Nonprofit Tries Crowdfunding Despite Financial Shadow

By Kristian Foden-Vencil (OPB)
Portland, Oregon Dec. 21, 2015 10:23 p.m.
In an effort to keep the local history nonprofit Know Your City alive, organizers are starting a crowdfunding campaign. The group hopes to raise $12,000 by the end of the year.

In an effort to keep the local history nonprofit Know Your City alive, organizers are starting a crowdfunding campaign. The group hopes to raise $12,000 by the end of the year.

In an effort to keep the local history nonprofit Know Your City alive, organizers are starting a crowdfunding campaign.

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Know Your City published a multilingual local paper and ran an art project for inmates. But recently, it’s suffered from what it called “financial mismanagement.”

Last month, Portland activist Cameron Whitten became the group’s unpaid executive director. He says he can’t say what the mismanagement was or what sums were involved.

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“We can’t discuss a personnel issue right now," he said.

"Our board has worked very diligently to make sure that the organization has a path to move forward and to survive this and we have a path to preserve our programs," said Whitten.

Whitten says steps are being taken to avoid future problems including forming an oversight committee and reviewing financial records.

Former Know Your City executive director Marc Moscato responded to OPB's questions about the financial mismanagement issue and his reaction to the nonprofit's crowdfunding efforts through email Tuesday.

The messaging of the campaign is not very tactful nor is it factually correct. The question here is a lack of finances not former leadership. Several current board members and the new Executive Director have been involved with organizational finances for more than a year, so pointing fingers is not productive. ...Know Your City has never had much money. I know; I have worked for wages far below market rate for more than six years. So this is nothing new. It certainly didn't happen overnight or suddenly, shortly after I left the organization.A nonprofit board, by definition, is responsible for the financial health of the organization. They set and approve the budget each year. Like any board, the financials at Know Your City are shared at every board meeting. Board members have been well informed of the organization's financial challenges over the years, and it is their responsibility to take ownership in meeting these challenges.This past summer, the organization had a particularly difficult financial period and a closure was eminent. During June and July, the organization was able to secure funding to continue its operations, but in the process, the board was forced to look critically at its finances and consider how it would sustain operations. This led to some challenging questions, and, ultimately, to a restructuring of the organization and staffing. This included a reduction to my salary by more than 20 percent and the termination of my coworker, Amanda Tillstrom, who served as Programs Coordinator. Faced with the reality of having to fulfill significantly more work (60+ hours a week) for significantly less pay left me with little choice. I left the organization in September to start the next chapter in my life. ...

The group hopes to raise $12,000 by the end of the year.

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THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR: