Moving On from Open Signal and What's Next

A little over two years ago, I came to Portland’s community media center to start a membership program. The work I went on to do in service to the community and the nearly 1,000 current Open Signal members is and will remain one of the highlights of my career.

I would be proud of what we were able to accomplish under any circumstances, but the fact that we built this community-lead program together, that we committed to each other and this mission despite an increasingly unstable administration on the national level is powerful. This experience has sustained my spirit through many hard days.

That being said, I will be leaving the staff on January 3, potentially sooner if I am offered a new position elsewhere. I will continue to make work and support the vision of media access as a community member and producer, but it’s time for me to move on to a new phase of my career.

This was a difficult decision. Open Signal staff have the most real and genuine commitment to equity and trauma-informed systems I’ve ever experienced. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with such amazing people on a daily basis. I will carry them and the lessons we learned together in my heart forever.

After 20 years of volunteering with, serving and staffing non-profit organizations, it’s  very likely that my time on the staff side has come to an end. I will still remain an avid donor and volunteer, as well as a dedicated board member at Financial Beginnings, Oregon, where I’ve held an at-large position since July of 2018, but my next job will probably be in the for-profit sector.

The experiences that lead me to this conclusion are mine alone. While I can’t speak for anyone else, nor can I speculate as to what others in the industry may be thinking or feeling, I know there are more than a few articles trying to address why larger than average numbers of people are leaving non-profit lately. All I can say is that I have to make this change for myself and my well-being.

Like all good labor, non-profit work is physically and mentally demanding, often in ways you can’t predict. Most non-profit workers, myself included, find this to be an exhilarating and energizing factor of the work. Many of us thrive in chaos, and this trait gives us advantages in the industry.

When I first became involved in youth activism and volunteerism as a teenager in Los Angeles County, I was coming from a place where violence was a given, where trauma was hereditary, where no one expected anything better for themselves and actively disdained anyone who did.

Turning to activism and organizing was my salvation. In a time where I sometimes didn’t know where I was sleeping that night, where my next meal was coming from or what I would be walking into when I eventually came home, I was uniquely qualified to throw myself into anti-war work and community building. I did public speaking, event management and organizing across the region. I was on more planning committees before my 21st birthday than I’ve been on in all the years since then, and that dedication created the network I later used to access higher education and job opportunities.

Essentially, everything I am today I owe to community work and volunteerism.

My life has changed dramatically since then. I am a successful professional. I have a home and a growing chosen family who love and support me. I have friends and community to affirm me, and I have a deep belief in myself and the transformative power of living my principals and values every day.

Thanks in large part to working for justice-oriented organizations that encouraged me to think about what a just world looks like, I’ve realized that I must move on if I want to practice a life of justice for the next generation.

The exhilarating nature of working in this industry is also chronically stressful and all-consuming. As a worker in the constantly under-funded non-profit environment, work for pay is not a simple exchange. In addition to being under-payed and over-tasked in comparison to those doing the same work in the for-profit sphere, I must invest myself and my own resources frequently beyond what is healthy or sensible in order to be successful. Until now I've done this happily, but my needs are changing.

My husband and I are in the process of adopting from foster care in Oregon. It will be months, if not years, before our future children are matched with us and come home to us. I don’t know who they are yet, but they’re likely somewhere in the system as I type this post. I don’t know anything about their age, gender identity or family of origin, but one thing I know for sure is that when they get here, they will be the most important thing in my life and nothing will stand in the way of me being present for them.

My parents were unable to be there for me in my childhood and this resulted in me believing that I was inherently worth less than other people. I chose positions where long hours were a given, I accepted salaries that were lower than average (sometimes much lower) and I spoke out of both sides of my mouth, telling the people I served that they deserved to be fairly compensated, well rested and promoted even as I knew those things were impossible in the positions I chose for myself.

In order to live by the principles this industry made space for me to develop; in order to be the parent my own parents couldn’t be, I will be looking for a position where I am more supported than I can be in my current role.

Going forward, I'll be asking for compensation that lines up with what a person with my experience and proven track record of success is worth on the open market. Based on my research and industry feedback, this is $75,000 per year on average. It can be as low as $65,000 with commensurate benefits and as much at $100,000 or more depending on the industry and the position.

Whatever I do, I’m not currently accepting less than what I’m worth for a position in my field. If that means freelancing or taking an unrelated position for a while, that's what I'll do, but I'm no longer okay with bringing home less than my family needs to thrive.

I've been designing, executing and delivering high returns for my human-centered, action-oriented campaigns for more than 20 years. I’m excited to do this work with  the support I require and I'm ready to be specific and proactive in my search for the next place to invest my time and expertise.

I'm industry agnostic, seeking a position doing marketing, partnership development or general people-moving (loyalty, retention, customer experience etc.) at an employer that has a tradition of great customer and client service, where my family and community are celebrated as an essential part of what I bring to the table and where I can stay long-term and grow in success as part of a collaborative team.

Please send me jobs that fit this description, and reach out if you want to grab a coffee or attend a networking event together. I have, of course, many theories as to how the industry can avoid investing 20 years of development in a worker only to lose them when they want children, but that’s a much longer blog post.

~ M ~