Stakeholder Updates

Dear Friends and Stakeholders* – Happy Almost New Year!
 

I wasn’t ready to write this email on November 15th.  That was when I told myself I’d report back after the election, regardless of results.  But then there were more reports and post-op meetings (for/with many of you!) than I had planned for.  We were simultaneously digesting, evaluating, and planning.  It has taken a minute to wrap our heads around this moment, and since we’re still learning and waiting for data, I submit this as a draft and ask for your grace as we figure it out together.  But now, without further ado…
 
Since November 7th, we’ve gotten a lot of these three questions:
  1. What happened in Ohio?
  2. What’s next for Ohio?
  3. What are your plans for 2019 and beyond?
This email answers them all with our latest thinking.
 
TL;DR – 1) What happened in Ohio?  It’s complicated.  It hurts.  We took real steps forward.  2) What’s next for Ohio?  There will be many more big battles in Ohio.  Our infrastructure is getting stronger.  3)  What are your plans for 2019 and beyond?  Ohio Voice is sustaining our growth and launching new programs.  We’re all in.
 
— What happened in Ohio?
 
I’ll say right up front that my mantra since the election has been to choose to focus on the positive.  So this is a story of perseverance and possibility.  For those of us committed to winning progressive governance in Ohio and beyond (not by any individual, organization, or party, but toward policies and outcomes that allow us to live in communities that are thriving and rooted in justice and opportunity) there is no other way.  Thankfully, while the election results in Ohio force us to continue to be realistic, there are more than glimmers of hope, and we draw inspiration from inside our borders and from projects across the country that show us the way.  
 
If you’ve been paying attention to the health of our overall ecosystem and know how much our state and our infrastructure has atrophied over the years, you knew it was a steep hill to climb this year alone.  Here at Ohio Voice, focused on the c3 ecology, we are proud of taking meaningful steps this year toward our ultimate goals.  We watched friends and allies make huge leaps forward as well.  To paraphrase Tram Nguyen at CBPP’s annual conference in DC, held late last month, “election’s shouldn’t be seen as the finish line.”  
 
But, there’s no question elections are important and have real impact on the lives of the people we work with and for.  So there’s no denying many of Ohio’s 2018 results hurt.  Our governor and other Apportionment Board seats were won by people who share too few of our values, which will mean policies and decisions that hold us back.  Issue 1, the criminal justice and drug treatment reform ballot initiative, did not pass.  Yet, there were significant successes for those who share our values – US Senator Sherrod Brown, two Supreme Court justices, small shifts in the gerrymandered state House and Senate, and more – plus, don’t forget 2018’s first Issue 1 from our primary in May, when a constitutional amendment to fix congressional redistricting was passed resoundingly.  And even as we beat back attacks in lame duck – many with success – we see possibilities for positive legislation in the next General Assembly.  For example, our Secretary of State has expressed interest in automatic voter registration and legislators are working on criminal justice and drug treatment reforms.
 
Disappointing losses were mixed with inspiring victories across the country, and we were paying close attention in Ohio.  Many “losses” – like those in Georgia, Florida, and Texas – should actually be seen as victories, and are teaching us valuable lessons.  Our neighbors in Michigan and Pennsylvania have real reasons to celebrate, as do our friends in Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska, Idaho, Nevada, and many more – there were historic wins on far-reaching issues like Medicaid expansion and same-day registration, in addition to victories that are the culmination of battles that heated up a decade ago.  If you weren’t familiar with the hard work in Ohio to ensure labor rights were protected and Medicaid was expanded, it might be difficult to see how our story in Ohio is different and more complicated than a simple comparison from one state to another.  In a state of 11.5 million people, you have to stay curious, seeing the forest and the trees.
It is simultaneously true that we saw record-breaking midterm turnout numbers and that candidates and state context matter.  We know that waves will be bigger in some places than in others.  We are proud of ourselves and our allies who swung for the fences, even when we came up short, because we know that if you don’t try you’ll never succeed.  It’s really hard to do things at scale, in coalition, across all sorts of dividing lines, when we’ve been taught to have a scarcity mindset.  If you’re on this list its because you believe that groups like Ohio Voice can have a meaningful impact in changing this state and improving peoples’ lives.  You probably already know that we busted our butts to grow to a $1.5 budget in a year when $240 million were projected to be spent on advertising alone (and that’s only one (big) piece of the electoral spending pie).  We are working to leverage what are relatively very small amounts of money (1.5 to 240!) to support and grow people power that can have very big impact.  We know we are an excellent investment if your goal is to create the environment where major progressive change in Ohio is possible.  With ongoing resources and smart strategy, we can do this!
 
