “Hello, Philadelphia? This is Quakerism calling; yeah, it’s humble-pie time.”

What’s the hopeful outcome of all this scenario spinning? It’s like this: imagine ten years from now, AFSC has substantially re-rooted itself among American Friends, drawing much of its support (not all) from this base constituency. It is also involving large numbers of Friends in its work at all levels, especially younger ones, as interns and in other service-training roles.

It might be smaller, but it would have a much more distinctive “brand identity” and more solid donor base than it does now. As the interns and service veterans return, they would also be forming a cadre of solid advocates at its base (just like the Mormons and the Mennonites; dang, they’re smart). As this base takes hold, the capacity to tackle the issues of the day will grow as well. My sense is also that such a re-embedded organization would have considerable appeal for non-Quakers as well, based on, of all things, our old buddy the Friends’ “Reputation of Truth.”

Speaking of which, did you notice that the Selma scenario, like the other events drawn from the Half-Century of Hope campaign, would be putting Quaker achievements and witness before the world, as well as Friends? And it’s worth underlining that such canny and careful self-promotion had a lot to do with the successes of AFSC’s “classic” period (up to the Nobel Prize). It wasn’t only that Friends did good things; but they also managed to let the world know, without being too obvious about it.

So to recap, here’s the laundry list:

AFSC survives by finding and holding new generation(s) of donors. It finds them by:

  1.  Mounting a “Half Century of Hope” campaign of exhibits and events highlighting the achievements and legacy of the 1960s-early 70s.
  2. “Re-rooting” AFSC in its Quaker base community.
  3. Moving the offices out of Philadelphia & PA.
  4. Listening to, learning from, and serving Friends and their varied witness.
  5. Paying special attention to involving younger Friends (the donors of tomorrow, whose parents will then become donors of today).

What are the chances of any of this happening? Such an agenda will doubtless face lots of internal opposition, from forces dedicated to protecting old turf and keeping AFSC more in tune with the latest movement trends than with a bunch of bourgeois Quakers. But such forces should be seriously in question already, and if AFSC is to survive, the old ways are overdue for an even more fundamental shakeup than they’ve had so far.

My inside sources have predicted that the changes coming in AFSC will be big and basic.

Let’s hope so. The odds are long. Times are tough; AFSC’s margin for error has shrunk; and those old donors keep dying off.

There isn’t much time. And no guarantees.

10 thoughts on “AFSC & Friends IV: A Suggested Survival Kit”

  1. Well said, Chuck. One essential problem that many Baby Boomers’ kids have (regardless of their age) is in the area of finding work. If you’re 30 and are just wrapping up your education and training, you’re going to have trouble fighting with a Baby Boomer with 30 years’ experience for a job in your field. You’ll even have problems getting a job at fast food places and retail stores because you’re fighting against grandpas, single moms, and people who’ve been working those jobs back to high school.

    Why not create jobs targeted at young people getting a start in life? It’ll be easier for them to get jobs when the economy recovers if they have some experience on their resumes and not just living at their Boomer parents’ house!

  2. Thanks for this valuable critique of the AFSC, and suggestions for revitalizing this important Quaker organization. I have long advocated the reinvention of work camps and service projects as a way to involve Quakers and youth and young adults in this AFSC’s work, but there was only token interest in this approach. AFSC has withdrawn its support from the two Quaker-sponsored youth service projects in So Cal and Intermountain YM. Because of its failure to take work camps and volunteer service seriously, AFSC lacks the base of committed Friends with a deep, personal stake in the work (as you rightly point out). Another underappreciated and underserved group you leave out is retired folk. Now that I am retired and looking for worthwhile ways to occupy my time and be of service, I turned to the AFSC and was very disappointed. There was nothing for me to do except serve on boards that were, frankly, boring.

    I turned to the interfaith movement since these organizations are largely run by volunteers who actually do most of the program work. And these organizations are very spiritual.
    As far as I can see, the AFSC does not meet the needs of Quaker youth, young adults, or seniors. Is it any wonder that support for the AFSC among Friends has dwindled?

