Full disclosure. Honest truth. Transparency. Frank talk. You can count on Current for it — and more in 2019, thanks to 155 donors who stepped up to support your nonprofit trade publication during our six-week NewsMatch campaign, which ended Dec. 31.
We raised about $15,000, and thanks to the magic of NewsMatch and the Wyncote Foundation, that will translate into nearly $40,000 for Current.
That is totally awesome news, but we were hoping to break through the NewsMatch ceiling ($25,000 in individual donations) and net $60,000. The fact that we did not and that we raised less this year than in previous years was disappointing. Current really could use that unbudgeted but much-needed revenue, especially in a year when our foundation support is tapering.
Why was the return on our effort lower this year than last? Perhaps the novelty of the Public Media Honor Roll* wore off in 2019? I’d be surprised if the volatility of the stock market, talk of a coming recession, and changes in the tax law didn’t make donors cautious.
And then, there’s the fierce and growing competition for your attention and your charitable dollars as the year comes to a close. It’s a mad world out there, and everywhere you turn someone dressed in a Santa suit is ringing a bell with greater and greater urgency for your generous response.
Current’s efforts to raise funds from you — even our most loyal readers — face inherent obstacles that many of our comrades at other nonprofit news organizations do not. Your connection to Current is professional, while individual giving is deeply personal. Our readers are 16 times more likely to get Current at the office, courtesy of their employers, than to be a paying subscriber or donor.
On top of that, many of our readers are not accessible to us during the most vibrant fundraising days of the year. Email marketing is the most successful and cost-effective way to drive donations, but toward the end of the year, we can’t reach you. Our list is largely made up of company email addresses, so fundraising during December vacations and holiday season means Current’s appeals get hundreds of out-of-office bounce-backs.
These are the uphill challenges we at Current face as we try to diversify our revenues to sustain our service to you, to the public media system. Donations will always be a small piece of that puzzle, but my philosophy is that if we don’t ask, we don’t get. And we think we have a pretty strong case that Current belongs to everyone in public media and that it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep it going. As I always say, “We’re in this together!”
We are grateful to all who embrace that shared responsibility. Since December 2015, we’ve raised $100,000 from over 450 donors and foundation matches. That’s something we can be truly proud of.
And we are quite humbled to read the kind words of appreciation from our donors when we ask them why they decided to support Current in this campaign. We hope their testimonials inspired some of you to join them. But perhaps we should be asking those of you who didn’t give, why not? Constant learning, listening, improvement and iteration are part of the culture at Current now. Please drop me a line if you have any insight that can inform Current’s philanthropic strategy in 2019.
Here’s to a peaceful and prosperous new year for all. Onward and upward, together!
*Check out whom your peers named to the 2018 Public Media Honor Roll. This list will be published in January’s print and Issuu editions of Current. We are still accepting nominations (and donations) by Jan. 15 if you’d like to thank someone and have their name listed in the newspaper.