Last week we announced to a room full of vendors that on the first day of our Spring Fund Drive, we’d raised more than $50,000 through GiveBig, an annual day of fundraising sponsored by The Seattle Foundation. Amid the gasps in the room and the smattering of polite applause, I heard one vendor comment: “That must mean pretty nice raises for you guys.” His tone was pleasant enough, but his words underscored the gap between perception and reality when it comes to what it takes to run an organization like Real Change.
GiveBig kicked off our push to raise $208,000. We have currently raised $172.140, leaving us only three days to raise $35,860. Individual donations, which account for more than half of our annual budget, are crucial to Real Change. They allow us to publish hard-hitting, truth-telling journalism and implement advocacy strategies that are not beholden to the agenda of a public funder or the scrutiny of a large foundation. And, equally important, they allow us to keep the price of the paper low for vendors.
In Europe, street newspapers typically charge their vendors half the cover price; we only charge our vendors 30 percent. If we adopted the European formula, we would raise approximately $250,000 more in earned income each year. This would have a tremendous impact on our sustainability and lessen our reliance on our individual donors. However, a higher purchase price for vendors would directly eat into their income. Thanks to our strong grassroots support, we’ve been able to keep the vendor price low.
When you buy a paper from a Real Change vendor, it’s easy to see how that act directly benefits a person in need. Your support of our organization is no less important. Everything we do, from producing an award-winning newspaper to taking on City Hall, contributes to our core mission “to provide opportunity and a voice for low-income and homeless people.”
We treat money as a precious commodity around here and spend it very carefully. As the person in charge of the finances, I know all too well that the margin on which we operate here is thin. We have about a month of cash in reserve, meaning that we don’t have the luxury of falling short on our fund drives and not feeling the consequences elsewhere. This year, our board has already determined that if we are behind budget come June, the first cut will be to delay our plans to expand into Kitsap County.
So, no, the money we raise during fund drives doesn’t translate into raises for staff. Instead it ensures the continued health and viability of a progressive organization that is at the cutting edge of social change. If you haven’t already given to Real Change this spring, please consider a gift in the final three days of the drive. You can donate on line at realchangenews.org or by sending in a check. Every gift helps get us to our goal. And, if you are in a position to consider a gift between $125 and $1,000, please know that the gift will be matched by a pool of funds created by 10 major donors. Thank you for supporting our vendors and our work as an organization.