Image by john paul tyrone fernandez licensed under Creative Commons.

In 2017 GGWash showed that community-driven media and advocacy can make change happen. By writing about urbanism issues and creating opportunities to take action, we helped our urban areas change and evolve. Thanks to readers, donors, and supporters GGWash made the Washington region a better place to live, work, play, and do business in 2017.

Shaping conversations and policy through media

For nearly ten years, Greater Greater Washington has been a powerful platform for delving into the planning and policy issues that impact our urban areas. If you consider yourself a part of this community, whether as a reader, commenter, contributor, or volunteer, you get it.

GGWash publishes wonky yet accessible information and analysis about urbanism issues that help you be a more informed, engaged resident. You can't get that from other media sites.

In 2017 GGWash continued to influence conversations about regional growth and development and making our urban places more accessible through ggwash.org. Last year we published 1,177 posts, which were read over 6.7 million times by more than 1.5 million people. And unlike many other media sites, we have a robust, productive comments section which generated 32,715 comments.

These numbers demonstrate what urbanist GGWash'ers already knew: the site is an important place to learn, share ideas, and push for changes that make our urban places work better.

Over the last decade, one of GGWash's core issue has been transportation. From buses and Metro to bike lanes and roads, GGWash readers expect news and analysis about our region's transportation networks from us. And we've delivered. Nearly half of the top twenty posts from 2017 dealt with transportation issues.

We'll continue to be a leading source of transportation reporting and opinion in 2018. But we can't do it without contributors! So if you have some wonky transportation knowledge that you can translate into engaging, easy-to-digest posts, send us a pitch.

Issues of equity have become even more pressing locally and nationally in the last few years. GGWash has made an intentional effort to explore how transportation and housing policy currently, and historically have perpetuated inequality across the region. We are encouraged to see that writing about urbanism through an equity lens is resonating with readers.

Five of the top twenty most-read posts last year dealt with issues of equity, including how policing, race, and segregation impact our communities. We're going to continue looking at transportation and urban planning policy through an equity lens in 2018. We want to publish stories that reflect a diversity of perspectives on urbanism issues from new and existing contributors. If you have something to say, please reach out with a pitch.

For a full rundown of the most-read posts of 2017, check out this post.

Mobilizing the GGWash community to take action

This year alone more than 1,500 people took action in support of policies and projects that will make our urban places better. From signing on to housing priorities for the District, to speaking up for express bus service (which launched on Tuesday, January 8th!) and smarter bike lanes, the GGWash community is making stuff happen.

Here’s a snapshot of 2017 by the numbers.

This is what GGWash does best. We give Washingtonians the information they need to weigh in on decisions that seriously alter how our region’s urban places get developed. And we create opportunities for them to make their voices heard. This is what civic engagement in our digital age looks like.

GGWash is proud of the accomplishments we achieved in 2017 and thank you for being a part of the effort. To learn more about our advocacy wins in 2017, check out this post.

Influencing housing and land use policy

If you followed GGWash in 2017 you know that amending DC's Comprehensive Plan was last year's major advocacy issue. We achieved some big things!

First, GGWash convened a diverse coalition of housing stakeholders and organized the group to draft ten housing priorities for the city. Then in the summer, the group submitted a substantive package of amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, translating those priorities into specific changes we'd like to see the Office of Planning integrate into the revised Comp Plan.

There is still a lot of work to do in 2018 to make sure that DC has a Comprehensive Plan that prioritizes more homes, more affordable homes, and protects residents from displacement. We've got our lobbying hats ready, and hope you'll help us convince OP and the Council to pass a Comp Plan that responds to the pressing housing challenges facing the city.

In 2017 we also provided several opportunities for residents across the region to become involved in housing and land use policy decisions in their own backyards.

  • More than 100 Montgomery County supporters contacted Chairman Ike Legget and his colleagues asking them to approve a redevelopment plan for the old Silver Spring Library that includes housing and affordable homes.
  • A decade ago Arlington County legalized accessory apartments. But since then they've only granted 20 permits. Working off the great work of advocates before us, we worked alongside partner groups in Arlington to stimulate conversation and push for simplified accessory dwelling policies. The board will vote on the proposed reforms in early 2018.
  • Readers sent more than 80 emails to the DC Council and to DC Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) requesting that they increase the number of building code inspectors to help crack down on landlords who run subpar rental units. Ultimately the DC Council approved funding for two additional inspectors in 2018.

To read more about how GGWash influenced housing and land use policy in Washington, check out this post.

2017 financial report

Revenue

GGWash relied on several important funding sources to achieve these impacts in 2017. Foundations, earned income, individual giving, sponsorships, and donated services made up GGWash's funding portfolio in 2017.

