When Riese and I were talking about this fundraiser, she asked me to pump up the urgency in our first fundraiser email. I responded that wow, I did not expect that from her because historically, her feedback has always been to dial back the urgency. It’s a proven fundraising fact that urgency is what inspires people to give, but urgent language can also make a fundraiser feel like an unexpected emergency when our fundraisers have been, in recent years, an expected part of our business plan. That was true this year, too. So what’s changed?
Riese replied: “I think this is the most urgent I have ever felt.”
So, there you have it. We need to raise $145,000 over the next several weeks or it’s over. Are we irresponsible? No. We manage our money, find places where we can make cuts (mostly with tech) and do our best to earn revenue from a variety of streams. Do we have cash reserves? No.
Do we have any other way to get this money? No.
Rather than do a spring fundraiser, in February, Riese applied for and received a massive loan from the SBA’s EIDL Program. She honestly did this to give ME a break, to give all of us a break.
But without collateral to guarantee more loans or lines of credit, that’s all the debt we can take on, which means our financial wiggle room is zero. It’s also the first time we’ve had any debt at all. We don’t fundraise unless we need to. Now, we need to.
The following is an excerpt from our Slack conversation about this:
Riese: we owe the SBA $200,000
so if we don’t survive then it won’t just be the sadness of not surviving, it will be that along with the fact that i personally will have to spend the rest of my life repaying them
Nico: right which we really do not want
i do not want that for you
Riese: yeah i don’t want to live that life
after spending my whole life building this place instead of my own financial security
it is more urgent than it’s been before
and it just feels like we’re at another breaking point where what we have isn’t enough
Nico: like in terms of money or in terms of people / resources?
Nico: i mean, pessimistically, going into 2023 is really scary, but also, anya gives me hope!
Riese: yes! she does and already this year we’ve made so much more than we did the past two years through ad revenue and Q Digital has been great as well
~ End convo ~
If we can’t raise the funds we need, we’ll all lose our substantial archive of resources and history on everything from lesbian sex to queer TV to countless critical discussions on identity and politics and relationships. (It’s possible those archives could even be seized as “assetswp_postsif we can’t repay the loan, we’re not sure!) We’ll all be scattered to the winds, no longer changing the face of media, no longer giving queer and trans writers some of their first bylines or unheard-of freedom to write the weird shit THEY actually WANT to write. Autostraddle is a nexus point, a gathering place, a space of connection for so many queer people. Losing that would be so, so hard on all of us, on countless people.
Our continued existence is not proof that we will KEEP existing if you, our readers, don’t do something [If you can. We know many folks who read us are broke and it’s not like any of us are personally rolling in it]. But, much like getting one paycheck does not mean that you can just keep buying groceries forever, getting enough money to keep this place running for a period of time does not mean that we have infinite resources. At this time, the options ultimately come down to: A) have a fundraiser or B) make cuts, and we can’t really make cuts! [We’ve come here to chew bubblegum and make queer media…and we’re all out of bubblegum.] During a time of such sharp inflation, we need to be raising rates and salaries, not cutting them. We’d hemorrhage people! And it would be wrong to do it! And our people are what make us, well, us. And our ethics are also a huge part of what makes Autostraddle, Autostraddle. We’re already under-resourced, and we just can’t scrape the bottom of this barrel of human power any longer.
When I was reading survey responses, a few people said that they don’t support us because they think all media should be free, or that they just don’t pay for anything they read on the internet — not because of financial constraints, but just because they don’t believe in paying for it. The thing is, though, someone, somewhere along the line has to pay for it. Advertising alone has never worked as a sustainable business strategy for small publications. We can’t not pay our people because then the content would only be made by people who have the setup to work for free which is how we (as with many things) started but not where we’re interested in going because it’s super limiting!!! We also don’t want that money to have to come from Riese being tied to a loan for the rest of her life either!!! Ideally, we’d live in a world where we reallocated the resources we spend on weapons and war, on policing and prisons, into caring for people’s physical needs and to the arts and there would be a beautiful unceasing fountain of writing and reading for everyone, but we really don’t live in that world, y’all. So, if we want something, it’s going to have to be something we do ourselves.
And we CAN do it ourselves, this community, together. The queer community knows more than anyone that if we want stuff for-us and by-us, the funding often has to come from us. What you all did for us during the first years of the pandemic is something I’ll never forget, as long as I live. And I believe that we can do it again. We need you to do it again. We need your help.
