I’ve never felt more at the end of my rope in this role or as uncertain of our future as I am right now. I’ve also never felt the extent of this gnawing guilt and anxiety that has made writing this post, draft after draft, harder than it’s ever been.
I’m desperate because it feels like we’ve come up against a wall, financially and in terms of workload. I’ve barely finished my tasks from the last fundraiser, and now we’re working on this one. I’m desperate because the $200k SBA loan still looms over us, and that means we can’t take out any more credit. Every which way I look, I see other publications, the ones that have given queer and trans voices space and money, closing. While it’s true our advertising revenue was up 200% last year from the year prior — after we hired a Director of Brand Partnerships and began our partnership with QDigital — the economy right now is too volatile to expect we’ll see a similar level of Y2Y growth this year.
I’m guilty because I feel like we’re asking too much. This whole time we’ve shifted to a fundraising model, I‘ve held that asking for funds from our queer community is necessary, that if people can’t give, they won’t, that I can trust that you as readers will make the decisions that are best for you.
We want to tell you that we have it all figured out, that we know exactly what our next steps are. I want to promise you that we have a series of ambitious projects that will be put immediately into effect when we reach our goal, that all that is standing between us and a glorious future is your money. But the truth is that all that is standing between us and any future at all is your money.
We need to raise $175,000 by March 29th, or we’ll be gone before Pride.
On top of it all, I’m gritting my teeth with anxiety about building momentum for this fundraiser because we can’t promise you any shiny new things. To do so would not demonstrate the kind of shrewdness that has allowed us to survive so far. The best I can offer is that we’ll still be here. A queer media outlet like ours should not be able to operate as ethically as we’ve tried to — and survive.
Before my time — because it was a time before Autostraddle could afford things like an A+ and Fundraising Director — Autostraddle met its revenue needs without fundraising or even much ad revenue because everybody was making it work on slim salaries and a very small budget. It was like holding your breath underwater — something you can will yourself to do only because eventually you won’t have to do it anymore. It had to be temporary. They couldn’t live like that forever. Doing two fundraisers a year, like we did during the pandemic to avoid cuts, was another one of those things we managed to do because it was temporary, but the toll it took on our staff was unsustainable. Going back to those places isn’t an option for any of us. But spending more than we currently are isn’t an option, either. We already have some tough times on the horizon. We don’t have the money to do raises to keep pace with inflation. But we’re committed to putting our heads down and figuring it out.
What we need is the money that will buy us the time we need to actually get together and strategize. We have a lot to figure out this year — but without your help, we won’t have the time we need to actually figure it out.
We are, in most ways, an unparalleled success story. We’ve outlived nearly every single one of the competitors we faced when we launched in 2009, and many others that have popped up, burned brightly, and shut down in the 14 intervening years. We’ve watched LGBTQ+ verticals launch at venture-funded sites and do mass layoffs when said funding dried up. We’ve seen the eventual closure of the queer group blogs, all the women-focused offshoots of major LGBTQ+ media conglomerates, all the indie feminist blogs and websites. We never thought we’d see Bitch Magazine close. We never thought we’d see our traffic exceed Aft*rE**en’s and then watch their site implode and transform into a TERF cesspool. We’ve kept going, kept changing, kept surviving, while never losing that focus on community, on building connections, on presenting writers who are more than just bylines, who are celebrated as whole entire people.
We’ve managed to survive this long because of those unique relationships we’ve built together with you, because you step up to save us when we need you, because you choose to keep this space here for everyone who needs us.
But that leaves me coming to you and saying that we published almost 2,000 articles last year, is that enough to be worthy of survival? We paid 145+ queer and trans writers — is that enough to be worth keeping around? We kept this community going and did our best to hold space during some of our most difficult hours — does that qualify us for continuation? Even in a world where there is a rise in anti-LGBTQ hate and Christo-fascism, we put our faces on the internet as queer and trans people and will continue to do so — is that just a nice sentiment or is it something deserving of financial support?
You get to decide.
Other places have closed. Other publications have opened, too. I love seeing people start new publications. But if we can’t raise these funds, we’ll 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. 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. We’re something more together than we are as separate individuals.
It’s not an easy, profitable, capitalist dream to run an indie queer media outlet. We WANT to keep a space that gives our peers opportunities, that gives our voices space, that gives our opinions credence — open. We want to, ideally, keep our jobs.
So, we can either collectively choose to have it or collectively choose to end it.
And that’s how consensus building occurs; it’s dollar by dollar, donation by donation — no matter how big or small, each dollar counts in this decision.
You might think I’m being dramatic, but the thing is I FEEL dramatic. Things feel dire.
So, what do you think? Is it worth keeping us here? What about for the rest of the year? Will you help us see Pride? Will you help us hit our goal in two weeks?
SO HOW CAN YOU HELP?
You can give! (And get perks! See below!)
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!)
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