In 2018, there are concrete reasons to believe we took steps forward in Ohio, even if the topline might be that we “lost.”  We know that movements have life cycles and we believe we are getting stronger.  We see our gaps and shortcomings as opportunities because we can both have left it all on the field and realize we need more players and more practice.  As some of our friends say, it is indeed both/and :).
 
— What’s next for Ohio?
 
Here’s what we know: there will continue to be big battles in Ohio.  While our swing state ranking may have dropped, and Democrats may be looking for electoral votes in other states first in 2020, Republicans will need Ohio by nearly any count.  The one constant in our world is change – very few people thought Donald Trump or Barack Obama were serious contenders when they entered their races, and they both won Ohio.  Sherrod Brown is openly considering a run for president – that could shake things up pretty quickly.  Gerrymandering had people forgetting about how many congressional seats we have, but it is likely that after new districts are drawn there will be at least 2 and maybe 4 seats in play, especially in wave years like 2018.  We still have a lot of people in Ohio!
 
And then there’s this: did you see the projection that $4.2 billion was spent on the 2014 midterms, followed by a walloping $5.2 billion in 2018?  I think that the stakes of politics and policy are only becoming greater and clearer with Donald Trump in the White House, dark money flowing at every level of government, and an organized right wing that is not letting up.  The pie will likely continue to grow, so even if the Ohio share goes down, the raw amount of resources may remain similar or go up – and there’s no question that the widespread impact of political and policy change in Ohio will continue to be significant.  We’re hearing more funders and practitioners taking civic engagement and systemic change more seriously because of the limited ability to get things done in other ways, making solutions to our most vexing problems feel out of reach without scaled organizing.
 
Not everyone agrees with this analysis (I’d love to hear your thoughts if we haven’t talked yet or if – like me – your thoughts have shifted in the past weeks), and we are well aware that c3s are one piece of a bigger puzzle.  Our plan is to keep identifying needs, communicating them, and work to get them met.  So far, while some tiers have changed, we’ve yet to talk to any funders we expected to get money from in 2019 who have changed priorities, and in fact we’ve talked to several new folks in the past months that are well aware of the landscape and looking to invest.  Again, we recognize things may change, but we are moving full speed ahead.
 
We think our broad space is getting stronger.  We’re excited to be part of great conversations with the Ohio Progressive Collaborative/donor table, working with our friends at America Votes and the c4 table where possible/legal, are proud of our friends at the Ohio Organizing Collaborative for taking a swing at their biggest campaign yet (in partnership with an awesome in-state funder collaborative and national partners, while running the biggest single-org voter reg program in the country at the same time!!), have seen real gains in comms, research, leadership development, and more.  Money is important to make our plans reality, but leadership and coordination is critical, and this year we’re in a better place in Ohio than I can remember.  Changes will likely come, but we’re hopeful about the possibility of pursuing bold new ideas together and allowing leaders – both new and seasoned – to flourish.
 
It’s also important to know how we fit into broader national trends.  It’s exciting to see so many friends and colleagues doing amazing things around the country, and I think the core ideas we’re building around (direct voter contact, movement ecology, building and riding waves, etc.) are only gaining steam.  Awareness that we need bold progressive ideas, to support POC-led and constituency organizations and to talk about race, to work in coalition, to figure out how to scale volunteer efforts, and more are in line with where we’re heading.  There are exciting new trends, strategies, tools, and models that we’re paying close attention to and figuring out how many we can try in 2019.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’m especially hopeful about the possibility of renewal and growth in the national network we’re a part of, State Voices.  If you haven’t yet talked to Alexis Anderson-Reed, SV’s new (as of September) Executive Director, please let me know if you’d like to connect!  From everything I can tell, Alexis is exactly the leader we need right now, and is poised to help raise the profile of what I think is an impressive set of leaders doing state-based coalition and power building.  We’re excited to work with our network and all of the other networks (a bunch of you from other networks are on this list!) to weave together a beautiful, powerful, quilt for change making all across the nation.  There is enough for all of us to thrive!
 
— What are your plans for 2019 and beyond?
 