  3. Friends, of course what Chuck said is true. I hope Friends generally will
    pay attention. And I hope that QuakerQuaker will stop silencing him,
    and put this blog on their feed-service to Friends.
    Here are a few addditional points: There are many importanat anniver-
    saries before 2015. 2010 or 2011 or both, are the 350th anniversary of
    the Quaker Peace Testimony. We Friends celebrated the 300th anniversary with a silent march and vigil—the first one, I believe, around the Pentagon. AFSC even made a movie about this, The Language of
    Faces. I know of no Quaker group which is celebating the 350th anni-
    versary now except North Carolina Y.M. (FUM). It’s not too late
    for AFSC to join them in this.
    And take a look at the important 50th anniversaries betweeen now and 2015: This year and next are the 50th anniversary of the sit-ins in
    Greensboro, Nashville, and many other cities in the South. AFSC was
    very deeply involved in these. Isn’t next year the anniversary of the
    Freedom Rides? These were not so much an AFSC project, but quite
    a few Quakers were involved. And they resulted in an ICC order requiring
    immediate desegregation of intercity buses and terminals.
    And 2012, I believe, is the 50th anniversary of the end of the AFSC
    work in Prince Edward County in Virginia, where the recalcitrant
    school board had closed all public schools rather than obey the
    Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The white
    children received vouchers to attend private schools; the black
    children received nothing. AFSC sent willing high-school students
    north to live with Quaker families and attend public or Quaker schools.
    This went on for four years; in 1962 Atty.Gen. Robert Kennedy
    created a private-school system for all in that county; and the
    next year the courts forced the school board to reopen its schools.
    Look this up on the web; people in Prince Edward County have not
    forgotten “the Friends” (as they call AFSC) at all.
    1963 was the year of the test-ban treaty between the U.S.A. and
    the U.S.S.R. Of course this was especially the work of FCNL, but
    I’m sure AFSC had a part in it. 1964 was the year the biggest
    civil-rights act passed; it covered just about everything except
    voting rights. One can be sure that AFSC, especially its offices
    in the South, had a lot to do with this major law.
    Throughout the tumultuous years of the civil rights movement in
    the South, AFSC also worked quietly behind the scenes to ensure
    racial peace as well as justice. There is no good reason not to
    talk about this now.
    I don’t think we can boast about black power or Stonewall; these
    really were not our thing at all, though some of the non-Quaker
    newcomers into AFSC doubtless wanted them to be. As for second-
    wave feminism, I don’t know if AFSC resisted it more than it
    embraced it, at least at first.
    Beginnning in 1965, we must choose carefully when we boast.
    Even when AFSC and Friends were involved, sometimes in retro-
    spect we have nothing at all to boast about.

    It seems to me that our publicity and advertising simply MUST
    tell the story of what we are doing now as well. There are still
    Quaker workcamps, run by African Great Lakes Initiative, run
    by Friends United Meeting, and run by William Penn House of
    Washington, D.C. In every case, I believe, the participants
    must come up with most or all of the cost. So there is no good
    reason that AFSC cannot run workcamps again. As a matter of
    fact, my neice was in an AFSC workcamp in Mexico only two or
    three years ago; I believe it was sponsored by the Denver office
    jointly with Intermountain Yearly Meeting. Internships and
    short-term service are an excellent idea. Again the participants
    raise most or all of their money. FCNL, Friends Journal, and
    both Friends United Meeting and Evangelical Friends International
    already offer such opportunites; and I think AFSC has done it
    a few times recently as well.

    Certainly AFSC must work more closely with Friends again. It
    has already been doing this in several places: in South Africa
    (until this work was laid down for financial reasons), and in
    Burundi, for example.

