As a reporter who covered multiple beats, from night cops to politics, IRE’s tip sheets were a great source of ideas and inspiration. As an editor, whether working the city desk or managing an investigative team, IRE’s conference panels on conceiving the project and bulletproofing for accuracy were vital roadmaps.

What I didn’t understand was the organization’s amazing reach and impact. As with any group or workplace, you can’t really understand what goes on unless you get a chance to glimpse behind the scenes.

For almost nine years, I’ve had the tremendous honor of working for IRE. I was plenty nervous when I took this job, and it turns out those nerves were thoroughly justified. My entire background was in newsrooms, and running a nonprofit brings with it a whole host of requirements that have nothing to do with covering the news. Luckily I’ve had a ton of help through the years: an always supportive and hard-working board of directors, a dedicated membership base always willing to volunteer, and an amazing staff that, as anyone who’s attended a conference or workshop knows, really run this place. I’ll miss all of it when I step down as executive director next month. 

For all of you who will never have the chance to get the view I’ve had of this organization, I’d like to leave you with a few thoughts.

The impact that IRE has on individual journalists, newsrooms and the entire industry is much greater than you realize.

If this organization has ever helped you do a story that made a difference, something that stopped wrongdoing, curbed misspending or helped someone in need, then you’ve seen a glimpse of what IRE can do. But when you see that impact magnified across thousands of members, scores of newsrooms and international boundaries, you realize just how broad this organization’s scope really is. 

IRE isn’t just about journalism.

That seems like an odd thing to say because this organization is all about teaching practical skills to journalists. From finding documents to crunching data to conducting the toughest interviews with grace and purpose, IRE’s focus is on hands-on, make-you-better training.

But to me, that’s not the biggest impact that we have.  By helping you do stories that drive change and hold the powerful accountable, we have a direct role in improving societies and changing lives every single day. Great journalism is one of the most important forces in society for driving change, and IRE has given each of us the power to do just that, in communities large and small, all around the world. 

IRE needs you.

I arrived at IRE in 2008, a really tough time for our industry. Jobs were being cut, budgets were being slashed, and our organization, like many others, felt the impact. We weathered that storm, and today we’re bigger than we’ve ever been. But that doesn’t mean that we can relax. 

Pretty much every day I’ve worked here, a part of me has worried about tomorrow. Will we have the funding and resources we need to do the crucial work that we do? As each of us knows, the foundation that our industry is built on is dangerously susceptible to seismic shifts in society, from changes in technology to the ever-evolving ways that people consume news. 

That means that there will never be a day that IRE doesn’t need your support. Your help is an intrinsic part of our organization, whether it’s your time as a volunteer or your generous donations. We absolutely can’t do this without you. 

Now that I get to shift back to being a regular member again, I’ll have a new appreciation for IRE, its impact in the world and its importance to society. I’ve seen IRE change lives. I know it’s changed mine.