2012-2017 Strategic Plan Summary

Our Mission: JAWS promotes the professional empowerment and personal growth of women in journalism and works toward a more accurate portrayal of the whole society.

Our Vision:  Going forward, therefore, the women of JAWS must practice journalism that educates, engages, and empowers civil society. We must encourage diversity in all its aspects, in both our society and our profession. We must foster the skills we will need as well as the values and passions critical for the work ahead. That work should help provide the civic education now absent from our schools, to help citizens understand what is being done for them – and to them. Only when armed with information and truth can citizens make the informed decisions that will keep our democracy healthy.

Programs & Services: JAWS’ creates programming in order to engage, educate and empower women in journalism to build skills, mentor one another and advance professionally. All work in these areas should reflect efforts to build more diverse programming and recruit a more diverse membership. The JAWS programs and services include:

CURRENTLY (as of January 2014):

– Annual Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) in the fall

– Monthly regional events with training in locations across the country

– Daily online engagement and mentoring through our listserv, website and personal connections

– Mentoring, at CAMP and online or in person through the year

– Fellowships to support promising young women in journalism and enable them to attend CAMP

– Listserv discussions and support for women seeking advice, jobs, information

– Website with recaps of listserv discussions, interviews with women journalists, highlights of members’ work; a resource guide; and a full directory for networking and mentoring matches

– Newsletter sent each month with topics of interest to JAWS members


– Helping women seek better jobs in the newsrooms, move into management, and become media entrepreneurs by creating a leadership initiative or institute with a curriculum that can travel

Membership: JAWS wants to keep reaching out to a diverse constituency involved in journalism in its many forms. As a way both to recruit potential new members and to support current members, the organization is putting new emphasis on regional events with strong training programs and networking opportunities. The organization shall annually poll the membership, prior to the spring board meeting, to identify issues and services of importance to JAWS members, examine the appeal of JAWS membership and determine why members stay or leave. Our goal is 750 paid members by 2017 at the level of $75 per year for renewals. (As of January 2014, we have 650 paid members; more renewed after that.)

External Relations:  As news and trends arise, it is appropriate for JAWS as an organization to comment on journalism shifts, issues directly impacting our membership and the accomplishments of JAWS members. The JAWS President, Executive Director or a board member they designate is empowered to determine and deliver the response.

Communication: Effectively communicating JAWS’ mission and news to its members and to the journalism community at large is crucial to the organization’s growth and future success.  Providing vehicles for members to communicate with each other and to their leadership is important for networking, mentoring, getting feedback to the board and for creating a vibrant group conversation, especially about issues that affect women in journalism. We do this through our redesigned and more versatile website, which was launched in September 2013 and is now managed by a professional webmaster; a monthly e-newsletter with updates on programs, membership and news, starting in June 2012; a revamped listserv both nationally and regionally starting in June 2013 to foster robust group conversations, networking and mentoring.

Fundraising & Development: JAWS’ budget is too small to fulfill either its current operational needs or its aspirations to offer more services to women in journalism and continue to grow. New sources of income will enable JAWS to cover basic expenses and increase staffing. More vitally for the future, increased funding will allow JAWS to fully accomplish its multiple goals: to offer more programs and services, to diversify and increase membership and to raise JAWS’ public profile. The long-term development goal is to place JAWS on a strong financial footing for years to come, enriching the organization and enhancing its mission. This should include increasing our earned and donated income streams, including the pursuit of collaborative training sessions, corporate sponsorships, bequests and major donors; planning for a JAWS 30th anniversary campaign, which could include an endowment; creating fresh case statements each year with a powerful, evocative appeal about why JAWS is important and why donors, including board members and Advisory Board members, should give to JAWS each year; preserving the history of JAWS and women in journalism by contributing to collections and archives including the JAWS Herstory on the website, Women Journalists in the 21st century interview series, the Fran Lewine interview project, the Legacy Fund projects, and the Oral History project with University of Missouri to attract funders and honor the JAWS legacy; creating a detailed annual fundraising plan for JAWS, with outside help if needed, that reflects the vision of JAWS and covers a three- to five-year timeline.

Finance: The board will create policies that promote careful budgeting and fiscal solvency and also build the organization’s financial diversity and capacity. The JAWS budget must grow to meet its operational needs and its growing ambitions to provide more programs and services to more women in journalism. Our goals are to ensure the financial health of the organization, including fiscal and budgetary oversight and management of JAWS’ funds and cash reserves of three to six months’ operating expenses; increase its budget each year to sustain programmatic and membership growth and build capacity for the future; set guidelines for annual increases in the staff budget, consistent with new board policy that calls for incremental increases in operations funding until JAWS is staffed at a level adequate to support programs and membership. To maintain a flow of dues revenue and build the health of the organization, JAWS will increase its number of new members each year and significantly improve its membership retention rate for a net growth of members every year up to 750. The budget will reflect adequate support for the development and implementation of goals in the following areas: Programs & Services, Membership, Fundraising & Development, External Relations and Communications (including web development).

Human Resources: JAWS has historically been supported by a very lean staff structure, consisting of largely volunteer efforts with a part-time business manager and conference coordinator whose workload regularly exceeds the budgeted time and funds. This position was elevated to an executive director role in 2010, reflecting the fulltime demands of this job. We aim to routinely review priority job functions for JAWS staff, conduct annual evaluations, and identify additional new functions that will need future staffing and funding as JAWS expands membership and programming. We also aim to contract for specialized services to help JAWS develop expertise in areas needed in order to implement the strategic plan, such as fundraising training and execution, programming support, accounting, social media communications and website development.

Governance: The JAWS Board of Directors provides leadership, policy development and oversight for the organization. Board members currently provide leadership to volunteer committees and staff that engage in the work of the organization, from programming and membership development to external relations and fundraising. JAWS is committed to recruiting a diverse board, reflective of the diversity in journalism. In its current structure as a working board, it is responsible for oversight of all JAWS affairs and a regular review the organization’s bylaws, a board manual that explains board responsibilities, and a nominations process that strongly engages membership in creating a diverse pool of candidates for service and leadership. We aim to shift these working roles toward paid staff as the organization matures, allowing the board to focus on policy and oversight rather than day-to-day work.