Circle Up United Methodist Women

I am applying forAction Support Grant
FUNDS WILL BE USED TO:Maintain/expand current ministry
Name of OrganizationCircle Up United Methodist Women
Address1201 Lavaca St.
Austin, TX 78701
Map It
Contact PersonEmily George
TitleCircle Up member
EmailEmail hidden; Javascript is required.
Phone(512) 914-0470
Amount requested6735
Explain connection to The United Methodists Church

Circle Up was formed in 2018 to focus specifically on the UMW priority area Maternal and Child Health and to advance the objectives of decreasing maternal mortality and developing a network of women’s health advocates. Comprising 20 volunteer members, Circle Up is bound together by a shared commitment to service, social justice, and healthy mothers. We are a force of volunteers, rooted in faith, ready to take a stand to eliminate preventable maternal deaths and “near death” experiences for Texas women.

How many volunteers are involved?20
How many staff members?1
Have you explored opportunities to collaborate with other United Methodist Churches to work toward your mission?*
  • yes
If yes, please describe.

Circle Up has had the opportunity to lead and facilitate several programs and workshops for our home church, other UMC congregations, and community members since the circle’s founding in August 2018. First, in September 2018 we presented to the Capitol District UMW about the state of maternal health in Texas. In November 2018, Circle Up hosted and facilitated a “postcard party” event in anticipation of the upcoming Texas 86th legislative session. During this event, we hosted a facilitated discussion on legislative priorities concerning maternal health and led the group in writing postcards to Texas legislators urging them to prioritize maternal health issues. Approximately 50 people from the Austin-area, including members of other area churches, attended this event. In January 2019, Circle Up hosted a “Brunch and Learn” event for legislators, legislative staffers, UMW unit members from area congregations, and interested community members. During this event, Circle Up members moderated a panel of maternal health experts to educate and inform our 150 attendees on pressing maternal health issues in the state of Texas. In the fall of 2019, Circle Up provided a presentation and guided conversation on the work of Circle Up and the state of maternal health in Texas to the attendees of the Rio Texas UMW Conference Annual Meeting. Approximately 40 UMW members and leaders from across the state were in attendance for this presentation. Finally, in November 2020, Circle Up presented its Virtual Interfaith Summit on Maternal Health. This event included a moderated panel of maternal health experts, multimedia elements to highlight personal stories of maternal health challenges, interactive polling and question-and-answer opportunities, and information about how to get more involved in advocating for improved maternal health outcomes in Texas. Due to COVID-19, this summit was presented entirely in a virtual format and included 60 virtual participants, including members from UMC churches across the state. We are planning a tour of other UMW groups throughout the state to share our circle's model for advocacy and to network with them.

Congregational support

The congregation at FUMC Austin has supported Circle Up and their efforts since the beginning. Circle Up sends out monthly newsletters, calls to action, and invitations to various events to a list of 165 email addresses, most of which belong to members within our congregation. Members of our congregation have also been in attendance at all of the events listed above. In terms of events specific to our congregation, following the conclusion of the 86th legislative session, Circle Up hosted an hour-long “Maternal Health Legislative Update” for our home congregation. This multimedia presentation provided an update on strides taken by the Texas legislature to improve maternal health during the recently concluded legislative session. Approximately 60 members of our home congregation attended this presentation.

How does your mission fulfill the purpose of the grant you are requesting?

Overall Purpose
Circle Up United Methodist Women for Moms is seeking funding in order to expand our capacity for education and outreach on behalf of Texas women. The monies from these grants will be used on distinct yet complementary projects to educate Texans about the ongoing maternal health crisis in Texas and to expand the capacity of United Methodist Women (UMW) in the Capital District and across the state to advocate for state and local policy solutions that will improve outcomes.

Organizational Background and Infrastructure
Circle Up is a local circle of the United Methodist Women (UMW) organization at First United Methodist Church of Austin, Texas. The organization was formed in 2018 to focus specifically on the UMW priority area Maternal and Child Health and to advance the objectives of decreasing maternal mortality and developing a network of women’s health advocates. As described in other sections of this application, we have an active roster of 20 members and a statewide network of interested community members, connected via email and social media. We have spoken with local church groups, larger networks of faith groups across Central Texas, and coalitions of Women’s Healthcare Stakeholders. We have also presented our work at a statewide health conference. All of these efforts reflect our commitment to partnership and capacity building. Importantly, we have deliberately engaged grassroots organizations in order to ensure that our work is rooted in a racial equity framework.

