June 1, 2011
Dear GroundSpark Supporter,
We are so appreciative of the community of activists, donors, educators, and service providers that help us “ignite change through film.”
That's why I’m reaching out today: to honor your connection to our work, and to bring you up to date on some significant developments here at GroundSpark.
This spring it became clear to our board of directors that GroundSpark could no longer sustain the level of staffing needed to implement our full program.
There are many factors that contributed to this decision, but the main reason is that when the economy fell a few years ago, many of our large institutional funders shifted their grant-making priorities away from the kind of work GroundSpark does. We invested considerable time and resources in trying to identify new major funders and setting up different organizational structures, but met with only limited success.
In late April, the board made the difficult decision to scale back our operations, lay off staff, and, sadly, begin closing GroundSpark. By this point, I was working as a consultant for GroundSpark, having transitioned out of an executive role over the last year.
As an alternative to closing, the board offered me the opportunity to return to a leadership role with the understanding that we would need to run GroundSpark in a new, streamlined way. I agreed about the importance of continuing, and am rolling up my sleeves and giving it my best shot.
I am now working with a new board of directors that is also up for this challenge.
We are changing our business model to rely more on marketing and sales of our films instead of large institutional grants. That way, even with fewer foundation dollars, we should be able to sustain GroundSpark’s important work with support from our donor community, a few smaller foundations, and DVD distribution.
We will need to stay small and lean and find more cost-effective ways to provide technical assistance, professional development training, and support for community organizing. Instead of maintaining a staff and the overhead of a sizable office, we will work with talented consultants (including a few former staff members).
GroundSpark is very proud of the stunning success we have had with our Respect for All Project. We have helped catalyze thousands of conversations and action steps to:
• Address bias-related bullying
We will continue to provide high quality resources and support to educational and advocacy organizations working on these issues. But we will prioritize projects that lead to the greatest impact in the most cost-effective, high quality way.
• Challenge cultural assumptions about gender norms
• Support children from diverse family structures
• Counter homophobia in schools
Here’s what we're doing this month:
Today, though, please join me in saluting our incredible staff as they move on to new ways of making a difference. We send our gratitude and best wishes to our former development associate Zeena Batliwalla, office manager Alana Esquivel and executive director Susan Mooney.
• Beefing up our efforts to put our films and curricula into the hands of educators who can use them with youth—just last week, for example, the Clinton Township school district in Michigan ordered 65 copies of Let’s Get Real for its anti-bullying program.
• Finishing the curriculum guide for Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up so schools can use it starting in the fall.
• Getting ready to release a new documentary! Celebrating the Life of Del Martin has its world premiere on June 17th as part of the Frameline Film Festival!
• And, working out a plan to retire our $40,000 debt—definitely doable.
Meanwhile, Director of Finance and Operations Michelle Abrenilla, Community Programs Director Cristy Chung, National Program Director Amy Scharf, and Communications Coordinator Justin Allen are all consulting with GroundSpark in various capacities and we greatly value their continued contributions.
Please welcome our new board members—Dora Dome, Joan Lefkowitz, Susan Lownberg, Mary Morgan, and Lidia Szajko—who have jumped in at a critical time.
And finally, we thank outgoing members Ruth Borenstein, Donna Bransford, Riaz Karamali, Eddie Rodriguez, Jocelyn Burton, Nancy Gonchar, Stacey Hawver, Steve Vezeris, David Kundtz, Christi Baker and Consuelo Griego for their dedicated service. Grateful goodbyes are also in order for long time board members Doug Paxton and Elissa Perry who stepped down from the board earlier this year.
Most importantly, I want to thank you—the GroundSpark community—for being part of this journey and movement to create a more just world.
P.S. All of us who have been involved with GroundSpark and our pioneering Respect for All Project remain deeply committed to promoting the use of our films, curriculum guides, and training program materials. If you have any questions or suggestions about what’s happening here at GroundSpark, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you.
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