Photo by Adam Bartlett on Flickr.

I hope to see many of you at our reader happy hour tonight at Laughing Man. I’m also pleased to share some news: Greater Greater Wife and I are expecting a Greater Greater Baby this August.

I’m going to be taking a significant break from Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education when the baby arrives, for at least a month and likely more. Moreover, this is a good opportunity for me to step out of the day to day management of the Greater Greater sites.

Greater Greater Washington and now Greater Greater Education have been a tireless labor of love for over five years. Even with the amazing support of countless volunteer contributors, keeping them going with Breakfast Links and 2-5 other articles every day takes a lot of effort. It’s been a full-time job and often more, and I still often don’t have time to reply to emails that come in, reach out to new contributors or even keep in touch with existing contributors as much as I’d like to.

That won’t be able to continue at the same level once our baby arrives. I’d also like to be able to focus more significant time into researching, analyzing, and describing some of the deeper issues facing our region and how we can grow in a way that’s inclusive of all people, longtime residents and new residents alike.

I also want Greater Greater Washington to continue to grow and thrive. Fortunately, with our large community of contributors and readers, I believe it can.

A path to sustainability

After talking with many contributors, editors, and advisors, I have come to the conclusion that the best path forward is for Greater Greater Washington to remain primarily a volunteer-driven organization, but also to add a few part-time or, in the future, full-time staff to handle some management and editing responsibilities.

We have always been about publishing content that comes from our volunteer contributors, and I think that is one of the greatest things about Greater Greater Washington which should continue. We will need more volunteer contributions and contributors, and I hope many of you can help out in this way. We also still need to find some more link editors so that we can spread the work out between many people across days.

In addition, there are many other tasks which need to get done to help keep the site running, like maintaining the code that runs the site, improving the design, reaching out to communities to find people to contribute, and figuring out how to best raise money.

Staff can manage and edit

Volunteers are great, but with rare exceptions, someone volunteering can usually only bite off a relatively small piece of work, and their work and home commitments mean that some days or weeks people just are too busy. But there are a few areas where we need someone to consistently take care of a responsibility day in and day out, and for that we will need to pay people.

I believe we need to have someone on staff who’s actually keeping the trains running on time, managing things, making sure the organization has filed its proper forms, trying to make sure we respond to people who email in (something that, unfortunately, I often am not able to do), and so on.

A second big area is editing. We have always edited articles to help contributors refine their arguments and make them clear and effective. We’ve striven for a high standard of quality, and our commenters have also come to expect clear, information-filled articles. Therefore, someone needs to edit each article and work with the contributors.

Last year, we tried having a number of volunteer editors, who did a terrific job. However, sometimes they didn’t all have time to actually do edits right away, and from day to day or week to week, a contributor might have different people editing their articles, making different kinds of changes, which caused confusion. Individual editors’ schedules also varied, making it unpredictable whether they could edit something timely right away.

Thanks to some help from the Coalition for Smarter Growth and an interim contribution from myself, I am pleased to announce that regular contributor Dan Reed has joined GGW as part-time paid editor.

Dan has already been doing a great job editing many articles on GGW, and will be able to keep things going while I am out. So please congratulate Dan in the comments and when you see him tonight!

But we need your help

The existing funding will just help us keep Dan for a short while, however, and he can’t do everything. We still need to raise money to keep him long-term (or, if he moves on to other things, find someone else), and fund having someone do the management work as well. I will be following up soon about all of that.

Plus, building an organization is also a lot of work. I need and want to keep the site going, keep writing, and also get ready for Greater Greater Baby. Here are a few areas we will need the most volunteer help:

  • Organizational development: We have to figure out how big a budget our organization needs to be sustainable, how to structure it, and how to make it successful. Then we need to figure out how to get that money, and from what sources. Do we do online contributions, events, what? And when we decide what to do, we have to actually pull it off! Do you have experience building organizations and raising money for other groups?
  • Technology and design: The blog runs on code I wrote myself. We should figure out whether to transition it to a major blog platform (probably eventually we should). We ought to make clear how to switch between blogs, and incorporate more of the features modern media companies use to remind people they can sign up for the daily email or go read other related stories. Do you know how successful online sites do this or have experience building features on platforms like Wordpress?
  • The breakfast links: Each day’s links is one of the most popular elements of Greater Greater Washington, but it is a lot of work. I want to spread the work out among many people. Do you think you would be good at reading the news and blogs really fast to find appropriate urbanist articles and then writing pithy, effective summaries?
  • Planning or collecting events: We want to have more reader meet-ups and other types of events. In addition, people email us about many exciting events going on around the region. I’d love to have us do a better job keeping up our calendar and posting a weekly or biweekly event roundup, just like we have the great weekly Flickr picks. Do you want to help with either?
  • Writing articles: We always want contributions. We’re trying to strike a good balance of news, analysis, and opinion, which means just informing readers about what’s going on with development, transportation, and education all around the region is a big part of that. Do you want to inform a large community of engaged residents about what’s going on in your part of the region?

If you can help with any of these, please use this form let us know which of these, or what aspect of them, you are interested in. If you’ve done something in one of these areas before, let us know that too.

This will be the first of many posts about our transition into the long-term organization that Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education can be. Meanwhile, I hope to see you at Laughing Man, 1306 G Street NW, between 6 and 8 pm tonight.

Tagged: meta

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.