A+ Memberships are the main reason Autostraddle has survived these past few years. (as A+ members can see in our Annual Report). But we need more members in order to reach a greater level of sustainability. The more members we have, the less we might have to fundraise. Despite inflation, we haven’t raised the cost of an A+ membership, because we want to keep it available to as broad a group as possible. A+ starts at $4 a month and we’ve continuously added new discounts, bonus content, and more, all for actually doing good with your gay dollars. A+ members keep this whole thing from imploding.
Hahaha but we have fun here. I’m going to stop hammering this nail, now. You’re smart. You get it. So, how’s this fundraiser going to go? It starts off with this post and the revival of everyone’s favorite extremely informational Yes, Fundraising is Part of Our Business Model: Here’s Why post. Then, we’re going to hear from our senior team and writers. Editor in Chief Carmen Phillips is going to dive into her personal history for us, Anya Richkind, Director of Brand Partnerships, is going to talk to us about advertising at Autostraddle, and a very mysterious figure, Fright Dyke, is going to pay us a visit. Everyone will be saying some hopefully interesting things! We’re going to have a pop-up discord just for A+ members, too! (More on that soon.) Much excitement!
We’ve switched up the perks system this time because I would not survive another custom perks packing session with my mind still intact. Like a cook in the kitchen waving a spatula in the air and screaming NO SUBSTITUTIONS, the perks you get are the perks at the level you choose. Standardized packages only!! Put in your address if you want perks! You are beautiful and I want you to have these beautiful perks!!! You’re gonna like ’em!
AND THERE ARE PERKS
- Stickers! Designed by En Tze Loh and A. Andrews!
- Magnets! (for your fridge or other metal surfaces) Designed by En Tze Loh and A. Andrews!
- A Gay Agenda sticker pack for your agenda, calendar, or journal! Designed by En Tze Loh!
- A black satin-lined zipper pouch with a peach pattern on it. Designed by Art Director Viv Le!
- And a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle with an illustration by A. Andrews!
Here’s a closer look at our Gay Agenda sticker pack!
We’re giving our A+ members a discount on these perks in recognition of their continued support, but whether you want to sign up for A+ or not, we cannot wait to send you some hot, gay packages in the mail!!! If you want to sign up for A+, it only starts at $4 / month (so you’ll notice, $1 less than the total discount, just for the sticker level of perks) and you get bonus content, the ability to ask our team advice questions, member-only discounts with cool brands and invites to pop-up discord servers where you can meet other members.
What else, what else. Well, we’ve GOT SOME GOALS!
- $100,000: Puzzle Time! Hitting this goal will give us the money we need to put our plan for queer crosswords (and more!) into play. (Get it?)
- $145,000: Events! [And someone to help us!] We simply can’t move forward on the return to live events without some expertise in our corner. Once hitting this milestone we’ll start the search.
- And also!!! In 2023: We’re going to be exploring having audio versions of articles available onsite and maybe even in podcast form. This costs money, of course: readers, equipment, branding and production — but we’re committed to exploring it in 2023, so long as we’re all still here!
So there you have it: puzzles, the return of events, and audio. We know what you all love! You responded to our survey and we’re listening.
In past fundraisers, you all have supported us as we’ve done a number of things:
- pursued improvements to our SEO,
- hired more writers,
- found a new Director of Brand Partnerships,
- raised rates and salaries,
- and took on a slew of internal improvements.
Our members and supporters have given us the most valuable resource — more time. Our SEO is in fact better and we’re seeing more traffic from Google. We did in fact hire a class of new writers, which is an important, core function of Autostraddle as a training ground for queer and trans talent. You’ll hear more from Anya about her work with advertising and we do have hope that 2023 will be an even better year for us when it comes to ad sales. Nothing is easy, but it is possible for us to keep making things better and more sustainable with your help. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. I believe in us.
SO HOW CAN YOU HELP?
You can give! (And get perks!)
You can join A+! And if you’re already an A+ member, you can get discounted perks!
You can contribute to the member pool! (Or avail yourself of the pool if it will make your life better and you qualify for it!)
Ten years from now, I want Autostraddle to be getting ready to celebrate its 25th anniversary. That’s the future we want and it’s the future we can make happen for ourselves. Together, we’ve got this.