Maternal Health in Texas
Texas has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, estimated at 14.6 per 100,000 live births. This is only one piece of the story, however, as the mortality rate for Black women in Texas is almost twice that at 27.8 per 100,000 live births. The racial disparities in maternal health outcomes are evidence of long-standing structural inequities embedded in our healthcare, education, and employment systems, and these structural inequities are being amplified by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as communities of color across the U.S. and Texas bear a disproportionate burden of both the health and economic consequences of COVID-19.

Juanita Peterson Proposal
Project Goal: Develop and implement a video education campaign to highlight the universal experience of pregnancy and birth while also revealing disparate experiences of women of color and those from rural areas of the state.
The purpose of this project is to create a video education campaign focused on improving maternal health outcomes in Texas for all local churches in the Capital District. Videos are beneficial for maternal health education because they are a simple and efficient way to convey the main points that pregnancy-related risks are not evenly distributed across the population, that 80% of pregnancy-related deaths in Texas are preventable, and that there are straightforward steps that can be taken to improve outcomes for all Texas women.

Objective 1: Contract with a professional videographer and storyteller to curate the video series.
The video series will feature a cross-section of up to six women from across Texas. Circle Up members will identify women and put them into contact with the videographer. The videographer will meet with the women individually and/or in small groups and record informal conversations and more formal interviews in order to capture the authentic stories and voices of the women. The videographer will edit and format the videos for use with different audiences. The final product will include a video with an overarching story tying all of the women’s stories together along with a series of shorter 2-3 minute clips that highlight specific aspects of maternity care in Texas.

Objective 2: Launch a coordinated social media campaign that centers the video campaign and includes sharing with all Capital District churches.
The video campaign will become a key component of Circle Up’s education efforts. Through our education efforts thus far, we have found personal stories to be one of the most effective tools in conveying the severity of the maternal health crisis in our state, as well as inspiring and motivating others to join the fight to improve maternal health outcomes in Texas. Circle Up will share the videos with all local churches in the Capital District. Circle Up will work with our community partners including Black Mamas Community Collective, Texans Care for Children, and the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition to launch the educational campaign. Ultimately, with these videos, Circle Up will be able to further the vision of UMW and improve health equity among Texas mothers.

Budget: $4,325 to develop and distribute this video education campaign. This amount covers reimbursement for the time that women spend being interviewed by the videographer, costs associated with the social media campaign and web hosting, and the cost of 60 hours of time from the professional videographer.

Action Support Grant
Project Goal: Expand Circle Up’s network by establishing formal relationships with at least six UMW groups from across Texas.
The purpose of this project is to build capacity for UMW groups within the Capital District and across Texas more broadly to use a faith lens to educate Texans about maternal health policies. Early in our work, we recognized the importance of capacity building and the promise of using a faith lens to educate others about maternal health policies, and we now consider community organizing and capacity building to be a cornerstone of our efforts. Additionally, we recognize that one of the unique strengths of UMW is our connectional structure, and with funding from the Action Support Grant, we will establish formal partnerships with UMW groups from across Texas.

Objective 1: Record and document Circle Up’s inception and evolution.
We will contract with the same professional videographer and storyteller to record and document Circle Up’s inception and evolution. The resulting short video will be a cornerstone of our work to broaden the reach of UMW within the Capital District and across Texas.

Objective 2: Up to 4 members of Circle Up will travel to at least six UMW groups in Texas.
The purpose of these visits is to share Circle Up’s focus on the UMW priority area of Maternal and Child Health and our model of outreach. We recognize that relationships are central to effective education and outreach. Therefore, these visits also serve the purpose of deepening our connectional ties via in-person gatherings. These gatherings will be held as public health guidance allows for larger group gatherings and with all applicable COVID precautions in place. With funding from the Action Support Grant, we will expand the reach of our education efforts as well as of UMW more broadly.

Budget: $2,410 to develop the video and to fund travel to UMW groups. This amount includes 18 hours of time for the professional videographer. This amount also includes reimbursement for 1000 miles of travel at $.55/mile and 8 nights in a hotel at $100/night.

How many individuals will be served by the funds requested?100

This is an education project to serve the entire population of Texas. As described above, our focus is improving maternal health in Texas.

Funding Partner Amount
Grant history and reporting

No; we have not.

Other Sources of funds Amount
General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church $4000.00
Community Partners Amount
Black Mamas Community Collective; Texans Care for Children; Texas Women's Healthcare Coalition N/A
Ministry BudgetCircle-Up-Ministry-Budget-Sheet1.pdf