If you’ve read any of these updates before, you know Ohio Voice had a big year of growth and change in 2018 from 3 to 9 staff and $200k to $1.5m!  In 2019, our plan is to sustain that growth to support the ecosystem and launch several new programs to bolster our efforts.  Again, this was not a one year project!  We expect our operating budget in 2019 to be a similar size, and have many multi-year grant commitments (thanks to The Gund Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Brush Foundation, and an anonymous national donor most everyone knows, to name a handful), many of you who have made one-year commitments for many years in a row for projects, and several promising conversations that make us think this is possible.
 
We think about channeling our inner 2008 Stacey Abrams.  What is our 10 year plan to change the face of our state?  What is the next best project we can run or dollar we can spend to further that vision?  We don’t have that down on paper yet, but we’re moving in that direction.  Some projects we’re excited about this year include, in no particular order:
  • an intensive 18-month, 15-person leadership development program for emerging leaders of color, applications starting this winter
  • a collective impact planning process starting in January – we expect to interview 100 people and write an awesome 2020 and beyond plan
  • working with our partners in the larger infrastructure on scaled strategies – ballot initiatives, issue campaigns, and more
  • building a generic field program for our partners to plug into – too many orgs don’t have capacity to run their own programs, but want to engage in direct voter contact programs (doors, phones, relational organizing, etc.)
  • testing State of Change, an online platform designed for small dollar donors so we can try to grow the in-state pie
  • developing the outreach/field plans for Census 2020 and coordinating partner work to implement
  • advocacy work at the Statehouse on the state budget, voting rights issues, and more (and we very well may end up playing defense on attacks on the ballot initiative process, reproductive rights, and more)
  • leaning in to the Race-Class Narrative work to shape everything we do and starting a racial equity workgroup
  • supporting community building with an in-state two-way email list (right now everything is at one another!) and event series
  • the first full year of our digital team – Digital Engagement Manager, Data & Digital Director, and Social Media Associate – supporting partners in catching up to speed on a wide array of digital capacity gaps
  • assessing what more small city, small town, and rural work could look like, talking with the best projects across the country to see what we can learn and build from
  • we’re expecting to sign a lease and move into a new space at the end of January that we have high hopes can be a great gathering place for our ecosystem!
Yes, it’s a lot!  We are working to scale solutions that match the scope of our needs!  Broadly, we think that the years ahead in Ohio will require serious transformation.  That means we cannot continue to avoid talking about race – when we say nothing and the right wing blames and attacks people of color and immigrants, we lose big.  That means we have to talk about bold solutions that are in line with the scope of challenges in our economy, our democracy, and our communities – so that people believe us.  The great thing is, we work closely with a lot of visionary people who can show us the way, but we must stay curious, keep listening, try new things, and be OK with the fact it will get messy sometimes.
 
I’m going to leave our 2019 plans there since this message was long on what happened and what’s next for Ohio.  We’ll focus future notes on our programs, but hopefully this gives you a good snapshot of where we’re headed.  See below for the basic overview on what we do and why – note that most of what is above is new work, all of our ongoing work on voting rights, budget, data, outreach, convening, and more continues.
 
We are committed to doing everything we can to create the conditions in Ohio’s ecosystem so that we win more and Ohioans’ lives improve.  We are all in.  Thank you for your partnership and we hope that we can continue this work together.
 
And please let us know what you think!  This is evolving every day!  Help us figure things out!
 
Onward!
 

 
Gavin

Hi Everyone*!  There’s a lot happening in Ohio, and with Ohio Voice specifically!  I have tried to sit down to write this for about a month and then something changes, which is leading me to my big existential professional learning (which you probably already know)… there is no “normal” – change is the norm, so embrace it :).
 
