Last Chance at a 2020 Tax Deduction for a Donation that Helps ELi Survive

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As of 11:00 p.m. today, New Year’s Eve, we have raised $132,098 in our 2021 Sustainability Campaign. This means we will not reach our campaign goal of $200,000. However, we have now exceeded last year’s campaign total and reached the 2/3 point, which is a relief to the lead fundraising team of Jodi Spicer, Emily Joan Elliott, and myself.

We have had 770 donations so far, with an astonishing 216 new donors.

East Lansing Info is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, recognized by the IRS as a public service charity. This means that donations to ELi are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law for the year in which you make the donation.

You can find all the ways to donate at this page.

If you send a check and date it Dec. 31, 2020, we will acknowledge it as a donation in 2020 when we receive it. If you know you will be sending a check and want us to count it in the campaign total tonight, email us at fundraise@eastlansinginfo.news.

Here’s a recap of fundraising FAQ published earlier in the week.

How come I’m not seeing ELi at Facebook? Facebook decides what you see at Facebook. Not seeing ELi? That means Facebook is deciding for you that you don’t want to see ELi.

Yes, we recently encouraged many of you to change your Facebook settings to set ELi to “see first,” in the hopes the mysterious Facebook algorithm would decide to show you more of ELi’s posts. That doesn’t seem to be working, and we are hearing from other local news organizations that they’re experiencing the same post “brown-outs” at Facebook.

This is, frankly, killing us during fundraising season. So many of our readers access our work only when they happen to see it at Facebook. So, they have no idea what’s going on at ELi.

What can you do to help, besides giving now? Tell your friends and neighbors that ELi needs financial help now. Tell them in your own words, and point them here. Also encourage them to access ELi directly at our website.

How do you calculate what’s been raised in the campaign? We put together lump-sum contributions made since the campaign started, take new monthly donations and multiply them by 12, and also include any matching funds we know we will receive. Doing that, we find we have raised $132,098 towards our campaign goal of $200,000 as of 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Are you worried?

Yes. I am hearing from a lot of local donors that (understandably) they can’t afford to help us this year as they have in years past because their businesses are either in distress or facing tremendous uncertainty due to the pandemic.

It’s worth remembering that on a normal day nine months of the year, East Lansing has tens of thousands more people spending money locally. All of the students, faculty, and staff normally moving around every day here are just not. Big game days historically have brought a hundred thousand extra people to town; that’s a lot of money not showing up here this year. Since March, town has emptied out.

So, the pandemic has had a phenomenal economic impact on local businesses and jobs, and it is now hitting ELi, a local business that has relied on the economic well-being of many of those local businesses. It’s also been tough for us because we usually do a lot of fundraising at in-person events, and this year we can’t do any of that this year.

Have you tried new approaches this year?

Yes, we’ve been trying new things, like our Budget Brigade, our Keep ELi Running offer (which brings you NPR’s Peter Sagal’s autographed memoir for a $50 donation made via a special link), bringing an ELi Trivia Night, and sending appeals through the mail to people identified as potential new donors, and a 12-hour telethon on Dec. 30. We think our extra efforts are the reason for so many new donors, which is helping to make up for long-time donors who can’t give this year.

Why do you need $200,000?

I explained in a recent special article about our expenses that this amount would definitely cover our budget for 2021, so that we can focus on bringing news instead of fundraising.

For perspective, the amount we are trying to raise to bring an entire news operation is about equal to the annual compensation package of East Lansing’s City Manager. I think I run a pretty efficient and lean operation when you look at our work that way, particularly when you consider three of us work full-time and we pay dozens of local people per year via ELi.

About 92% of donated dollars in the last year have gone to paying local people to bring the news.

What if we don’t reach the goal?

I will ask ELi’s Board of Directors to hold a meeting that makes hard decisions about ELi’s budget, and the team will likely feel deflated. I know I will be, as I will have to cut jobs.

You can donate here.

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