As the new Interim Executive Director of SF Pride, one of the things that seemed most critical to accomplish rather quickly as I stepped into this position was communicating honestly and regularly with our community about the steps that SF Pride is taking to address our deficit and the structural issues that have emerged for us in the challenges of the past year.
We are not alone in facing challenges this year. A number of other LGBT nonprofit stalwarts have faced similar challenges; however great challenges present us with great opportunities and fundamental adjustments to the structure of our organization that before were unthinkable are now possible. To those of us who’ve been working in the nonprofit sector for a while, finding the path to the revival phase for our organizations requires precisely this kind of thinking. What is it that brought about these challenges? What are our greatest strengths? How can we move from reaction back to proactively addressing the needs of our organizations?
It is my firm belief that the lesson of the Great Recession is not just that funding became more scarce and therefore made our work as nonprofits more difficult — certainly that played a part — but the lesson, as I see it, is rather that down cycles in funding resources have a way of exposing structural inefficiencies that our organizations’ other strengths were able to mask. Once exposed, the question becomes whether leadership in the organization can be honest enough to identify the root cause of these inefficiencies and act on those observations. We are doing just that. By re-activating the Executive Director position, SF Pride has made a clear commitment to heeding one of the major elements of the City Controller’s Report, which, among other recommendations, called for the restoration of senior management on staff.
There is still much work to be done, of course, but we have both the passion, the will, and the resources to make it happen. What is important is that we be forthright with our stakeholders that the challenges we face are complex and myriad and that no one solution will be sufficient. On the other hand, because most of the complexity of our organizations’ operations are not always apparent, it is essential that we bring the community into our conversations so that appropriate solutions can be identified.
In the past two weeks since I stepped into the Interim ED positon, I have prioritized this approach by setting up this blog to have a regular space to speak to our community and for you, the community, to repsond and contribute. The conversation is just getting started, but what we’ve found is that the headlines in the press do not always capture the sincere and renewed spirit of support that our community is offering to help Pride through this transition. Everyone from our members to our volunteers, our community advisory board to our sponsors, are stepping up to ask how they can help. They are an essential resource whose value cannot be calculated in dollars and cents.
Finding organic spaces on and offline to invite a broader discussion can help us all to feel less isolated as we think through these problems. We must keep the scope of the discussion broad while still maintaining sharp focus on our core priorities as we move toward renewal.
Interim Executive Director