Interview: Susan Hayman Malone, Wide Angle Youth Media
About Wide Angle Youth Media
Wide Angle Youth Media is a nonprofit that provides Baltimore youth with media education to tell their own stories and become engaged in their communities. Through after school programs, community events, an annual Youth Media Festival, and youth-run television show, Wide Angle strives to make media make a difference. In 2009-2010 Wide Angle trained more than 500 youth in critical thinking, public speaking, and media production, sharing their stories and messages with more than 20,000 people in the Baltimore Metro area. Wide Angle works with youth ages 11-15 through their Baltimore Speaks Out! Program and youth ages 15-20 through their Mentoring Video Project and Youth Festival Committee Programs.
About Susan Hayman Malone
Susan is the executive director of Wide Angle Youth Media. Embarking on the agency’s second decade of groundbreaking youth media programming in Baltimore with a re-invigorated focus on youth voice, Malone intends to build new avenues for Wide Angle’s program and media distribution to regional and national audiences. Susan has been with Wide Angle since 2003; first, as the program manager, where she developed effective youth programming, assembled new financial funding networks, and managed the dynamic day-to-day activities of the growing organization. Malone graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art with a BFA in photography and has been working in the Baltimore art community for the past 13 years. Susan’s experience includes a mix of both private and public creative experience at organizations such as Mission Media, Photoworks, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. firstname.lastname@example.org.
YMR: What new innovations has Wide Angle begun to increase investment in programs?
Susan Hayman Malone: Fee-for-service programming now accounts for 30% of our budget and 50% of those dollars support our core programs. Donor and corporate relationships are very important to us, and we work directly with individuals to invite them into our organization, to build a network of relationships between their friends, families, Wide Angle staff, and one another.
Building ongoing strong partnerships with public, private and other community stakeholders has also been instrumental to our program support. Over the year, we have built strong ties to our local government agencies including the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute, and Baltimore City Public Schools. Thanks to these unique relationships we are able to leverage dollars and program exposure to larger audiences.
YMR: What current, unique funding streams does Wide Angle have?
Malone: We have an individual donor that has been supporting Wide Angle Youth Media’s Mentoring Video Project (MVP), an advanced media production internship and youth development program for Baltimore City youth that takes place over the course of an academic year with off-site video production and field trips taking place throughout the city.
This particular donor has been an advocate and supporter of media reform. We first met with the donor at a round table to review opportunities for media distribution in Baltimore, which was funded in part by the Betty Lee & Dudley P. Diggs Memorial Fund of the Baltimore Community Foundation. Afterwards, we continued animated conversations about the role of media in the lives of young people, and brought the donor into our family to experience our work first hand. Since attending our screenings, visiting the workshops, speaking with our youth, this passionate donor made a five-year commitment to support a specific program MVP. As most organizations experience, multi-year funding is rare these days. Thanks to this type of support we were able to leverage funds from additional sources, providing a system for ongoing programmatic support.
YMR: What has your experience been in fund development for Wide Angle in the last year? What trends are you seeing?
Malone: We are seeing a trend where foundations are supporting nonprofits who engage in social enterprise efforts to bring dollars into the agency. To align our mission with this trend we have partnered with the school system to provide additional in-school and out-of- school programming as a fee–based program that we facilitate.
City funding for after-school programming is being reframed into out-of-school time, thus encouraging nonprofits to develop year-round programming to include summer opportunities and jobs for youth. This means that nonprofits must offer additional programming to maintain city-funding sources.
Lastly, we are seeing a slow movement where city agencies or foundations are supporting organizations that provide workforce development opportunities for young people, especially those who are associated with the Department of Juvenile Justice or in foster care services.
YMR: How might you convey to new funders that investing in youth media is a major return in investment?
Malone: As a youth media organization we are inherently enthusiastic about our work, but my job is to channel that passion into tangible opportunities for our donor(s) to connect with the young people we serve. By cultivating long-term relationships with funders they meet and discover the unique individuals you serve and together you will build a network of. The multi-year commitment is not for everyone, this type of relationship takes time, energy and commitment from both parties. But if you build this type of relationship you, the donor, and the youth, will experience a different type of philanthropy, a real return on everyone’s investment. In the end, the funder will see programs strengthen, they will witness stories that change communities, and they will observe students achieve life long success.
The key to youth media investment is the word “long-term.” For example, at Wide Angle young people join our Baltimore Speaks Out! Program at 11 years of age, and many stay with us through high school and beyond. When funders make multi-year commitments, they are able to witness individual growth, and see the impact their funding has on each unique participant.
The students in programs like ours do not just gain technical media skills. They grow into interesting, expressive and successful young people who emerge from the shadows of shyness and walk out onto a stage, confident in front of audiences in everyday life. They build workforce skills to prepare them for jobs and college; and, they grow into creative thinkers, encouraging their friends to contribute to raising youth voice in Baltimore. Such outcomes come from the overall health and wellbeing of our organization, the youth we serve, and from caring funders who make long-term commitments.
YMR: How do you pitch Wide Angle to a variety of different and new funders?
Malone: Understanding the priorities and goals of any new potential funding source is the most important first step, before determining if an income stream is right for you and your programming.
Maintaining diverse funding streams involves staying focused on our mission while exploring how new funding opportunities can support our overall goals and successfully build a sustainable funding base.
At Wide Angle Youth Media, first, we research development options to make sure a foundations’ goals align with our mission. Then, we build our case around the language in their focus/strategic area. For example, many funders in Baltimore prefer to focus on youth development or leadership skill building—key elements to our work.
Academic perspectives from our University partners are helpful when we prepare grant proposals for Humanities Based Funding, and business insights from local business leaders are helpful when pursuing corporation sponsorships or foundation support from a business. The ebb and flow of language is quite different if a donor prefers amplifying youth voice or advocating for a specific movement.
YMR: What are some next steps for Wide Angle?
Malone: As we embark on the next decade of youth media programming in Baltimore we will continue to focus on amplifying youth voice locally and nationally. We will accomplish this by building integrated youth media curricula for in and out of school time programs, and supporting young people as they build workforce skills so they can discover life long success.
Our charge is to find sustainable sources of income, develop business models for the social entrepreneurial work we offer, while staying true to our mission. Our biggest challenge is to grow and build a budget that both supports our staff in a comprehensive way so that our team can focus on the programs they operate, and, find equipment and software dollars to continue to bring new technologies to all the youth we serve.