Five things I shouldn’t tell you (and one thing I should)

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by Melanie Jongsma, Publisher

LANSING, Ill. (December 7, 2021) – Fundraising is hard work. And maybe I’m biased, but I think fundraising for an organization like The Lansing Journal is particularly difficult. The benefits we provide are intangible — information, connection, accuracy — so it can be difficult to paint a compelling picture of the need.

But I believe it’s important for a community like ours to have an independent source of information. I believe the work done by our team of local journalists is excellent and worthwhile. And I believe our community would miss us if we were gone.

So I work hard to raise funds. This little newspaper needs funds.

Here are five things you might not know about me in my fundraiser role:

1. Some fundraisers would prefer not having to ask for money. Me? I don’t mind.

Most people don’t really like asking for money. You risk offending people, and you get told “no” a lot.

But I don’t mind asking because I believe that a community newspaper is stronger when the community is invested in it. When you send in a check or sign up as a monthly supporter, you have some ownership. In fact, I hope you feel some pride.

I don’t mind asking for money because I believe in the mission of The Lansing Journal, and I love sharing that mission with others.

2. But sometimes I have to hype myself up to make another ask.

The Lansing Journal has gone through a lot in the past few years, and we are still getting by month to month. The news never stops, and the need for funding never decreases. In fact, we keep trying to grow! So sometimes the sheer “daily-ness” of the work can weigh on me.

Also, I know that our readers come from a variety of backgrounds, and you represent a range of economic situations. So, on the one hand, I don’t want to offend anyone by asking for more than you are able to give. On the other hand, I don’t want to endanger the future of this newspaper by not asking for enough. Finding that balance can be exhausting.

I’m grateful for people who give more than I dare to ask for. I’m also grateful for people who let me know they can’t give right now but are not offended that I asked.

3. I cry sometimes.

I’m not an overly emotional person, but sometimes the notes and emails you send bring tears to my eyes.

Thanks for keeping us informed day by day, and for the many interesting stories letting us know that despite the circumstances there are many interesting things going on in our community.

Thanks for all you do in bringing quality journalism to Lansing and beyond.

I contributed because I understand your commitment to your community by publishing an excellent community information medium, and I understand the hard work it entails. I am not blowing smoke. I’ve passed along items such as Illinois legislation and Cook County matters from the Journal to my daughter who lives in Evanston, and she has circulated them to folks who were grateful for the info.

Thank you and your staff for bringing positive items of Lansing into our homes.

Thank you to The Lansing Journal. Sitting down with a cup of tea or coffee and a newspaper makes me happy! Reading about the neighborhood and the towns all around. Having an update of what’s going on. Something I did not know about. Wow! I have more of an all-around view.

I want you to know that I admire you for all you are doing with The Lansing Journal. Your love for Lansing, your work to keep us informed and to draw us together as a community is both inspiring and encouraging to me. I love Lansing too, and it means so much to know that you and many others are working to build up our community.

Now, who wouldn’t tear up while reading that!

4. Our reporters deserve to be paid much more than they are.

Most of our reporters are freelancers, and The Lansing Journal pays them a flat rate per story. Depending on the kind of story it is, the number of interviews needed, the length of those interviews, and a variety of other factors, a reporter might invest anywhere from 3 hours to 30 hours into an assignment. All for the same flat fee. They are willing to do that because they believe local journalism makes a difference.

Often when I ask our readers for money, I talk about the costs of “reporting, publishing, and delivering local news.” That word “reporting” involves all those freelance journalists and all the hours they spend on all those articles. “Reporting” also includes the hours Managing Editor Josh Bootsma puts into editing those articles and formatting them for our website. Everyone on our writing team deserves to be paid much more than they are. The Lansing Journal can do that only with the help of our readers.

5. Not everyone believed in us right away.

A couple weeks ago I had coffee with someone who was around in 2017 when The Lansing Journal launched. He told me that back then he didn’t think this newspaper would last long. He admitted he was surprised we are still around.

I smiled when I heard that.

Maybe I’m surprised too that we’re still around. I didn’t know what I was getting into, and the world has gone through incredible changes in the short time we’ve been publishing.

But right from the start enough of you did believe in us. In me. In Lansing. In local journalism.

I still remember standing in the parking lot of the Lansing Post Office a few days after our September 13, 2017, print edition (our first issue) was delivered to homes in Lansing. I tore open one of the envelopes I had picked up from The Lansing Journal’s PO Box. Inside was a handwritten note and a $50 check from someone I didn’t know. “Dear Madam and Sirs,” the note began, “Please accept the enclosed gift of $50 to help cover some of your expenses. It’s a great idea to have a local Lansing paper.”

I still have the 2017 note I received from an investor who believed in us from the very beginning. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

What made this guy believe in us when others didn’t? I don’t know. But I am grateful.

That belief has kept us going — and growing — for almost five years now. Despite the doubters.

6. I need to ask again (and again)

I know that not everyone who reads the local news we provide every day can afford to pay for it. I also know that some people can — and we need you. We especially need people to sign up as monthly supporters because those gifts help us achieve sustainability.

So I need to put myself out there and ask again: Will you support your community newspaper today?
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Donation Total: $12.00 Monthly

Thank you, friends. We sincerely appreciate every gift. But I want to make a special, final appeal for monthly givers — that’s a huge need for us. Monthly gifts provide the sustainability that allows us to plan and prepare the coverage our community deserves. So if you are able, will you keep that checkbox checked and make your gift a monthly gift?

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