ELi’s Financial Resources Are Very Low. What Are We Doing to Sustain This Service for 2022?

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Dylan Lees for ELi

ELi's Publisher Alice Dreger at the Aug. 10, 2021, meeting of City Council

This is the time of the year when our stress levels peak. That’s because October marks the low point of ELi’s annual fundraising cycle. This year, my stress level as ELi’s Executive Director and Publisher is way higher than usual due to the concomitant ongoing lawsuit against ELi by a local real estate developer. Things are not made easier by a trio of personal stressors at the moment, including having to put a beloved foster pet down this week.

So, now you know why if you’ve sent me an email in the last week, you’ve gotten my “away for a mental health break” message, and if you’ve read ELi, you may have noticed the lack of my byline.  But maybe you haven’t noticed my absence? Because the ELi team, led by Managing Editor Emily Joan Elliott and General Manager Jodi Spicer, has continued to do fantastic work, as always.

It has been my pleasure to forward on to our editorial and reporting team members high praise for their work coming from members of this community. I second all of your praise! This service is like no other, and I thank you for recognizing that.

Now let’s talk about the money.

In the interest of transparency, here’s where we stand economically and what we’re doing to try to keep ELi alive through the next year.

With pledged monthly commitments, we can cover about two more months of expenses right now for sure. As I write, we have $23,625.64 in the bank, and a number of you have monthly commitments running that add to that. Our monthly expenses are averaging $14,763 this calendar year, with approximately 85-90% of expenses going to pay local people for meaningful jobs bringing the news to East Lansing.

We want to keep bringing the news and employing people. But funds are really tight – right on schedule for our annual October low-point.

We are working on that need.

Our annual Sustainability Campaign runs November 1 – December 31, and our goal will be to raise $200,000 in new donations plus monthly commitments. Just to be clear, during the campaign, a monthly commitment of $20 is counted as $240 towards our campaign goal; a $50 monthly commitment counts as $600 towards our goal.

As we aim to raise our annual budget and put some funds in savings, we think of what we are doing this way: ELi is like a “news brigade” – like an old fashion “fire brigade.” We are a service that deals with “news fires” around East Lansing throughout the year. We try to raise enough at this time of year to “fill our water tower” so that we can be here for you all year around. During our campaign, we ask people to “fill up the buckets” that go into the water tower.

Right now, in advance of the Nov. 1 start of the campaign, we are soliciting “core donors” to help us set up a solid financial base to our campaign. Core donors are people who can give or commit $250 or more during the campaign. We use their donations as a matching base, which helps attract new donors to ELi. We know from experience a solid core donation matching base makes all the difference in our campaign.

We are thrilled that we can already count $10,000 in the matching base because of a match commitment from NewsMatch.

NewsMatch is an annual national philanthropic campaign to support journalism provided to members of the Institute for Nonprofit News. This year, NewsMatch is specifically supporting small news operations like ELi – serious news organizations that run on less than one million dollars per year.

But because there are so many news organizations in need, whereas NewsMatch provided us $30,000 for our 2018 campaign, this year it can only provide us $10,000.

We are taking that $10,000 promise from NewsMatch plus the core donor donations and promises to bulk up our base match, which we think of as being like a tanker truck that will feed into the water tower $1 for every $1 from a new donor.

Right now, we have $30,800 in the tanker truck to offer as match funds new donors. Our dream is to get to $100,000 in a match base fund soon, and to use that to leverage the additional $100,000 in donations to get to our campaign goal.

If we can get to $200,000, we will have enough to operate for the next year and replenish our savings to some extent, to hopefully be less stressed at this time next year.

Do you want to help with a core donation or core commitment?

If so, just write to ELi Managing Editor Emily Joan Elliott at emily@eastlansinginfo.news, and she can set you up, or hop straight to our donation page and make a donation today. We will be so happy to add your generous contribution to the tanker truck!

And keep an eye out for more posts about the campaign. In early November, we’ll be offering “buckets” to pass among people you know care about local news and who get the value of ELi to this community.

Thank you so very much for all you are doing to support this team, including me, in bringing this critically important public service to the people of East Lansing. Your support means the world to us.

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