East Lansing Info (ELi) – the East Lansing community’s dedicated nonprofit news service – has taken a major step towards the restart of publication with completion and release of the ELi Task Force Report. Our plan calls for reporting to resume by early September.
The community is now encouraged to read the report and to take our survey to help us make sure ELi’s administrative and reporting staff can tap into all available resources as we bring back this cherished community asset.
Background on the Task Force:
To refresh in terms of background, in early May 2022, ELi ceased reporting operations due to loss of key personnel. Two months earlier, I had started a long-planned sabbatical from ELi after giving eight years of (mostly unpaid) service to the organization I founded.
It is common for small nonprofits to stumble when founders step away, but we were all disappointed, after all the planning that went into my sabbatical, that this had happened to ELi.
On June 23, ELi’s Board of Directors authorized six of us – Nathan Andrus, Morgan Lees, Amalia Medina, Chris Root, Adan Quan, and me – to form a task force to do an analysis of the institutional challenges and provide a recommendation for how ELi could resume reporting. The Task Force started working together intensively two days later, and one month from that start, we presented our report to the Board. On July 25, the Board voted to accept our report.
What the Task Force report recommends:
The Task Force report includes key information about the history and methodology of ELi, including an overview of revenue and expenses over the last eight years. It concludes that ELi should attempt to return to the basic approach it had when operations paused: providing original, high-quality news reporting by local people focusing on East Lansing City government, East Lansing Public Schools (especially the School Board), local elections, redevelopment, and public safety, including policing and emergencies, and arts and culture.
Financially, this is going to be difficult because ELi has limited savings and some donors have understandably pulled away during the reporting lull. The Task Force has recommended adopting a new newsletter-based membership model that may help both with better distribution (serving more readers in ways that are more efficient and effective in their lives) and with raising revenue while still keeping ELi’s news reporting free to everyone.
The new membership-based newsletter will be replacing our prior daily and weekly mailers. The new East Lansing Insider membership/newsletter portal is available now if you would like to subscribe immediately. Learn how here.
Building back the ELi reporting and administrative team:
Because we recognized that it is very difficult for ELi to hire in and train so many new key personnel at once, by mutual agreement with ELi’s Board of Directors, I am now retaking the helm as Interim Executive Director and Publisher (C.E.O. of the nonprofit corporation). Our agreement states that I will not get paid and will be expected to put in very limited hours so that I can also meet all of the non-ELi work and family obligations I have acquired since my sabbatical started. ELi will be seeking someone to replace me as Executive Director/Publisher when operations stabilize.
The Board also authorized establishment of an Implementation Team that will take over where the Task Force’s work ends. The team will be made up of volunteers and staff and will get to work on hiring our new Managing Editor and reporters, rolling out the new membership system and newsletter, and much more.
Fortunately, ELi still has extraordinarily fine core administrative staff working for it, and that’s a major reason I could step back in. I want to particularly recognize Morgan Lees and Lisa Lees, our exceptional Tech Managers from the start, who keep a news website that looks simple secure and fully operational for all of us, and Jodi Spicer, our General Manager, who runs all of ELi’s financial and data systems, manages payroll, balances the books, maintains complex secure donor information, and so, so much more. ELi would be impossible for me to serve without Jodi, Morgan, and Lisa.
Now we are going to need you.
We are definitely not out of the woods yet, and this project has always been a true community endeavor, which means we need you to relaunch with us.
One thing we will need from you is patience as we recreate ELi’s reporting operations and train the newbies. But we are hoping you will give more than that.
Have time or other means to help organize fundraisers like a 5K walk/run, or an ELi prom, or a fun cocktail party? Have time to help address and stuff envelopes to potential donors? Have skills in area of seeking and writing grants? Have an eagle-eye for proofing? Happen to be a person with enough disposable income to support a terrific local nonprofit news team? (Donations are tax deductible.)
We could use all of this help and more! We’ve created an online form you can fill out to tell us what you can offer and how we can be in touch with you. Find it here.
We would also appreciate if you would consider signing up for the new East Lansing Insider newsletter as a member now. Learn how here.
And please, share all this with your neighbors and friends so that we can get it all back together and start again bringing East Lansing the news.