Knowing full well I will leave out something big, here are just some of the major developments in our world:
  • Our state’s political and policy landscape has been bananas.  And almost all in good ways!  Maybe you heard about CD12, or how our Governor’s race is now considered a toss-up (and it actually feels like it on the ground!), or how one of the most exciting ballot initiatives in the country is happening right here (on criminal justice reform).  Don’t get me wrong, there is a loooong way to go, but couple these developments with the fact our progressive infrastructure is clicking in ways it hasn’t in years (ever?), and I think there are legitimate reasons to be hopeful for the future.  Regardless of the outcome of elections this fall, I think there is no question the Ohio pendulum is finally swinging in the right direction if you share our values.  If you’ve paid attention to Ohio, and especially if you know how cynical/realistic I can be after the last decade, then HOPE is a BIG, EXCITING DEAL!  If you want to know more – or how you can try to make the pendulum move faster – give us a call, we’d be happy to talk to you about it.
  • Our team is still growing (but I *think* we’re done)!  To recap, we started a year ago with 1 staff person.  We consolidated two orgs and became 3.  Then, we hired a Deputy Director (4), Data & Digital Director (5), Outreach Manager (6), and Operations Manager (7).  Today, we made an offer to a Digital Engagement Manager who will support the ecosystem of orgs we work with to improve their digital capacity.  And we’re on the verge of hiring a Social Media Associate (that title very well may change) who will run the accounts for our backbone programs (tax and budget, voting rights, and census coalitions + leadership development programs and then our new small dollar donor tool we’ll be unveling).  So, that’ll be 9!  To sustain this growth – and the very clear goal is to keep everybody on this train through 2019 and into 2020 – we almost certainly will stop here with long-term hires.  But, there are still some major opportunities this year, so we’re ready to embrace change, especially if it means we can ride or build a wave.  Check out our team (well, everyone we’ve got on the website so far) here!  It probably goes without saying that fundraising has been solid, although FYI, we’ve still got about a 100k gap to close this year (that’s just for internal operations – there’s a much bigger overall c3 gap) so if you can help us solve that and keep this momentum going, let us know.
  • We’re officially a 501(c)(3)!  Ohio Voice got our IRS letter, we’ll be completely up and running on our own everything (payroll, books, benefits, etc.) by September 1, and we’ve still got solid relationships with everybody (I think :).  A special shout out to our friends at COHHIO, who have so generously incubated us for the past year (this doesn’t begin to explain how much they’ve helped us!), and State Voices (where we’re still affiliated and are super excited about the new Executive Director, Alexis Anderson-Reed, who starts in September).
  • We have some great programming happening right now that I’m proud of!  We have re-granted $440k this year.  The most recent $200k is for voter registration, where we’re providing technical assistance to 6 orgs who are together aiming for 10k new registrants (this is one piece of a much larger state goal).  Our Data & Digital Director is supporting many more orgs, with GOTV planning heating up.  Our tax policy coalition just hosted briefings for state legislative candidates in every corner of Ohio and is ramping up for what will likely be a crazy lame duck session and a fascinating budget year.  Our voting rights coalition had the election protection hotline up and running for the CD12 special election, and just pulled together a first draft of a proactive voting reforms platform.  We co-hosted the first Ohio Census Coalition meeting of what will likely become the steering committee.  We’re partnering with the orgs behind Issue 1 (the criminal justice ballot initiative, led by Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Ohio Justice & Policy Center, Ohio Transformation Fund, and more) to support partner education, community events, and more. And last but not least (please, no one be upset if your issue wasn’t first on this list), we’re working on a collective impact planning framework building off of USC’s Changing States report that I’m actually really excited about (strategy nerds stand up!).
  • But we are still learning all the time about how we fall short.  We’re working to fix that – and you can help.  We’ve made major strides this year.  We tell people we fixed the foundation.  But we see signs all the time that we still need to renovate.  With CD12, for example, we should have seen the opportunity coming sooner to ride the wave of excitement and get more people out to vote.  We’ve been so focused on fixing long-term problems, that we haven’t always been nimble enough for the short-term.  It’s also very hard, particularly given the health of our overall ecosystem (where there aren’t as many high-functioning orgs as we’d like just yet), to switch gears at the last minute.  Which is why early money makes a HUGE difference.  To run programs with infrastructure (staff, volunteers, relationships, brands, etc.) that will last, it takes time – and that lasting impact is our #1 goal.  Right now, for example, we can see major opportunities for GOTV in November (and I know many of you see them too – you’re calling asking about the nearly $2 million funding gap we’re trying to close), but we can only do so much when so little money has moved.  We’ve seen checks (well, transfers) hit our mailbox (well, email) in the past week, and we’ve taken A LOT of calls recently, but we’re still not anywhere near scale.  I know you get it.  Let’s do this!
  • And we’ve got some great, fun, BIG ideas for 2019, so if you’re thinking ahead, know that we are too.

We’ll certainly be reaching out to you, but please always feel free to contact us!  James Hayes, our Deputy Director (cced here)

and I have been doing our best this year to get on both the state and national conference/meeting circuit.  We’re happy to be on the road (or just the phone) to talk with you, your board, or any other stakeholders you think we should be connecting with.

  And don’t hesitate to ask if you ever need plans, budgets, anything.  More than a few of you have been asking – keep it coming!
 

O

nward!
 
*You’re getting this email because you’re a current or potential Ohio Voice funder who has expressed an interest in our work and we want to make sure you’re receiving regular updates on our work toward our mission:
 
To support and grow the ecosystem of non-profit, non-partisan organizations doing year-round civic engagement with underrepresented communities in order to improve people’s lives.
 