Foundations

Foundations, particularly the Open Philanthropy Project, have been an important source of funding for GGWash. Open Philanthropy first funded GGWash back in 2015. This year, they made a second grant, providing us funding for an additional two years. In 2017 we also received foundation support from the McIntosh Foundation, TransitCenter, and Meyer Foundation.

Foundations will always be an important piece of our funding portfolio, but we need to build a more sustainable business model to support our efforts into the future.

Earned income

We've begun, and will continue in 2018 to experiment with other revenue-generating activities. These will include ticketed and sponsored events, advertisements that fit the culture and ethos of the site, and earned income through public engagement contracts and trainings.

In 2017, these "earned income" activities made up 32% of our revenue and are broken down into two main categories:

  1. Revenue from GGWash's partnership with DC Sustainable Transportation to run its advocacy program and manage the administrative aspects of the organization ($102,297)
  2. Revenue from public engagement activities including the initiative sponsored by WMATA to identify better Metro passes and engage riders with the MyTripTime tool, partnering with Coalition for Smarter Growth on their parking cashout campaign, customized blogging trainings, and affiliate marketing through Amazon ($31,050).

Individuals

We’re also going to ask you, our community of supporters to step up and help. Many respondents to the reader survey in September said they'd pitch in. Was that you?! You’ll get your chance in February when we kick off our annual reader drive. This year, donations from readers and supporters like you make up 10% of our budget. Your donations are so important to our overall funding and we hope you'll donate (again) this year.

Sponsorships

Corporate sponsors also helped keep GGWash going in 2017. We received sponsorships from six companies this year, each ranging from $2,500 - 5,000. Most of these were development companies who support our mission. Building the homes, commercial centers, and amenities our urban areas need is critical to creating walkable, transit-oriented communities. Developers are part of the solution and we welcome their support.

Donated services

For nearly ten years, David Alpert worked hard to build GGWash's community of readers and commenters. Despite treating GGWash as a full-time job, he was not compensated for his work. Our board wanted to recognize this contribution however, and included a nominal in-kind salary for him in GGWash's budget, which is reflected in the "donated services" category. Because David was hired as DCST's Executive Director in May of 2017, the donated services category reflects in-kind contributions for only part of the year.

Expenses

The majority of GGWash's expenses went toward keeping the blog running, advocating and organizing around priority issues, and carrying out the priorities of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). Combined, 23% of our expenditures paid for administrative and fundraising efforts.

Note, the source of these data is our unaudited 2017 financial reports. We’ll share our 990 tax return for 2017 when it is finalized later this year. In the meantime, you can view our 2016 tax return here.

What’s in store for 2018?

Staff, with support from advisory committees and the board of directors, have outlined some preliminary goals for 2018.

  1. Be the source for information, analysis, and dialogue on urbanism issues in the region
    1. Maintain or increase readership and audience engagement from 2017
    2. Increase geographic, racial, and gender diversity among contributors and readers
    3. Increase coverage of priority topic areas identified by the Editorial Board, including equity, environmental sustainability, and bus issues
  2. Advocate for policies that support urbanism
    1. Ensure that DC's Comprehensive Plan (or other zoning document) includes language that prioritizies building enough homes, enough affordable homes, and incorporates direct displacement protections
    2. Mobilize one-third of supporters to take action
  3. Lead advocacy, business, and government to promote shared priorities for DC transportation through DCST
    1. Building consensus among elected and civic leaders for a significant effort around bus priority
    2. Demonstrate thought leadership around future technology
    3. Achieve concrete progress on curbside improvement in at least three areas of DC
  4. Organize events that help achieve GGWash’s mission and financial sustainability goals
    1. Test launch an events program that creates a replicable model that offers education, community-building, and will generate revenue
  5. Engage in political organizing and endorsements
    1. Make political endorsements in key primary and general election races in DC, MD, and Virginia
    2. Manage a comprehensive voter education and endorsement process for ANC commissioners in DC
  6. Grow and strengthen ties to our community
    1. Formalize GGWash's program committees (Editorial Board, Advocacy, Elections, and Nominations)
    2. Publish periodic posts from staff and key committees transparently conveying GGWash's activities and goals
  7. Become more financially sustainable
    1. Test out an advertising program and event sponsorship opportunities as sustainable revenue sources
    2. Achieve budget targets, integrating foundation grants, individual giving, sponsorship, and earned income

We look forward to keeping you updated on our progress and making space for you to write, speak up, and take action in 2018!

Sarah Guidi is Greater Greater Washington's Managing Director. A social worker by training, Sarah brings knowledge of nonprofit management, policy and advocacy, and community engagement to Greater Greater Washington. When she's not working, she enjoys visiting new parts of the city by bike, doing gymnastics, and reading novels. Sarah lives in the Petworth neighborhood of DC.