1 October 2020 Quarterly Report

The Black Trowel Collective (BTC) Microgrants was formed in early June 2020 and launched 22 June, 2020. The BTC Microgrants are a collective of archaeologists (from PhD students to faculty members) committed to the active support of archaeology students from working-class and historically looted communities who are both regularly excluded by traditional scholarship and academic programs, or who require more economic support than those resources cover. We collect funds from donors and distribute microgrants from $5 to $300 (or the equivalent amount in £ or €)–no questions asked–to archaeology graduate and undergraduate students who need it.

We have committed to releasing quarterly reports to facilitate program transparency. This report documents our meetings, applicants and disbursals, highlights of the program, social media, merchandise, current initiatives and our potential future directions. 

Meetings

The Black Trowel Microgrants Collective has met twelve times since the formation of the initiative. After weekly meetings, we have moved to biweekly meetings. During these meetings we ensure that the email BTC Microgrants receives is answered, disburse money to applicants and discuss any outstanding issues that may have been raised. These meetings are attended by 3-6 members. We endeavor to come to agreements through collective consensus. Other issues and developments are brought to the larger Black Trowel Collective, which stands at around 20 participants. This quarter we have met on the following dates:

2 June, 9 June, 16 June, 18 June, 23 June, 30 June

7 July, 21 July, 28 July

11 August, 25 August*

2 September, 16 September, 30 September

*Note that there were only two meetings in August as many members were busy or away.

Applicants

We have had 101 applications to date, asking for a total of $25,159. This figure is a rough total as we have had requests in USD, GBP, AUD, and EU, with variable conversion rates. We have had applications from 45 institutions in 7 countries, as shown in the table below.

Out of the 100 applications, 79 identified their University and the location of the University is reflected within this figure. However many noted that they were immigrants, so this figure does not necessarily reflect nationality.

After a few initial requests that appeared to be fraudulent, we asked students to include their institutional email address, which we would verify before distributing funding. In some cases the student’s institution did not issue institution-specific email addresses, and their identity as an archaeology student was otherwise verified. We also modified our application form accordingly. 

We also asked permission to share the stories of the applicants. Some do not wish to be disclosed at all, some asked for pertinent information to be redacted. We feature some of these testimonials on the BTC Twitter and Facebook to show the plight of these students. 

Some examples:

You guys are exactly what I needed right now. I am a first-generation female student trying to raise a family while working on my PhD. Despite being at a large R1 institution, our department does not have adequate funding to support its students in normal circumstances. COVID has made this worse. Our summer teaching jobs were cut down to two classes all summer, so almost no one has summer funding. The local CRM firms aren’t doing much hiring either, so we’ve all be left out to dry. Thank you for being here and understanding how hard it is to be part of an underrepresented group in academia and archaeology.

I need help buying groceries and paying bills during the pandemic. Any aid is truly appreciated!

My dad had Covid19 in XXXXX and he now has complications which include kidney failure and needs oxygen to survive. Doctors and nurses are on strike in XXXXX so I have had to send him to a private hospital where I have used all the money from credit cards and I am now maxed out and no longer have food for us to eat in the house. 

I’m a college student who is in the process of trying to adopt my baby cousin from the system and pass my courses with great grades, but I’ve been facing obstacles left and right that are making my success in getting him and doing well with my classes, very difficult. A couple of days ago, my car broke down and I believe it to be the transmission. I live through a section 8 voucher, but currently struggling financially.  My mother, brother and grandmother passed away and I’m just trying to make them proud and be the best person I can be, while being black and a female living in poverty. I wish to show the world someday, that if I can go through the struggles I have and be successful, anyone can. 

Accounts and Disbursals (in USD)

Quarterly fundraising numbers: $12,936.48

Patreon: $5820

PayPal: $6455.5

Merchandising: $460.98

Personal donations: $200

Total fundraising (YTD): $12,936.48

Patreon: $5820

PayPal: $6455.5

Merchandising: $460.98

Personal donations: $200

Quarterly costs:

Logo Design: $200 (which was then donated back to the fund)

Patreon Fees: $633.53

PayPal Fees: $76.79

Total costs (YTD): $910.32

Monthly disbursals: 

June: $1350.00

July: $4970.00

August: $2985.00

September: $2715.00

Quarterly disbursals:  $12,020

Total disbursals (YTD): $12,020

Website/Social Media

To raise awareness of the BTC Microgrants we created a website and social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook. As of 1 October, we have 1,258 followers on Twitter, with 359,800 impressions. We have 237 followers on Facebook, with a total reach of 1,254 people. The accounts are checked by a rota of BTC members, and we endeavor to update the accounts with our ongoing initiatives, updates from grantees, and thank you notes to those who donate or spread the word about the program.

Archaeological illustrator Kathryn Killackey designed the BTC Microgrants logos. She kindly donated her fee back to the microgrants project.

Donors

PayPal donors:

Number of donors this quarter: 112

Total number of donors (YTD): 112

Avg. donation amount this quarter: $65.60

Patreon donors:

Number of current monthly donors at end of quarter: 156

Avg. donation amount per month this quarter: $10.86

Highlights

Some highlights of the last quarter include:

A donation from a former grantee who, when their circumstances changed, paid the same amount forward to award another student in need.

Some donated in honor of others who had supported them in their time of need.

We received support from more visible Twitter users, which resulted in more visibility for our initiative.

Dr Porter donated her prize money for best dissertation award to the BTC Microgrants.

Merchandise

Black Trowel Collective Microgrants committee has created three funding streams through an online merchandiser, Redbubble, using unique artwork by one member as well as the logo design for the Microgrant initiative. To date, the initiative has sold 200 items since early June. All proceeds from these sales have gone directly to the BTC microgrants.

Current Initiatives

Thanks to a generous anonymous donor, we are currently matching donations up to $1000. As of the writing of this report, we are approximately 70% of the way there.

Ongoing Projects

  • Continue to diversify both the Black Trowel Collective in general and the microgrants committee in particular
  • Encourage academics to donate speaking fees
  • Encourage academics in more financially stable situations to contribute

Future Goals 

  • Create a redbubble-like merchandise link for Europe, as the redbubble shipping charges are considerable. 
  • Start a reading group for members and associates
  • Translate our materials into Spanish and other languages
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