Hi! I’m Jessica Partnow, a nonprofit leader, educator, and former international public radio journalist. I was the founding executive director of The Seattle Globalist, a nonprofit media organization dedicated to elevating diverse voices through media. I earned my MBA with a focus on leadership, and I now bring that education and my nearly twenty years in the nonprofit sector to consulting work with small and growing organizations. Throughout my career, I have worked with dozens of small nonprofits on corporate formation, organizational structure, board development, strategic planning, mission and vision development, program planning, operations, fundraising, and communications.
What I do
I specialize in interim leadership and leadership transitions for small nonprofit organizations (annual budget up to $1M). I love working with staff and boards on strategy, operations, organizational development, and fundraising. My goal is always to help teams find solutions that fit their values and their budgets.
Why I do it
I got my start in the nonprofit sector at the Food Bank For New York City, where my job was to provide technical and program support to soup kitchens and food pantries from Staten Island to the Bronx. It was an incredible way to get to know New York — and to learn that my Pacific Northwest communication style (“great job on X and Y, but let’s work on Z”) was not going to fly in the Big Apple, where directness is everything. (“Z is a mess. How can we fix it?”).
Since then, I have founded and led two nonprofit organizations, worked as an international freelance journalist, spent ten years on the journalism faculty at the University of Washington, and developed a passion for small and startup nonprofit organizations. In 2019 I earned my MBA with a focus on leadership from UW Bothell, and I joined the board of directors of The Seattle Globalist, where I had been the executive director until 2017.
As a co-founder of The Seattle Globalist, I grew the organization to an annual budget of $350,000, and the Globalist published work by more than 600 freelance contributors – 67% people of color, 73% women, and 45% immigrants or first generation Americans – during my tenure. The Globalist is dedicated to elevating diverse voices through media, and in my role there I began to develop my approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to building anti-racist nonprofit organizations.
As a consultant, I relish the opportunity to support the important work of small and startup nonprofit organizations. My goal is to serve as a partner, supporter, and coach. I help organizations assess, envision, and act to support their missions with maximum impact, and through a work style that reflects the organization’s values and vision.
Leadership transitions are always a challenge, but too often we let the urgency of our work overshadow the great opportunity that’s present in times of change. My work as an interim leader aims to help organizations harness that opportunity — while keeping the doors open and the plates spinning.
How I do it: core values
I work under the assumption that US society, and thus our institutions, were designed to enforce a hierarchy of power along lines of difference, including race, ability, gender, sexual orientation, citizenship, immigration status, religion and more. I see an important part of my role as working to challenge the power structures of the status quo. I seek to create liberating structures and norms in my work as an educator, a journalist, and as an organizational consultant.
I approach my work as a collaborator and as an educator. I am self-taught in many ways, and have learned that especially for women, people of color, and members of other marginalized groups there can be a tendency to underestimate or invisibilize your own skills and knowledge – particularly when those skills have been learned “on the job.”
For example, as an executive director I never thought of myself as a good fundraiser. But a few years out of the job, I started to realize that the relationship building I had always done – what I thought of as community, or administration, or socializing – was actually fundraising work (it’s called donor cultivation and stewardship — who knew?!).
I take that lesson — and countless more things I learned the hard way in my twelve years as an executive director — to my work as a consultant, helping teams and organizations identify their core strengths and resources and think strategically about how to deploy them.
I love working with clients on with organizational development, corporate formation, board development, mission and vision development, strategic planning, messaging, and communications. I particularly enjoy working with small teams, and I operate as a collaborator and a coach, supporting staff, boards, and individuals to identify and achieve their goals.
I like to roll up my sleeves and dive into projects quickly, and I work to maintain the flexibility to adapt to changing needs, circumstances, opportunities, and resources.
My past & current clients include: