It’s pledge week here at PBS. Er, I mean, First Things . I wish I did mean PBS, since then we could count on large corporate donors¯ Mobil! Exxon! Mutual of Omaha! Bob’s Big Boy! ¯to take up the slack. Unfortunately, we depend on the kindness of friends to help us continue publishing what is now the nation’s most influential journal of religion and public life.
A letter, requesting donations, went out this week to those who have previously given to our projects. It feels strange to ask the people who have already donated to donate again , but the simple truth that all nonprofits know is this: Those who have given once are the most likely to give again.
Here on the website, however, we’re asking even those who only know us through our recently revamped Internet presence to consider donating . First Things is an expensive project; our circulation has now topped 33,000, and to fill, print, and mail those issues requires more than they bring in.
That’s not to say that First Things is in deep trouble. On the contrary, in terms of growth, outreach, and subscription and advertising revenues, the journal is doing better than ever. Our circulation is at an all-time high, and it is considerably higher than that of any other ecumenical journal of religious thought in the world. More than 20,000 people visit our website a day, and a growing audience thinks firstthings.com is the place to go for the timeliest and liveliest commentary on religion, culture, and public life. With your help, we intend, God willing, to keep this enterprise going for a long time.
But we do need your help. Compared with similar publications, First Things is a very lean operation, and we intend to keep it that way. In-house prepress operations saved more than $25,000 last year, and careful planning of our page counts has saved us thousands more on printing and postage.
But the fact is that, as circulation, advertising, and influence are up, so also are the costs of marketing, producing, and delivering the magazine you say you love. This very month, increased postal rates will result in a real cost increase of about $10,000 for the remaining seven months of 2007 alone and more than $15,000 next year. These are direct costs that we cannot easily pass on to our readers.
At the beginning of this year, our printer announced a manufacturing price increase that, along with last year’s paper price increase, will cost First Things at least $10,000 more to produce its issues.
By doubling our Junior Fellowship program last year, we now accomplish more work than might have been done by a more costly permanent staffer. Yet, operating the program year to year still comes with such annual costs as housing, office overhead, and the stipend paid to each fellow. Last year, we added a superb managing editor, Anthony Sacramone, who not only attends to the nuts and bolts of getting out the magazine each month but the website activities as well. We moved forward with all these staff additions and changes, training, and support without the substantial support of one of our largest foundation donors (it closed its doors last year for good).
But, once again, our friends were there when we needed them most. This year, however, continuing our operations will require about $180,000 in additional revenues. It is the simple fact that First Things could not survive without the support of our valued friends and subscribers. So please do respond to this appeal as generously as you are able.
On our donations page , you’ll see the various ways you donate: by credit card, check, or phone. For a gift of $1,000 or more, Fr. Neuhaus will send you a personally autographed copy of his marvelous new book, The Best of "The Public Square": Book Three .