To the Fans, Staff Members, and Contributors to MEA Publications,
For the past six months we’ve worked with lawyers and accountants, sought counsel from the leaders of like-minded groups, and poured our energy and dedication to veterans, their families, and artists into creating a nationally recognized organization that provides members of military communities with access to the arts, advocacy, and educational resources. We’ve never charged a single veteran for our services; all of our publications are free to the public through our website. And now, with our federally recognized non-profit status, we should be able to stick to those principles and do even more, all while taking care of the individuals who’ve made this organization what it is today.
Our editors and staff members have worked hard over the past five years. Without pay and with little fanfare, they’ve worked behind the scenes, mentoring veteran writers and artists, maintaining support forums, educating the American public about the sacrifices and culture of military men and women in both the classroom and online workshops. Moving forward, my goal as the president of this organization is to ensure that their altruism and compassion does not lead to burnout, that their labors do not go unrewarded.
What will MEA do with its new non-profit status?
There will be two areas of focus in our fundraising efforts: publications and workshops/events. Our Executive Board will convene over the coming months and decide upon a reasonable stipend to be paid to the editors of our publications and the leaders of our special projects. We will run fundraising campaigns through various networks to raise the funds needed to compensate these professionals, ensuring that the veterans we help continue to interact with staff members of the highest caliber and motivation.
Secondary fundraising efforts might include:
- Compensation to Contributors to Our Publications
- Awards for Writing/Art Contest
- The Development of MOOCs (Massive Open-Access Online Courses)
- Print and Distribution of Publications at Veterans Resource Centers / Hospitals
- Travel / Lodging for MEA Staff Members Invited to Speak
How will you ensure accountability?
I intend, within the limits of reason, to make our financial status completely transparent by keeping a running ledger of donations and expenditures. This ledger will be available to the public through our website, sensitive information removed, of course. If, upon reviewing it, something looks off, call us out on it publicly. We’ve got nothing to hide now. And I intend to keep it that way.
Why should MEA’s staff members receive stipends for their work? I thought MEA was a volunteer organization.
I’ll answer this question with two examples.
First, let’s look at the online workshops currently being led by the managing editor of The Blue Falcon Review, Daniel Buckman. Dan has published four novels with major presses and is a US Army veteran. He came to MEA wanting to “pay it forward,” to help young, aspiring fiction writers who are veterans achieve the same kind of success. At the same time, Dan works part time as adjunct faculty at various colleges and in the inner city, helping Chicago youths use education to advance themselves.
His time is valuable, as is his expertise. The workshops he leads for The Blue Falcon Review, including upwards to twenty authors, lasting months at a time are, in my opinion, the equivalent to teaching an online class at any university, only more time consuming, especially at the end when participants are ready for one on one assistance for final publication. As such, when I meet with the MEA board in a few months, I am going to suggest that managing editors like Dan receive a stipend that reflects the pay for teaching a single, online college course. We will then set a target date for publishing each volume and, once the stipends for the managing and associate editors have been raised, we’ll proceed with the workshops, consultations, and editing that results in our top-notch publications.
The next example I’d like to use is that of MEA’s Secretary and Academic Liaison, Lisa Day. Among other duties, Lisa is the last line of defense against grammatical errors, stylistic problems, and other problems that must be overcome for our publications to appear professional and polished. Last year, Lisa edited four volumes: The Journal of Military Experience‘s third volume, and the first volumes of The Blue Falcon Review, Blue Streak: A Journal of Military Poetry, and the Veterans’ PTSD Project’s Blue Nostalgia: A Journal of Post-Traumatic Growth.
All told, she spent several, 40-hour weeks editing these volumes. Like Dan, she works full time as an educator. Her job as the Director of Women and Gender Studies and an Associate Professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University already exceeds the standards of full time employment on its own. By editing so much material for MEA, it wouldn’t take much for her to reach burnout. So, I hope to work with the MEA board to establish a per-volume level of compensation that will allow her to free up the time to keep helping us produce high quality literature.
In my work, I’ve watched the literary market take advantage of many young authors and artists, lulling them into publishing with vanity presses, stealing away the rights to their intellectual property, charging upwards to $40 an hour for the same services that we provide–and will continue to provide–for free. We get larger every day. The more people who contribute, the heavier the load gets for our professionals. Many hands make for light work, I know. But directing those many hands–such as our editors and project leaders do daily–is also taxing.
Dan and Lisa are only two examples. There are any number of stories about our staff members that are equally compelling. Simply put, the best way to keep MEA growing is to take care of those individuals who got us to where we are today. And, as founder and president, I vow not to accept a single cent of pay before those like Dan and Lisa are compensated for their expert assistance.
What about events?
In 2012, the first MEA Symposium at Eastern Kentucky University was funded by the KY Department of Veterans Affairs. The total cost for the event ended up being around $13,000. Again, not a single veteran paid for the workshops, resources, events, lodging, and food made available to each participant. By budgeting events before hand we can, as with our publications, set a target fundraising goal and carry out the event once that goal has been met. This method will open the door to volunteers and fans to prepare proposals for events of their own, pitching them to our board for consideration. If it seems feasible, we will then be able to allow the director of the proposed project to work under our umbrella to create an MEA Sponsored Event.
When can I donate? How?
I will be setting up a bank account and mapping out a fundraising campaign soon. You’ll be the first to know through our website and social media outlets. In the meantime, keep Military Experience & the Arts in your thoughts and prayers. We’ve helped a lot of veterans. We are capable of helping a lot more now. I look forward to seeing us reach our full potential.
Email any questions, ideas, or concerns regarding our new status to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks you all for your continued support.