    I have thought for many years that seveal Quaker organization
    should move their headquarters out of Philadelphia. This would
    require great staff turnover—something AFSC may need anyhow.
    The back office functions could be left in Philadelphia where they
    are, if that seemed best. Where might the front office be? Not
    Richmond, Indiana, because there is no public transportation
    to that place, not even an intercity bus. Cincinnatii and Indiana-
    polis have good numbers of Friends already; they might be OK.
    Greensboro, N.C. would be an excellent choice; it has ten
    Quaker meetings and churches, as many as Philadelphia.
    Wichita and Houston are Quaker centers of importance, with
    two or more branches of Quakers in each one. Yet I think we
    might go to the West Coast. In Los Angeles AFSC has its only
    remaining Quaker bookstore, and there are still some pastoral
    Friends in that area who support it. Portland, Oregon, is one
    of the most important Quaker centers in the U.S.A. In Portland,
    and in the Los Angeles and Houston areas, there are many
    Hispanic evangelical Friends; the English-speaking evangelical
    Friends in these places work with the Spanish-speaking ones:
    nothing like this goes on in Philadelphia, unfortunately (even
    though Philadelphia also has many Hispanic evangelical Friends).

    Whatever, AFSC should make it a rule, insofar as possible, not
    to do anything in any area without the co-operation of local
    Friends if there are any.And nowadays there usually are
    local Friends, almost anywhere in the world. The “secret”
    of African Great Lakes Initiative (of Friends Peace Teams)
    and of Bolivian Quaker Education Fund has been and is to
    work almost entirely with local Friends. Friends overseas
    can and will tell us if and how we can help. Partnership
    is replacing the old missionary mentality, which ruled in
    AFSC as much as in any other Quaker orgainization. I hope
    this is no longer true. If it is, AFSC will keep on failing.
    Jeremy Mott

  4. o, “Back to the Future” part IV.

    Another scenario and one that would take much less work, would be to drop the word “Friends” from the name of the organization: “The American Service Committee”.

    It’s much easier to start a brand new Friends Organization than to go back and try to reshape an almost 100 year old institution.

    After all, the AFSC that exists in your memory ONLY exists in the memory of those who were there. As you say, they are a dying breed.

    AFSC today is a staff run organization. Unless the staff wants Quakers they won’t show up. And as you know, too many Quakers in one place can halt any project.

    So, I say, let’s put more energy into helping people like Christina to make a go of her Quaker Service Committee. She wants your and my help, doesn’t she?

    Why go where Quakers are NOT Welcomed unless they march to the drum of the Staff/ (aka “Hireling Priests) ?

  5. Thanks for providing the sobering facts and constructive criticism that can lead to change.

    I think the idea of a physical move from Philadelphia could do more harm than good; the unification of northern and southern Presbyterians included such a move and, from what my Presbyterian sources tell me, it did not necessarily serve the intended purpose. It could cost more than it saved, financially and in terms of morale.

    The Mormon and Mennonite comparisons are helpful only to a point. The Mormon example is the tip of an iceberg that I want to avoid. From my vantage point – Brethren Volunteer Service veteran, George School graduate and fellow traveler of Friends who is of Mennonite heritage – the attraction of AFSC as a destination for my donations is two fold: I prefer the willingness of AFSC to take political risks that MCC will not and I am glad to support a national organization that represents my values rather than a local congregation that spends most of its money on physical plant and administrative costs. I am more interested in fostering good deeds than strengthening creeds and I don’t want to join a religious club defined by theological litmus tests. MCC, which does some great work, enforces just such orthodoxy. Nonetheless, AFSC’s diminished capabilities are of great concern because I can’t quite imagine the realm of American social change movements without the Service Committee’s role as a nurturing halfway house.

    Your idea for using historic anniversaries to celebrate and evaluate AFSC’s commitment and direction is very constructive. Another moment that AFSC could justly celebrate would be the 50th anniversary of the publication and distribution of King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in 2013. Seminars on the “Letter” and its meaning for today could be fostered in a number of ways that would reach new constituencies while enlivening the Quaker base and its diaspora (that’s me). The “Letter” is already widely read in high schools and colleges, is freely available on the Web, and has inspired lively debate among scholars.

  6. I did not realize the AFSC was as strong as you imply — as far as I knew, any ties that AFSC had with Friends was only historical, like most Quaker colleges. I am not surprised that a secular organization that lives off of its glory days is failing… In my (Quaker) experience, its work has been taken over by other organization OR by partnership with the Mennonite Central Committee.

