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My birthday drive to 55

by Melanie Jongsma, Publisher

LANSING, Ill. (January 13, 2022) – January is my birthday month, and this year it’s what some might call a “milestone” birthday. On January 25 I will be 55 years old.

Hard to believe, isn’t it?

Wow, 55 years — time flies when you’re having fun!

As in years past, I am donating my birthday to The Lansing Journal. This is a tradition inspired by social media giant Facebook — they launched a “birthday fundraising tool” a few years ago that allows people to donate their birthday to a nonprofit cause. Facebook then helps promote the fundraiser and facilitate payments. In other words, you give your birthday, and your Facebook friends give money to your cause in honor of your birthday.

It’s a nice idea, but Facebook’s birthday fundraising tool doesn’t work as well for causes that are not nonprofit — like The Lansing Journal. So here at The Lansing Journal, we use the “give your birthday” concept, and we adapt the tools.

Previous birthday gifts

When I donated my birthday in January 2019, friends gave enough money to The Lansing Journal to help cover the cost of an additional print issue. We published a special edition in mid-April that year to summarize Lansing’s election results. That print issue would not have been possible without those birthday gifts.

When I donated my birthday in January 2020, 54 new people signed up as supporters of The Lansing Journal, and 35 of those were monthly givers. We didn’t know it at the time, but those gifts helped get us through what turned out to be a strange and difficult year.

In 2021, readers contributed $5,000 in birthday gifts to The Lansing Journal. That amount allowed us to bring on additional reporters and increase coverage of our local schools in all three Lansing districts for a year.

So these birthday fundraisers accomplish measurable good, and we are grateful for everyone who comes to the party.

Big milestones

Now, often when people reach a birthday that ends in a 5 or a 0, they plan a bigger party or a special celebration. I’ve been thinking about how to do that as I give this milestone birthday to The Lansing Journal. “After all,” I told myself, “55 is a big number — would people respond if I made a big ask?”

But because I love this community newspaper (and many of you do too), I was willing to take the risk.

Here’s the ask:

In honor of my 55th birthday, would 55 of you sign up as
monthly supporters of The Lansing Journal?

(You can say Yes right away!)

Some background: Why monthly, and why 55?

This summer newspaper consultant Phillip Smith told me he was impressed with our subscriber numbers. For The Lansing Journal to have nearly 4,000 subscribers in a town of 12,000 households is unusual, he said. He has consulted with many other newspapers who have much smaller lists though they serve much larger towns. “It’s clear you are providing a service that is valued by the community,” he told me.

But another number was more concerning to Smith, who studies these things: our number of monthly supporters. A healthy newspaper typically sees at least 10 percent of its subscribers sign up to give monthly. We were at about 3.8 percent this summer. Today, after December’s response to our matching gift (thank you!) we are up to 4.5%.

If we can add 55 monthly supporters in January, that will put us at 6.1% — more than halfway to healthy!

Here’s your chance to sign up:

Party favors

This past December when we asked people to sign up as monthly supporters of this newspaper, we had a generous matching gift that was a big motivator. As a result, 27 new monthly supporters signed up within a week.

I don’t have a matching gift this time. And I’m looking for twice as many new monthly supporters!

So let me add something as a “party favor,” to help you feel like celebrating with me: When you sign up as a new monthly supporter of The Lansing Journal this month, The Lansing Journal will give you two weeks of digital advertising for whatever event or organization you choose — a local business, your church, the garage sale you want to have this summer, your high school musical, really anything that’s suitable for local newspaper publication.

Let’s get to 55 together

This community newspaper gives news and information every day at no charge, but it costs money to produce. That’s why I’m donating my birthday again this year. Our community needs this newspaper. Our community deserves this newspaper.

In honor of my 55th birthday, will you sign up as a monthly supporter of The Lansing Journal?

Thank you for celebrating with me!

ABOUT THE LANSING JOURNAL: The Lansing Journal is a free newspaper, and it can be free only because of local organizations who choose to advertise with us, and readers who choose to support us. Thanks to those business investments and personal contributions, we are able to deliver quality community content to readers every single day.

Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.


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