Sustainability Campaign Report, and January by the Numbers

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Friday, February 2, 2018, 9:13 am
Alice Dreger, Publisher of ELi

This marks the first of a new series at ELi, a beginning-of-the-month report on what our work cost in the last month. As January 31 also marked the official end of our 2018 Sustainability Report, I’ll give you an update on that in this report as well.

ELi is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public service news organization—it exists to serve you, our community. So, if you have any questions or comments about any of this, don’t hesitate to contact us.

2018 Sustainability Campaign:

Thanks to the hundreds of folks who stepped up to help us be prepared for 2018, the Sustainability Campaign raised $65,808. Yes, that is short of our goal of $100,000. What are we going to do about that? Right now, we’re going to keep doing what we’re here for.  We’re also going to use some of those funds to hire a person to work with us on development to hopefully make up some of the gap. We will also keep encouraging people to donate.

Whenever I look at what this local team produces for you, I always feel nothing but grateful and optimistic about community support. In fact, we see support in monetary and non-monetary ways every day. (Thanks to all of you who sent notes with your donations. We love the notes, like the one below!) A lot of you get why this costs money. And those of you who don’t can see below why it does.

You can give to ELi at any time, of course, and if you’ve never given before, now’s a good time because we still have match funds available—specifically $1,659 as of right now. If you have never donated to ELi before, and do so now, we can get a dollar-for-dollar match for your contribution. If you want to sign up for a monthly subscription donation, we can get a match for your commitment for the year. (So, signing up for $10/month gets us a $120 match.)

But we’re happy to have old friends of ELi donate more, too!

Here’s where you can check your donation options.

What ELi’s January productions cost:

This month our expenses came to about $5,900, and as usual, the great majority (about 81%) went to paying local people to work for us. In January, we paid 13 people to work for ELi, not counting the folks at Layton & Richardson who handle our payroll and tax reporting. (I volunteer my service to ELi.)

Here’s how the expenses broke down:

Mail to donors cost more this month than usual because we sent out receipts for 2017 donations (using email when possible, to save money). This month we also paid our annual dues to LION Publishers and also to the Institute for Nonprofit News, two national organizations that help us obtain resources (including ideas) and share our learning.

The item you see listed as “content distribution” is money we paid to Facebook to push some of our work out to readers (or potential readers) who we can only reach that way. Our mission is to get news out to people in this community—not just to produce it—and we find our reach goes significantly farther if we selectively use Facebook’s paid features. Doing so also pays off when we are fundraising.

You can help us extend our reach at no cost, if you are on Facebook, by sharing and liking our material. This leads to metrics that Facebook says will help push their algorithm to distribute our news to more readers in the area for free. You can also help us by signing up for our free weekly newsletter, which goes out via MailChimp.

It might be tempting to take the figure of $6,000 (rounding off expenses for January) and conclude ELi needs about $72,000 a year to operate. But there are big expenses coming in 2018 that we have not yet incurred. These include most notably the cost of upgrading our website software to secure it from constant bot attacks and to make it stable. You never see ELi’s site go down—because our tech team is that good—but behind the scenes, a lot of tech problems rise up to challenge us, and the necessary upgrade this year will be part of dealing with ongoing tech challenges. (Read more from our tech team of Lisa Lees and Morgan Lees.)

We would also like to do another Summer Youth Journalism Program this year, for which we will need to raise about $10,000 once we figure in all of the costs of that program plus employing the high school reporters who work for ELi after graduation from the program. Last year, the program was generously supported in part by the Lansing Area Community Trust, along with donations from a few education-minded donors.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Ann’s report on ELi’s work this past month, please take a minute to do so. It’s kind of unbelievable.


Note: This article was corrected on Feb. 6, 2018, because a portion of payroll taxes ($334) had been incorrectly listed separately from the category of "payroll (incl. taxes)."  Figures and graphics were changed to reflect this correction. This article was then updated on May 4, 2018, to bring the table and chart graphics into line with what we are presenting for later months.

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