This time last year, the Seattle Globalist faced news that put our future in the balance.
Financial support from the University of Washington’s Department of Communication — about half of our annual budget — would be ending, a full two years earlier than expected.
We knew that the Globalist’s work to cultivate diverse new voices in media was more important than ever, especially with the rise of then-candidate Trump and a growing environment of fear and hate, but we didn’t know if the organization could survive this sudden loss of funding.
Well, the past year has been a dramatic one for our scrappy media nonprofit — not to mention for the country itself. But we are both thrilled and absolutely humbled to announce that hundreds of individuals and a few institutions in our community have stepped up and filled the funding gap. This week, we will start moving into our new physical home at the Northwest Film Forum on Capitol Hill, and the Globalist finds itself in a stronger financial position than ever before. The organization is poised to step into its next phase with confidence, vision, and a strong, powerful community.
So many of you contributed your time, money, and ideas to make this happen. We can never fully express our gratitude.
It is with both sadness and excitement that today we’re writing to share the news that as part of the Globalist’s next phase, Sarah Stuteville, Alex Stonehill and I are all transitioning out of our staff roles and onto new paths.
The three of us have been working together on the nonprofit that ultimately became the Globalist for twelve years (its first incarnation, as the Common Language Project, launched in 2005), and the Globalist has been our home for the past five. It’s very hard to say goodbye.
But this moment feels like one of great opportunity, not only for each of us personally, but for the Globalist to step into its newfound independence and grow into its next phase.
Before we tell you about what we’re doing next, we’d like share three big lessons we founders learned this past year. We hope that they might be of value to other nonprofits and news organizations – large and small:
1) Admit that you have a problem and ask for help
Too often, nonprofits are afraid to show weakness or be upfront about the challenges we face. Funders want to see sustainability and stability, so we strive to show that at all costs, regardless of what’s going on behind the scenes.
When we learned our biggest source of funding was ending it didn’t take long to figure out we were facing an existential threat. After some agonizing, we decided we had no other choice but to share that news with the public.
The community (hey, that’s you!) responded. Donations started rolling in, and as the word of our troubles spread, we were invited to apply for foundation funding and training contracts.
None of that would likely have happened if we’d played our cards close to our chests and scrambled behind the scenes to save the Globalist. It came together because we took the risk of asking our community: “Do you value this organization? Is it worth investing in it to keep the Globalist alive?”
We had to run the terrifying risk of the answer being “no,” if we were really going to prove that the answer is “yes.”
It didn’t result in a giant novelty check the next day (though one did eventually come!) but it gave the community an opportunity to speak up and decide whether the Globalist was something worth saving.
2) Shakeups are a chance for reinvention
The sudden loss of resources made us take a good long look at the most important pieces of what we were contributing both to the media scene and to our community.
It forced us to look at the Globalist and ask: “What is the very core of this organization?”
Originally born as a publication, the Seattle Globalist over the years had also become a training ground for new journalists. We realized other publications had taken our cue and were doing a lot more of the topical coverage we had pushed at launch, but we were unique in offering intensive editorial mentorship and a home for stories for emerging journalists from communities underrepresented in the mainstream media.
While many outlets give lip service to the need for more diversity in media, few were willing to put resources towards the outreach, mentorship, financial investment, training, and institutional change needed to transform their newsrooms. But for the Globalist, that transformation had become the heart of our mission — and this critical moment helped us see that more clearly than ever before.
When our financial crisis hit, we had to scale back our programming. For many news organizations, that might look like making sure to feed the 24-hour news machine with anything you can manage to publish. But for the Globalist, it meant cutting back in just the opposite way: we might not be able to publish quite as often, but we had to continue to invest in cultivating and coaching new writers. It took the crisis to help us fully understand that that was our most crucial work.
3) Know when it’s time to make space for the next generation
We three founders had long made a promise to each other that we would recognize the right moment to leave. But that promise took on new meaning as we saw the organization facing a financial crisis.
None of us would have felt good about leaving the organization a year ago; we had an organization to save. But as we watched the organization stabilize and grow into new opportunities, it became clear that the past year hadn’t just been chaos, it had been a catalyst.
A new crop of leaders has stepped up to share the challenge carrying the Globalist forward. New board members Jenny Asarnow, Esmy Jimenez, Shoko Toyama, Paulette Harris, and LeiLani Nishime are all brave souls who joined the board AFTER the financial crisis hit us.
More than 200 people have signed on to make a regular donation to the Globalist — more than $50,000 per year, y’all! The Washington Women’s Foundation awarded the Globalist a $100,000 grant over the next three years — that’s money that we’ll invest in building and strengthening our operations and fundraising, making sure that we continue to have stability in the years to come.
Fifteen young people have graduated from the Globalist Youth Apprenticeship. Hundreds of people have published stories on the Globalist. Thousands read them every week.
These new leaders, this community of supporters — they’re not here just to weather the storm. They’re here to help the Globalist set sail.
As founders, this helped us understand our role in a new way: it had been our job to get the Globalist up and running, to create the space, to spark the idea. We (and many, MANY others) got the Globalist onto its launchpad. Now, it’s ready for a new generation of leaders to help it take off.
And perhaps you know one of those leaders! The Globalist is hiring its next Executive Director right now. The job is an opportunity for an amazing new leader to guide the Globalist through this powerful moment in its history and into its next phase. Just as the Globalist seeks to cultivate new voices in the media landscape, as a nonprofit organization we seek to create opportunities for people from groups underrepresented in nonprofit leadership. Please share this opportunity far and wide and help us find the Globalist’s next ED.
So what’s next for the three of us?
Sarah will be applying her years of media experience and international journalism and local reporting within the American Muslim community in her new role as Media and Outreach Director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Washington Chapter (CAIR-WA). Have a story she can help you share? Want help on a story for your publication? Want to be a source for for future stories? Or just want to get coffee and chat about working together? Drop her a line: email@example.com.
Alex is joining the UW’s Communication Leadership master’s program full time as Head of Creative Strategy. He’ll be helping one of the country’s most exciting graduate programs leverage student talent outside the classroom to take on pressing social and environmental problems. Their community partnership initiative is expanding, so if you work for a nonprofit facing a communication-related challenge, reach out to Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if Comm Lead students can help.
And I will be starting graduate school next month, at UW Bothell’s Leadership MBA program. I will continue to teach UW undergraduate journalism classes and in the graduate Communication Leadership program, and I have no plans to leave the nonprofit sector! I hope to study cooperative business models, and to learn more about how the business world works. Ultimately I want to build connections, understanding, and support between nonprofits and the for-profit world. Please keep in touch with me at email@example.com.
Though we’re moving on from our daily staff roles at the Globalist, the three of us will always be ride or die Globalist supporters. Organizations don’t succeed by the personalities that founded them — they let their communities define them. We’ll always be part of that community!
And, you’ll still be seeing us around, you can count on that. Alex is joining the Seattle Globalist Board of Directors, where he’ll continue to support the organization’s editorial and training programs. Sarah will be moonlighting as a guest instructor in our Youth Apprenticeship program and Community Media Workshops. And don’t be surprised when I sneak up behind you at the next Globies to slip a donation envelope into your hand.