Through our core strategies:
 
1. Improving Ecosystem Effectiveness: we practice “janitorial leadership” to grow the capacity of our ecosystem to achieve individual and collective goals
— convening meetings, catalyzing collaborations, sharing best practices
— data & digital support, program planning, and evaluation (VAN, text, field, etc.)
— joint Fundraising, re-grants, and quality control
 
2. Running Backbone Programs: we convene coalitions and lead on “backbone” work that benefits the whole ecosystem
— voting rights & election administration coalition (OFEN, OVRC)
— state budget and tax policy coalition (OON)
— census coalition (co-convener)
— leadership development programs (focused on emerging leaders of color)
— racial equity capacity building
 
3. Thought Leadership & Experimentation: we constantly assess our landscape and make strategic suggestions for a collective impact plan that is created collaboratively, and encourage experimentation and innovation wherever possible
— power mapping
— SWOT analysis

Hello Ohio Voice friends and supporters!

You’re getting this email because you have expressed interest in our work at Ohio Voice and we want to make sure you get regular updates. Things have been moving fast, and we are excited to share some recent highlights with you. 

This is a long update (and an intro from me), so please feel free to read as much or as little as you like. There is lot to root for in Ohio beyond just LeBron James and the Cavaliers!!

The top line highlights are that we’re:

1) Regranting money to our partners earlier than ever before

2) Growing our team

3) Supporting the big programs that will impact Ohioans in 2018

Since I have not met some of you before, please allow me a moment to introduce myself. I am an organizer from Columbus, OH. Before becoming the Deputy Director for Ohio Voice last September I worked for years to build grassroots organization and movement to win social, economic, and environmental justice in Ohio and across the nation. Most recently I was Training Director for the Ayni Institute where I developed and ran different trainings for grassroots leaders across the country. Before that I spent four years as Co-Director of the Ohio Student Association leading campaigns to end the criminalization of young people of color in Ohio. During my time at OSA, we helped birth the newest iteration of the Black Liberation Movement, the Movement for Black Lives, after police in Beavercreek, OH murdered 23 year old John Crawford. Now I am excited to be working again in Ohio once again, and to bring all the lessons from my years of organizing and training into my work with Ohio Voice. Working with Gavin the last seven months has been a lot of fun, and I am truly proud of how much we have accomplished refounding the c3 table in Ohio. When I joined Gavin as Deputy, I said that turning Ohio Voice around would be like turning a big ship. I am happy that we have been able to make progress even faster than I anticipated. And with your support we are going to grow our momentum into the ability to sustainably support the ecosystem of progressive nonprofit organizations in Ohio year round.

We have launched our earliest ever pool of money to regrant to our partners. We have heard from our partners that they need resources earlier rather than later in order to establish their systems and launch their programs in a strong way. We were grateful to move $150,000 as part of this regrant pool. This money is going to support the strong and innovative civic engagement programs that are partners are running, and there are a lot of great plans coming in. I am most excited by the diverse set of programs we are supporting. From supporting the collaboration between the Midwest Culture Lab and the Ohio Student Association to cultivate truly resonate messages that compel young people of color to turnout in 2018, to supporting the Women’s Workbench program that Working America will be launching to deepen the leadership of the women who are leading so many of the inspiring resistance efforts in our state, we have a number of innovative and impactful initiatives happening in Ohio. The only problem is that we don’t have enough money to give every program the money we feel they deserve. But that is a good problem to have, and just means more work for us! We are also excited to launch another pool for voter registration work targeting the New American Majority very soon, and to follow up with another round of support for GOTV in the fall. 

We are growing our team. In February we hired Adam Parsons to be our Data and Digital Director, and in March we brought on Helen Stewart to be our Outreach Manager. We are already feeling their impact. Adam has been able to assist a number of partners set up new systems for a strong 2018. Helen has jumped in on a number of projects and is already grown our capacity to respond to our partners needs and identify opportunities for growth. We are grateful to have found them and to add their talents to our team. To give you a specific example, Adam supported our partner Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates (NOVA) to set up a text messaging program and helped streamline their volunteer engagement program for May’s congressional redistricting campaign; and Helen has been ensuring we’re talking to our partners a lot more often and overseeing documenting all of our relationships so that we can communicate seamlessly with the field. By June we are going to be hiring an Operations Manager to support our backend needs. Then our staff will be seven and we will be rolling stronger than ever!

