Today InvestigateWest Executive Director Rita Hibbard and I had the great pleasure of talking with Alan Durning, executive director of the Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based think tank aimed at creating a sustainable society in Cascadia.
As a newbie in the surprisingly complicated world of non-profits, and one who had done very little fundraising before we started InvestigateWest a few months ago, I was relieved to hear that Durning had no experience raising funds when he launched Sightline in the early 1990s. He just had a good idea. And so do we.
With Communications Director Nate Kommers, Durning gave us an overview of how he built Sightline, which originally was called Northwest Environment Watch. It’s a group I’ve appreciated as a reporter because, while they are advocates for doing the right thing by Mother Earth, they are also driven by facts and data. It’s how they look at the world. And unlike some enviros, they understand that for a policy to succeed, it has to work for people, too.
Sightline’s done some groundbreaking work, particularly their Cascadia Scorecard (“measuring what matters”) and in revamping the old Tidepool.org daily enviro news summary into Sightline Daily (“news that matters.”) Their “Daily Score” blog is also worth checking out. (Today’s offering: “Mapping 7 deadly sins, and 2 virtues.”)
We talked about how Durning built the group from two people with no dough into a 15-person organization with a $1.3 million annual budget. He was gracious in offering us advice, for which we are grateful, about how we can start to make our own venture sustainable.
I loved how, after we talked about fundraising and getting your message right and communicating your vision to the public, Durning stopped and said that, actually, the best advice he could offer was this:
The most important thing is to do really good work that gets results.
Yes! InvestigateWest’s staff has always done that as journalists, and we intend to keep that as we build InvestigateWest into a nonprofit news agency that produces change-making journalism.
— Robert McClure