  7. Friends, let’s be serious. I’m certain that Chuck doesn’t want AFSC to
    be a group of missionaries, or theologically hidebound like Mennonite
    Central Committee. What he wants, and what we all should want, is
    a reformed AFSC, with self-perpetuating finances, and much more
    Quakerly in its work and spirit than it has been for about 40 years.
    This is a tall order, but unless it can be done, AFSC will die within the
    next two or three decades.
    There’s no point in laying down AFSC. Bequests will still be coming in
    from elderly Quakers like my mother (now 89 years old) for years to
    come (and she is up-to-date enough to give to AFLI and BQEF as well
    as AFSC). This money must not be squandered, as so much AFSC money has been wasted for so many years, If AFSC headquarters were
    moved from Philadelphia to Greensboro or (I’ve rethought this one)
    Richmond, Indiana, salaries could be much less, and plently of
    Quaker volunteers might be found in these major Quaker centers.
    Then we might put together a new AFSC which used mainly volunteers and short-term interns, young people and retired people above all. OF
    COURSE this is not the AFSC we have right now; that is entirely
    the point; we need a new AFSC and we should demand it. We must
    not give up; we probably have a second chance right now.
    Think of Joan Baez, who was lost to AFSC and to the Religious Society
    of Friends altogether because during the late Sixties and the Seventies
    we were so violent-minded and used such violent rhetoric. She started
    her own foundatioin (Humanitas) and never gave Friends a second
    chance (even after AFSC and Friends calmed down by the Nineties).
    Yet now Quakers have another wonderful singer available, Carrrie
    Newcomer; she gives us (and friends of Friends) a second chance at
    wonderful music. Sometimes second chances don’t come; sometimes
    they do. We just might have one now for AFSC.

  8. Again Friends, we must be serious. A brand-new organization is far more
    difficult a project even than redirecting and reorganizing an old organization. No doubt moving the offices would lead to poor morale, but
    part of the reason for moving would be to encourage staff turnover.
    Why not rebuild AFSC as a sort of

    Friends, again we must be serious. A new organization is a far more
    difficult project than redirecting and reorganizing an old one.
    Why not rebuild AFSC as a sort of Quaker service foundation? In other
    words, it would spend most of its money on other Quaker service
    projects, not its own. Most of these use volunteers and short-term
    employees far more effectively than AFSC, and also use Quakers
    better as well. I’m thinking of the several programs of Friends Peace
    Teams, and Bolivian Quaker Education Fund and Quaker Bolivia Link,
    as well as the Quaker work in Ramallah and Belize and (when it’s
    allowed) Cuba. We must not give up; if we do, AFSC will fail.
    Jeremy Mott

  9. There comes a time when people, even Friends, should recognize the inevitable: simply lay AFSC down. It’s already lost most of its Quaker base, as Chuck points out, and based on my meeting of about 25 regulars, it won’t be getting them back any time soon, even with creative approaches like remembering what Quakers did in the past. Quakers need to be on the cutting, contemporary edge, and we simply ain’t and haven’t been for years.

    That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t influence those who are not historians–and I say this as one.

    So let’s create parallel institutions that do specific things, which is how things grow organically anyway. If we need a model, check out Chuck’s own, Quaker House. They can live and survive, they serve specific needs, and they articulate Quaker principles rather well.

    We’ve been middle and upper class so long that we think in terms like AFSC or even Mormon and Mennonite models. Let’s get creative. I’m not, but I an recognize it if I see it.

  10. I’ve been enjoying the four part write-up. I also frequently reference your history of the Beanites and consider myself one of those, or at least directly inheriting therefrom (Quakerism is multiple inheritance as we computer science types sometimes put it). I suppose my only (unfair) criticism is life goes on and your narrative ends four years ago.

    I’m a Yearly Meeting representative from NPYM to AFSC, just completing another term with the Corporation. My experience, I think objectively verifiable, is of a financial rebound and renewed optimism about RSOF-AFSC relations / communications. As a local meeting Liaison myself, at least up until Multnomah Meeting shelved its Peace and Social Concerns Committee, I’ve had much cheerful correspondence with the Liaison Program about Portland’s brilliant and bravely staffed programs. I’m just not as worried / concerned in 2014 as I was in 2010.

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