Check us out during our staff meeting on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse this morning!

We are grateful to continue raising money to grow the work in Ohio. Since our last update we have received funds, in no particular order, from the State Infrastructure Fund, The Brush Foundation (in state), and the Ohio Progressive Collaborative (donor table). We are on track to meet our own goals for the year, but are seeking more opportunities to bring resources to our partner organizations and grow the scale and impact of their work. We are also beginning to talk a bit about what the need will be in 2019 in order to set up a strong 2020. As you all know longterm, year round civic engagement cannot happen without a combination of longterm planning and the resource streams to guarantee consistent and sustainable program. We are working to transition our early momentum re-founding the table into the ability to maintain the sustainable growth of the progressive ecosystem of nonpartisan organizations in Ohio. 

Ballot Initiative Watch:

Criminal justice reform you can believe in!

The criminal justice ballot initiative that the Ohio Organizing Collaborative is spearheading is underway! This ballot initiative will reform our criminal justice system, address the legacy of the war on drugs, and begin to transition how our state treats victims of the opiate epidemic. If the initiative passes, an estimated 10,000 people will be eligible to be released from prison, and countless others will be able to remove old charges from their records. It will be a truly impactful initiative, and we believe it will also be a key to energizing voters in a midterm election. We are working to support the ballot now in the phase of signature gathering. If you are looking to get more information about the campaign, we would love to connect you with the leaders of the campaign!

Issue 1 goes to the ballot. On May 8 Ohioans will vote on Issue 1 to determine the future of our congressional redistricting process. The consensus is that this ballot issue, which has bipartisan support, will pass (though it is not a sure thing!). Though there is more behind this initiative that might appear looking from the outside. For more than a year thousands of grassroots volunteers have gathered signatures for a ballot initiative to reform congressional redistricting. Their relentless efforts — supported in large part by our partners Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, Ohio Environmental Council, and Innovation Ohio — forced the state legislature into action. After a long negotiation process in which the grassroots groups stood firm, walking away from the table a number of times and continuing to gather signatures, the legislature came to an agreement and proposed Issue 1 to be voted on in the May 8 election. This deal would not have come without the progressive groups working for years to reform redistricting, and especially without the work to mobilize and manage the thousands of volunteers who provided the power to win. Ohio Voice has been supporting ourpartners who have worked on this campaign by moving resources to support their work around Issue 1. We are also supporting the development of plans to engage the network of seasoned volunteers in a new democracy reform effort. So many leaders have emerged who we are excited to support with tools and resources to carry on their work.

It’s going to be a pivotal year in Ohio! We will definitely be reaching out to you throughout the year, but always feel free to contact us. Gavin and I are eager to talk about the work happening in Ohio. So hit us up and/or let us know about any other folks we should be telling about Ohio.

Take care (and root for the Cavs)!

James

Hi Everyone!  You’re getting this email because you’re a current or potential Ohio Voice funder who has expressed an interest in our work and we want to make sure you’re receiving regular updates.  Here are some recent highlights:

  • But first… in case you might sometimes forget, what is it that Ohio Voice actually does?

    Our mission is to support and grow the ecosystem of non-profit, non-partisan organizations doing year-round civic engagement with underrepresented communities in order to improve people’s lives.

    We do that through 4 core strategies where we support programs, run programs, and constantly analyze and strategize about the landscape in Ohio (plus try to run a good shop internally):

    #1: Improving Partner Effectiveness – Engaging Partners (1), Data & Digital (2), Re-Grant & Quality Control (3)

    #2: Running Backbone Programs – Leadership Development (1), Racial Equity (2), State Budget & Tax (3), Election Administration (4), Census (5)

    #3: Thought Leadership and Experimentation – landscape analysis and strategic planning toward a collective impact plan

    #4: Internal Operations & Management – Fundraising (1), HR & Accounting (2), Logistics (3)

