Important Feedback ELi Is Getting During Fundraising, As ASMSU Gives a Big Boost

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The period of November – December when we run our Sustainability Campaign for the coming year is one of the most important moments for the editorial leadership of ELi because it is when so many people give us not only financial help but critical feedback and productive ideas. Since I have two relatively new editors in Emily Joan Elliott and Andrew Graham, this feedback is especially useful this year.

Before I get to the feedback, a general update: I am happy to report that we are almost at the halfway point to our goal of $200,000, with just under $100,000 raised as we total up lump-sum donations plus monthly support commitments for 2021. Just a reminder: A $20/month commitment (easy to set-up) is counted by us as $240 towards our $200,000 goal, and the matching funds we have matches monthly commitments at the annual rate, meaning that a new $20/month donation brings us $480 closer to our goal.

We currently have just over $4,000 in matching funds still available, not counting additional special pledge matches for certain “buckets.” Donate now to get your gift matched! And please do let me know if you want to donate into a matching fund to encourage other donors!

This is literally valuable feedback: Our Board Secretary Maysa Sitar just pointed us to a helpful item in the CARES act, passed last March, which will allow those taxpayers who take a standard deduction for charitable contributions in 2020 to “also take a write-off of up to $300 on top of that for the eligible donations they make on or before December 31, 2020,” according to MarketWatch.

We missed this when it happened! And it means that, if you take a standard (non-itemized) deduction for 2020, you can deduct up to $300 in charitable contributions in addition. For many people, this could result in an extra deduction for a donation to ELi, which is recognized as a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity by the IRS. (Read more from the IRS about this special deduction.)

ASMSU helps enormously again: This year, as last, ASMSU (MSU’s undergraduate student government) came through for us with a $3,000 donation! We are so grateful.

The bill passed recognizes that “Local news organizations are vital to the strength of local democracies, but many are struggling to keep afloat,” that “East Lansing Info has been a great aid to the [ASMSU] governmental affairs office as a consistent and dependable news organization,” that “East Lansing lacks other consistent and independent reporting,” and that we support the future careers of MSU students by giving them great opportunities as reporters and advisors.

We hear loud and clear from ASMSU that they want us to continue reporting about East Lansing’s government – not only about formal Council decisions but also about the broader ways that East Lansing shapes the experiences of young people who come to East Lansing to get a college degree.

Readers want investigative news: When we ask people which “bucket” they’d choose for their donations, we are finding that overwhelming they choose “investigative news.” Written feedback supports that.

Donors love the M2M option: This year, MSUFCU introduced a “Member2Member” option in their “move money” system which allows ELi readers with an MSUFCU account to donate directly to us at no charge to them or us. Donors are loving it. We love it, too! But PLEASE remember to include your contact information in the “card,” because MSUFCU doesn’t tell us how to reach you, and we want to give you a thanks and a receipt! Read more about M2M here.

Readers also don’t want to live without real local news:

Here are a handful of so many interesting and supportive reader comments submitted with donations:

  • ELi covers news of the city in ways no one else does.
  • I enjoy reading your articles – you cover news that is ignored by most traditional media.
  • The work ELi does every day provides the transparency that East Lansing government would otherwise lack.
  • THANK YOU for covering our School Board!
  • Thanks for your ongoing truthful reporting.
  • I am glad I took the time to read the report on exactly what you are using the money for. [See that here.] Your transparency is refreshing, and it is certainly a frugal budget. I do not live in East Lansing but I applaud your work.
  • Thank you for your great reporting. I am a resident of Lansing. Your reporting has helped us tremendously.
  • ELi helps me be informed with fairly unbiased, good journalism [creating] a better way for me to be connected to local affairs.

Lack of bias is really important to our readers: We hear this over and over again, and we have heard from a handful of donors that they feel we’ve missed the mark on some stories. Again, that kind of feedback is invaluable to us! The only way we know to correct course is to know we are off. ELi is a community project that requires community feedback.

Here’s an example of one response that came this morning: “I unsubscribed sometime in the first half of the year because it seemed to me that ELi had decided in 2020, as most news outlets have, that with regard to race, proportionality arguments are sufficient to adopt an editorial position against any institution. I think the original article had to do with the diversity of teachers in EL schools. [See it here.] I revisited the issue recently by listening to the November podcast on ‘racism is a public health crisis’ and found the same. [Link to that podcast is here.] It doesn’t seem like analysis, to me.”

The editorial team will take a look at these items to discuss, as we do this kind of feedback. Additionally, we heard from one person who refused to donate again (after donating about $50 lifetime) because a few months ago he asked us to do a major financial investigation of CATA, and we didn’t undertake that. I would love to look at that issue, but it’s a countywide story that would take a huge amount of our resources and we are stretched pretty thin covering East Lansing alone.

Wouldn’t the world be great if you could order a major investigative report for just $50! My whole holiday wish list would consist of investigations I’d like to see done, particularly at the state level.

We’re happy that many readers feel we are doing a good job:

Some more examples of donor feedback:

  • Grateful for the community commitment and phenomenal work of ELi.
  • I love what you’re doing. I especially love your efforts to train younger journalists – and would love anything you can do to expand that!
  • I’m retired hence the meager donation. Thank you for ELi! It’s the only NEWS about my home, East Lansing!
  • Thank you for your thorough reporting. Who else would give us these details? Please know that thousands of us appreciate your work.

Some data on that: We know we have thousands of readers and fans! So far, we’ve received 562 donations during this campaign, including 142 from new donors.

And one more reader comment: “How ELi managed to stay non-partisan yet bring us critical news issues in this year of all years, is more than impressive. For many of us who have turned away from what might be deemed the ‘normal’ news outlets, you have been not only a breath of fresh air, but essential to us. I think back to the early days of the Covid crisis when you not only kept us informed, but you put smiles on our faces by finding many positives that were occurring at the same time. This year more than ever, you felt like a true lifeline to me!”

We are so happy to be that. If you haven’t given, or want to give some more to help this news organization keep going, please do so today! Even $5/month helps! Find all your donation options here.

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