We’d like to thank all the community members who recently joined us for our NOI Community Call. We know your time is precious, and we appreciate you coming to us to share your ideas and thoughts with us as we progress into the future.
Ethan’s Opening Statement
During the Community Call, Ethan started by discussing the power of the community with our attendees. He announced that at NOI, we believe that our community is crucial to our strength. Since the moment the organization began in 2005, the community has been the heartbeat of our group, keeping us moving forward to a brighter future.
Of course, this means that our community deserves to know what happened to us recently after issues didn’t go entirely according to plan. Not so long ago, there was a degree of uncertainty around NOI because of a cash shortage in our organization.
As you may already know, we act as a non-profit group, which means that we use our funder’s money carefully to create positive changes in the world. Unfortunately, finding the right balance between keeping an organization running securely, and investing in new programs is a challenge that all non-profits need to address.
In this case, we spent our money in the first half of 2014 which we feel, in retrospect, we should have saved for the fall. When the second half of the year emerged, it became clear that we needed to cut costs. While we got rid of everything from travel expenses to the water cooler, we still needed to use some layoffs to balance the budget. We lost around a quarter of our staff in November.
Though we ran the most successful RootsCamp ever in December, we still weren’t out of the woods. Throughout this period, the financial pressure on our organization continued to mount, as multiple sources of anticipated revenue failed to materialize. In January, Ethan told the staff that more layoffs were likely and that we may even have to leave some staff with no pay.
The complexity of our situation led to a lot of frustration and anxiety among our staff, and the company as we considered our future with a sense of deep concern. Nathan was unable to manage the anxiety effectively. His time was spent chasing down fundraising prospects and managing external relationships, which meant that he didn’t have enough time to listen to the needs of his staff.
The growing disconnect between leadership and staff was addressed in a fateful meeting that occurred in February when the senior team approached Ethan and told him that he would have to leave, or they would. This was followed up by a memo sent to the board of directors a few days later. A list of 8 staff claimed that they would resign if Ethan was not fired within 48 hours.
Under pressure to perform, the board chose not to fire Ethan and accepted the resignations of the staff in the memo. This meant that the group was left without any senior managers, and we were still faced with a serious cash shortfall that forced us to lay off additional staff.
What’s Happening Now?
Despite a very rocky experience, it’s important to note that NOI is still going to be around for the future. We’re still equipped with a core staff base that includes administrative staff, events staff, and training managers. We have events on the books to execute according to our usual high standards, and we have an amazingly committed community of practitioners who are devoted to carrying on the work that’s important to our organization.
However, the experiences we’ve had lately have left a mark on our community that’s been difficult to deal with. This has been a heart-wrenching experience for us all, and a moment in which many good people have had to make difficult sacrifices. We’re currently working alongside the management center to assess the structures and decisions that prompted last week’s events.
Ethan will also be counseled on the best way of moving forward in a way that strengthens the NOI culture. The board will be expanding to improve the financial nature of the organization, and a fundraising advisor will be coming on board to assist with efforts to improve the financial position that we’ve found ourselves in today.
What’s Coming Next?
The campaigns we see today are very different to the ones that emerged when NOI was founded around ten years ago. The demand for more technically trained talent has grown exponentially, and the industry is more specialized. The need for technical skills is greater than ever. As we look for ways to deliver our promise to equip our progressive movement with a diverse, and tech-savvy bench of campaigners, we also needs to use this moment as a chance to challenge some of our existing assumptions on how we can best deliver on our promises.
In the coming weeks, we will be drawing on our greatest asset – the skilled and powerful community of progressive campaigners that exist all around us. We will be actively inviting you to come together and help us imagine new approaches to our events, training sessions, and community. We will also ask for your help in training, working, and donating.
As we progress, we’ll be doing everything we can to share our experiences with you, and express what we learn from our assessments. We want you to be fully informed about how we plan to be stronger going forward.
Additionally, we’ll also be getting back to work with more devotion than ever before. We refuse to accomplish anything less than it takes to win, and we know that the biggest fights and victories still lay ahead of us.
To get some insight into the challenge that lays ahead, I surveyed some of the hiring managers in our campaign space and asked them to quantify the current staffing challenge that was evident in 2016. This addressed how many technical staff positions needed to be filled, and how many trained practitioners already existed to fill those roles.
The conclusions drawn from my analysis were staggering. We found that we needed to train and recruit 600 new practitioners to work in digital and data jobs alone. Those are the people who are going to be raising money online, recruiting volunteers, and creating the data-driven, effective campaigns we need to thrive.
Ultimately, at NOI, it’s our job to develop the next generation of campaigners, training progressive individuals who use the latest technology to enhance the relationship-based organization that we know can move people. You can’t have progress without technology today. If you want to win your campaign, then you need a digital and organized approach.
Of course, we know that we also cannot succeed without our community.
What Can You Do?
If you’re wondering how you can help, we can tell you that you can do what you’ve always done. Help us to train our community, be a coach for one of our training sessions, or deliver new organizers to our events. Sharee your ideas with us about how we can become a stronger movement in the future.
We’re looking for your insights and your thoughts on what we can do to become better. Whether it’s a new training model that you want to help us run or a new constituency that you want to help us engage with, we need your help.
We know with your support, we can’t lose.