  • We hired a Data & Digital Director (and we’re hiring an Outreach Manager)!  Adam Parsons’ first day was our table meeting on 2/26.  We’re so excited to have him on board!  He adds another sharp thinker and strategizer to our team and he’s already started supporting partners with things like text programs, digital data, and more.  Our board approved a $1.3 million base budget (I hope we get to more like $1.7!) in January and we’ve just posted for an Outreach Manager position (see attached job description and feel free to share) and plan to hire an Operations Manager, likely in June, as we get to full capacity. 
  • Our first re-granting pool of $150,000 is now open!  We were thrilled to announce this development at our table meeting.  For context, the last general re-granting from Ohio Voice that we’re aware of was in 2012, and it was less money that didn’t move until October.  We’re moving in the right direction!  We have detailed a process and are inviting proposals of up to $30,000 starting March 10th.  In addition, we are re-granting this year for 1) work to see the congressional redistricting measure (Issue 1) to the finish line and then to keep the volunteers engaged, 2) our Fair Courts program, likely 3) for voter registration, and we have a couple other things in the works that we’re keeping our fingers crossed on.  Re-grants provide us a great opportunity to work even more closely with our partners to help them achieve their individual goals and all of achieve our collective ones.  I’ve attached the process we’re using here (it’s our first time being a funder – if you’ve got ideas on how to make it better, let us know!). 
  • We’re trying new things – like building a new donation tool!  One of the first projects our Data & Digital Director is helping with is to build out a (primarily small-dollar) donor portal for Ohio that would allow folks to give directly to our partners or to funds based on issue or geography.  Think of it a little bit like the donation system used by Movement Voter Project (PS – if you don’t know about MVP check them out!), but at the state level.  I don’t know when we’re going to roll it out yet, we’re figuring that out – but it’s exciting even thinking about the possibilities.  Of course, it’ll all be in how well we can promote it, but we think there is big untapped potential in Ohioans and Ohio lovers giving small-dollar support. 
  • Our programs are making moves!  Our just-released State of Ohio report (attached) – the 3rd annual analysis from our budget and tax coalition One Ohio Now – has gotten great press this past week in the run-up to the Governor’s State of the State address.  And I’ll be on Face the State (the local version of the Sunday morning political talk show) this week to talk about it.  Our voting rights and election administration work in support of the congressional redistricting initiative is also kicking into another gear – we’re working closely with folks at Common Cause on volunteer engagement and continue to support in other ways (including data management for all the signature gathering that took place).  We also co-hosted, with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and Children’s Defense Fund, the first “census table” meeting with about 35 diverse partners. 
  • Soon to come… We’re honing in on one Collective Impact Plan that builds off of all the work we’ve been doing for the past 9 months to make the case as clearly and as simply as we can of what the best strategy is for Ohio right now going into 2018 and what resources it will take to do it.  This is a HUGE year for us in Ohio – it will shape the next decade plus because of redistricting and more.  We believe that if we1) identify our needs and 2) effectively communicate them, then 3) folks like you can help us meet those needs and see the real impact.

We’ll certainly be reaching out to you, but please always feel free to contact us!  James Hayes, our Deputy Director (cced here), and I will be at various conferences this year and are beginning to set up house parties around the country to share our work.

We’d love to link up.  We’re happy to get on the road (or just the phone 🙂 to talk with you, your board, or any other stakeholders you think we should be connecting with, and don’t hesitate to ask if you ever need plans, budgets, anything.

Hi Everyone!  You’re getting this email because you’ve expressed an interest in our work at Ohio Voice and we want to make sure you’re receiving regular updates.  Here are some recent highlights:

  • We finished our strategic plan!  It’s a living document, but this represents a lot of hard work and a great current snapshot of how we’re thinking about our work.  It’s attached here, along with a simple 1-page overview that shows our 3 key strategies: 1) improving partner programs, 2) running backbone programs, and 3) thought leadership and experimentation.  We’d love any of your feedback.  Our staff is in the process of creating corresponding, detailed workplans and goals.  We’re very ready to move from planning to action. 
  • We have $791,000 so far, we’re on track for a roughly $1.25 million budget goal.  Since last fall, we have now received funds or have commitments from, in no particular order, The Gund Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, Movement Voter Project, Piper Fund (Proteus), Coulter Foundation, CWA District 4, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Federation of Teachers, as well as several smaller contributions and many individual and anonymous contributions – it’s been so great to see all of the renewals of support for ongoing projects as well as momentum building for our general operating and new ideas!  In addition to our team and internal capacity growth, we expect to re-grant $400-500k this year.  We have been invited to apply for other funds and are in active conversations with many of you, so we have every reason to believe 2018 can be a big year for fundraising that can lead to big impact.  The earlier we get our budget set, the earlier we can re-grant, and the better the work will be.  I’m sure you all know this, but I can’t stress enough how hard it is to build capacity quickly and how beneficial early investment is in our space. 
  • We are constantly pushing ourselves to think about how we can have the most impact – as an organization and as a coalition.  We were asked to pull together a major proposal in December that forced us to ask big questions like: what scale do we need to reach (collectively) to have major impact, what would it take to build to scale, what specific programs – targeted to what universes – would allow us to meet these goals?  It’s only a draft, and the process is still ongoing, but we thought we’d share the foundation of the approach that we came up with – check it out below my signature.  It may not seem groundbreaking to you, but along with our strategic plan, these processes are making us hone in on a clear direction that is a very big deal for us. 
  • Our programmatic work continues and will only get bigger and better in 2018.  We’re in the hiring process for a Data & Digital Director, we have been gathering partner civic engagement plans for 2018 since early December, and we have several other initiatives in progress to improve partner effectiveness, including our next table meeting in February.  For backbone programs, our revenue coalition engaged significantly around the federal tax debate and has seen amazing growth on social media, and has begun to host statewide candidates for briefings on tax and budget policy that have been very well received.  We’re digging in on workplans for voter protection, the census, and more, as well as in the process of building out new leadership development and racial equity projects.  And we’re constantly mapping the landscape and working to share our insights back with our partners – we believe we’re on the right track in re-building key relationships in our state and forging new ones as well.  We know that without unprecedented collaboration in Ohio we will greatly struggle, so we’re excited by all the energy around coordination that is emerging.  And last but not least, we’re doing everything we can to keep up with all of the internal processes needed to stay on a role – we’ve now officially filed for c3 status with the IRS, we’re holding a staff retreat later this month, and much more.

