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Written by: Sonya Green
Saying Goodbye Is Never Easy, But It’s Time
September 30, 2021 marks my last official day at Making Contact. Fifteen months ago I accepted and started this position in a pandemic. And as I leave it, we are still in a pandemic. I led Making Contact through an intense, historic year when COVID-19 and uprisings for racial justice and equity added even more weight to my role as a leader. I am grateful for the opportunity. I am appreciative of the staff, board of directors, the former Executive Director, funders, and our loyal listeners and followers who welcomed and supported me from the start. It is an experience that I will take with me as I look to my next chapter.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to lead in times of trauma and upheaval, and more importantly, what does it take if it enormously impacts you, your family, and friends. Taking on the position affirmed and reignited my commitment to telling stories for and with Black and other people of color. It also solidified my belief that empathetic leadership is the only leadership that counts.
It also revealed the one thing I knew would be difficult- moving an organization to Black-led leadership from white-led leadership. I recognized it as a pivotal moment. I knew it was not going to be easy. Yet, I was still caught off guard by the complexity of such a transition. Leadership transitions can be a challenge, but one that involves a culture shift can be even more so.
I am very proud of how I handled the transition and sustained the organization during a difficult time. I am very proud of what I have accomplished with the support of the staff and board. I helped navigate the organization to fully remote. I led the board and staff in an organizational assessment with racial equity as the focal point. The information gathered from this assessment will help Making Contact forge a path forward for success and sustainability. I wrote grants that resulted in receiving awards from new funders. We met and exceeded our financial goals and increased our donor retention by three percent from the previous fiscal year. We secured multi-year funding pledges from key major donors through 2023.
I am particularly proud of nurturing a collaborative team environment for our all women of color staff. I supported the producers, Monica, Salima, and Anita, to do their best work. I provided leadership, editorial guidance, and implemented new systems for effectiveness and efficiency. As a team, we experimented and collaborated to produce an election special with journalists of color who contributed reports from Arizona, Florida, and Oregon. The team and independent journalists brought important nuance, context, and analysis that only journalists of color can provide. It was a herculean effort for a small team that does not regularly cover breaking news.
There is still more work to be done and so many opportunities ahead. Making Contact is aired on 151 stations in the U.S. and Canadian provinces. There are partnerships and collaborations yet realized with the radio stations that air the show and journalists who live and report from the places where the show can be heard on-air. There is also an opportunity to expand the listening audience in the South.
I fully showed up in my position as Executive Director at a historic time. I creatively solved problems for the success and sustainability of the organization. I am proud of the many contributions I made. As the elders in my community like to say about anything, leave it better than you found it. I take great joy in knowing I did just that.
I am excited to watch and support what Making Contact does next. I wish the organization tremendous success.