I'll be honest — as the annoying but necessary banner Wikipedia often puts up says — we need your help to keep GGWash running, and in this post I'll explain why.
There's one week left in GGWash's birthday membership drive. Can you join our Neighborhood or give what you can now?
As I explained in more detail in January, the Greater Greater Washington website is one part of the work we do. It's also unfortunately not a profitable part. Four years ago, we were able to make our editorial position full-time (today that's our amazing and tireless editor Julie Strupp) and add the other organizational support we needed thanks to a grant from the Open Philanthropy Project, but we spent most of last year planning around the expectation of not getting support from them again, or if we do, getting considerably less.
Therefore, we (especially Jane Green, our Development Director) have been working hard to build up the blog as a “business,” with events, advertising, and most of all support from readers like you through donations and our membership program, the GGWash Neighborhood.
Here's a chart of how we're doing at that:
Each color shows the total amount of revenue we've gotten in that revenue category from when Jane launched the program in October 2018, along with one-year budgeted amounts for each (the ends of the dashed lines).
As you can see, we're reasonably on track to make our numbers, but we have a long way to go as well. (To create these projections, I actually time-shifted the 2019 annual goals to the October-to-October timeframe, which isn't quite right but gives you the best general idea I can do and make the chart simple).
Membership, in particular, grows when we do membership drives, like now, but not so much when we don't. That's why we need to keep a steep pace for the next week (reflected by the heavy blue and red lines) until the end of our drive, and hit the $15,000 new membership goal we set for the drive. We have just passed two-thirds of the way there, so can you help push us over the top?
A look at the full GGWash budget
The lower black dashed line above shows what we budgeted to take in from these initiatives in 2019. The higher dashed line is an estimate of what we'd need to make the blog portion of the organization self-sufficient, including covering the staff to run it, get the money to keep it going, the server and website improvements, and more. In other words, if we split the blog out as a separate entity, it'd take almost $250,000 a year. (Plus, we want to keep doing our advocacy and elections work, which isn't counted in that total.)
Here's a look at our income from last year, comparing what we budgeted at the start of 2018, where we ended up in 2018, and our budget for 2019.
Even with Open Phil, we had hoped to get other foundations and grants and that didn't happen, and we're planning for an even lower level in 2019. On advertising, we were overly optimistic at the start of 2018 about what we could get. We did do somewhat better with individual donors than we'd projected, in significant part from launching the Neighborhood.
The “Earned income / coalitions” line is mostly DC Sustinable Transportation, the coalition we started managing almost two years ago and which is advocating for better bus service, curbside management, and good policies around emerging technology like autonomous vehicles and dockless bikes and scooters. That revenue mostly goes to staff expenses to work on those projects, which dovetail very well with the GGWash community's priorities; I became full-time at GGWash when that started.
To make our budget this year, we need to increase individual donations and event revenue. More individual donations, and greater ticket revenues from events, mean we can reduce our reliance on corporate sources.
Overall, last year we came in lower in total revenues than budgeted and need to build that back up, both to make up for likely lower foundation support and then an additional gap (teal), which I'll get to later. We still made our budget because we also saved on expenses, mainly personnel.
Sarah Guidi, our Managing Director, left in October, and we'd planned to hire a Development Director at the start of last year but ended up waiting until later in the year. However, that's not sustainable for us; I can't do what was my job and Sarah's old job at the same time, and Jane will be here all year now, doing valuable work.
We've hired Caitlin Rogger to take some of the DCST responsibilities from me as I cover a lot of what Sarah was doing, and we just hired someone to pick up our housing work in place of David Whitehead (more on that soon!)
That all means our costs are going to be up again, plus some more. We budgeted for some raises as we want to pay our people better, and had some increases to our operational cost.
We also need help for Julie, who's been carrying the blog on our own; we're expanding the fellowship to two cohorts this year, and also are hoping to secure funding for some other paid writing to fill in holes in our coverage. The “2019 High” column shows approximate costs if we are able to do those things; “2019 Low” is if we cut them out.
But either way, even assuming we hit our individual membership, events, and advertising goals (the right two blue bars), we're not quite there. So we're looking for about $150,000 to $175,000 in additional revenues. This could come from other foundations, from Open Phil if they decide to continue some support, and/or new coalitions. Some of those could come with their own new programmatic costs, so we might need much more in revenue to cover added expenses as well. We have a number of irons in the fire about this, and I'll tell you about them if and when they come together.
The bottom line is: Please join the Neighborhood at the special $150,000 a year “super duper amazing neighbor” level. Or if you aren't able to do $150,000 per year 😉, please join at the $60, $120, or $300 a year level or whatever you can afford. Or just contribute any amount and come to our birthday party on March 14 (Pi Day!) And if your organization might want to advertise on the site or sponsor an event about issues we cover on the site, let us know!