We’ll certainly be reaching out to you, but please always feel free to contact us!  James Hayes, our Deputy Director (cced here) and I will be in DC next in February and trips to NYC and California are in the works.  We’d love to link up.  We’re happy to get on the road (or just the phone 🙂 to talk with you, your board, or any other stakeholders you think we should be connecting with.

Hi Everyone!  You’re getting this update because you’ve expressed an interest in our work at Ohio Voice and we want to make sure you’re receiving regular updates.  Here are some recent highlights:

  • Late last week, we got amazing news – The Gund Foundation board approved a grant of $800,000 for the next 3 years!  They have signaled strong support for our work – right now and into the future – and we are so grateful!  We also have $100k commitments from the Movement Voter Project and State Voices, other smaller contributions in hand, as well as promising proposals in at Joyce and Piper, and support for our revenue project from an anonymous donor (who many of you know :), CWA, OEA, OFT, AAUP, and AFSCME Council 8.  But special thanks to the folks at Gund – their anchor in-state support is a huge step in the right direction!  We believe that we can do highly impactful work with our 30+ partners and that many of our conversations with people like you can help make it happen.  Gund is in big, and we hope you will be too! 
  • We presented the first draft of our strategic plan to our board meeting yesterday.  We’ll have it complete by the end of the month.  It will run down our areas of focus, including: Supporting Partner Programs, Running Backbone Programs, Thought Leadership & Experimentation, and Internal Process.  Within these areas, we’ll be working on ensuring high-level data management support and field coordination, building new projects around leadership development and racial equity, continuing our work on voting rights and budget/revenue, and much more.  We are thinking strategically about how we can work with and support a wide range of partner programs, including ballot initiatives, advocacy efforts, and civic engagement programs of all kinds.  To discuss this strategic planning with our partners, we hosted a daylong meeting last month where folks were engaged and excited – here’s one photo: 
  • Our team is building and it is strong.  James Hayes, our Deputy Director who started in September, is amazing – he’s building relationships with partners, funders, and other stakeholders and bringing a brilliant strategic perspective to our table.  Camille Wimbish, our Election Administration Director, is back from maternity leave and picking up right where she left off, bringing years of experience to lead our voting rights and democracy efforts in collaboration with our many partners.  Nick Bates is stepping up into a key role – in partnership with me – on our state budget and tax policy work and continues to support all of our new programs.  Finally, we just posted a position this week to hire a Data & Digital Director (job description attached, please feel free to share).  And I’m just so excited to be a part of this phenomenal group, and to have the opportunity to work in this space with all of you!

We’ll certainly be reaching out to you, but please always feel free to contact us!  I’ll be in DC this week.  James will be in NYC in early December.  We’d love to link up.  We’re happy to get on the road (or just the phone 🙂 to talk with you, your board, or any other stakeholders you think we should be connecting with.

I plan to send an update about once a month as we’re moving and shaking.  I would appreciate it if these were not shared widely – they are meant as top-level updates for stakeholders and funders of our work.  Please let me know if you have suggestions for things to add or subtract.  

Onward!