Just as there were no clear benchmarks for Voice’s success when it launched nearly a decade ago, there are no clear milestones for when it will have achieved financial sustainability. The organization is currently at 28 percent foundation support, 45 percent major donors, 15 percent individual donors, and 12 percent community and corporate sponsors. It would like to get to a point where each pillar represents 25 percent of the budget, and any one could fall off without creating the upheaval that occurred in 2011, when the organization lost its innocence, but gained a clear path forward. Regardless of whether it will succeed, that in itself is an achievement.

“Our business model is about engagement,” Lewis told me. “At the very end of the day, our business model and our mission are exactly the same. We have to do it so well that people love us and want to pay us, right? The problem is, that love and that connection is tough to maintain. We can’t try to please everyone, but we’ve got to do something that a lot of people respect and like and want to preserve. That’s going to be interesting.” 

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.


Michael Meyer is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter at @mcm_nm.