East Lansing Info (ELi) is officially launching its 2018 sustainability campaign with a goal of $100,000. This is our annual campaign to ensure that we have enough commitment from our readership to commit to working for the East Lansing community in the coming calendar year.
Achieving our sustainability goal means we can focus on doing what you want us to be doing, reporting for you and getting your questions answered, rather than on fundraising.
Last year we achieved our sustainability goal, obtaining a commitment of over $50,000 for 2017 from readers. That support enabled us to bring you an outstanding local public news service.
With only about $50,000 from the community, we covered East Lansing elections—including the schools bond, the City Council election, and the income tax proposal—bringing you nonpartisan information on campaigns and campaign finance. We covered development like no one else, bringing you detailed information on proposals for the Costco, Park District, and Center City District projects.
We brought you news of East Lansing art events, of local sports like pickleball and quidditch, of concerns of bicyclists, religious organizations, and environmental groups. We covered emerging marijuana ordinances and the ongoing farmers’ market lawsuit. We worked as dedicated media sponsors of the East Lansing Jazz Festival. And we brought you news of local acts of kindness.
We launched a Summer Youth Journalism Program, with a two-week intensive training for eight local high school students, led by a professional journalism educator.
We did this all with a nonpartisan, citizen-reporting model that we believe ultimately works to strengthen and empower our community.
So why are we looking to double the commitment from our readers compared to last year?
Because our readers are today expecting so much of us.
As ELi has succeeded, we have greatly expanded our readership, and that readership has reasonably expanded its expectations of us. Today, we are provided steady tips and questions by our readers, and we need to be able to have money in the bank to pay reporters and editors to get you the news and the answers you want.
To give you the high-quality news and information you want, we need funds in the bank to give our reporters some reasonable compensation—never as much as they deserve, but everyone at ELi sees the work as public service. You may have noticed we recently landed a professional sports writer to cover sports like no one else is doing for the East Lansing community, and this year we also hired new reporters in the areas of government, schools, and the arts. This takes money in the bank.
Additionally, like all online organizations, we are subject to more hacking attempts than ever before by malicious attempts to use our website to cause others harm. This plus our need to upgrade our website's software (which is a complex conversion) to make it be more secure and work better for mobile users means we have to spend more on technology and tech managers.
This year, we will also have to spend a lot more on Facebook promotions than in the past. That’s because so many of our readers interact with us through Facebook, and the only way they know about our latest publications is if we pay Facebook to allow us to push our work out to our readers. (You can help us out by making sure your Facebook settings are optimized to get our notices of new work.) Facebook is forcing local news organizations like us to pay more all the time to get you the news you want to read. We need your help to pay those costs.
There are also tasks I’ve been doing for ELi that we need to be paying someone to take over for me, as the organization grows and I have more work than I can manage. I’m not paid by ELi—I’m actually one of the lead financial donors to the organization, and am so proud to be one!—but to optimize my work, I need to farm out some of the work others can do, so I can focus my ELi time on what I’m really needed for, including reporting on Government with Chris Root and Jessy Gregg and running the nonprofit corporation that oversees ELi’s work.
So, I’m looking to increase funds available for expanding the job of one of our employees to take over the lower-level accounting that I currently do (Layton & Richardson is paid to do our higher-level accounting) and for hiring a Development Manager to work on expanding our fundraising base more steadily than I have been able to do.
You know what else I want to do in 2018? Give Ann Nichols, our amazing Managing Editor, a modest raise.
Right now, when we add up what folks have currently committed to monthly via PayPal and Patreon plus the lump sums received by check and PayPal since October 1, we have a pretty good start! We are at about a $35,500 commitment, or over one-third towards our 2018 sustainability goal.
We are super grateful to the people who have already stepped up! But we need more folks to do so.
It’s easy to help out by making a monthly commitment or a lump-sum contribution, and here’s the great thing: it’s tax deductible!
So if you want us to be here in 2018 to keep reporting on the finances of the City, our schools, big development, local charities, sports, arts, the concerns of bicyclists and senior citizens and more, step up now. The sooner we get the commitment of our community for 2018, the sooner we can focus again almost entirely, as we were able to do in 2017, on providing the service you’ve come to expect of us.
You can make a lump-sum contribution or easily commit to providing a steady monthly donation via credit card or automatic bill-pay. You an also nudge your friends and neighbors to help out.
Thank you for your support!
Want to learn more about ELi? Click here.
Note: This article was updated on November 15 to clarify that upgrading our website's software will make the site more secure and work better for mobile users.