ASJA’s 70th Anniversary Campaign: Doing Good and Feeling Good at the Same Time

Giving to others – even a small amount – feels good, that’s a proven scientific fact. Just check out these testimonials from ASJA members.  In this, its 70th year, ASJA has undertaken an ambitious project: to raise $150,000 for its ASJA Educational Foundation. These funds will be used to reinvent the website as an educational portal for current and prospective members, which will in turn build the educational programs required for independent nonfiction writers to excel in today’s digital environment. All of this will be done with an eye to emerging voices from traditionally marginalized groups.

A couple of recent developments help sweeten the donation pot. A long-time ASJA member has challenged members with a $10,000 matching donation for all ASJA Anniversary Fund contributions that come in before December 31. And any time you shop on Amazon (which for some of us is a lot!), you can start every purchase by clicking onto Select American Society of Journalists and Authors Charitable Trust (ASJACT) as your charity, and Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of the price of your eligible purchases. Click here to default ASJACT as your charity of choice. 

ASJA Confidential interviewed Sherry Beck Paprocki, ASJA past president and Brooke Stoddard, campaign chair, about the challenges of this important campaign.

Why such a massive fundraising effort?  How has it gone so far? 

Paprocki: ASJA’s board has had conversations for many years about how to shape the organization for future generations. We want and need to create a sustainable organization that will serve upcoming generations of writers. During other conversations, members have continuously discussed the usability of ASJA’s website. These two conversations were ongoing when the board agreed that perhaps it made total sense to recreate ASJA’s website into more of an educational hub of activity, not only for all writers but for those who are just starting out and in underserved groups. A new website would provide the vehicle necessary for more online teaching by ASJA’s very knowledgeable members—on matters involving freelance business, the craft of writing, First Amendment rights and many more—and for upcoming generations of writers.

So far, we’ve raised about $30,000. About $10,000 of that came from the Charity Buzz auction last spring. The rest has come from members making significant donations. Of course, the match gift that has just been offered has the ability to raise the campaign earnings very quickly to $50,000.

How will the funds be used?

Stoddard: The Anniversary Campaign was designed with the intent of a total upgrade of technology that would enable the educational hub to be created. This is the very beginning of an effort that looks toward ASJA’s future. The campaign goal is $150,000. Good websites are astronomically expensive, especially one that will be interactive, archival and highly designed, one that could even break new ground in terms of helping writers achieve their goals.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with this fundraising effort?

Paprocki: Writers aren’t natural fundraisers. Even though ASJA has received some great pro bono advice and some of ASJA’s leaders have attended National Fundraising Day, thanks to Kellen’s affiliation with that group. ASJA’s $150,000 goal is a pittance when we look around and consider what other organizations and associations are raising in today’s world.

Please tell us more about the $10K incentive….how it works and what spurred the anonymous member to make such a generous offer.

Paprocki: This anonymous contributor knows, in detail, the dire need for updating ASJA’s technology. He is driven to help ASJA improve its offerings. By pledging $10,000 to the campaign, he wants other ASJA members to rise to the occasion to make this campaign a success. Personally, I have been struck by the great generosity of the ASJA members who have already contributed. Those contributions have varied from $5 to this $10,000 pledge. Any donation helps. This contributor will offer a match of one dollar for every dollar that you contribute.

How will this campaign benefit ASJA overall and writers in general?

Stoddard:  Completely aside from the matching gift offer, donations to the capital campaign have tremendous leveraged advantages. The effort to make over the ASJA website into a national educational hub will: 1) go a long way to assuring a solid future for ASJA; 2) attract and empower underrepresented writer demographics including immigrant, minorities, low-income and LGBTQ); and 3) strengthen writer and researcher skills for decades to come, skills that are required for a just and vibrant democracy.

ASJA began when writers were submitting their independent stories to magazine editors on paper scrolled around a typewriter’s platen and delivered to readers in paper magazines. Communication has become increasingly digital, as has learning, research, and networking. If ASJA is to serve purveyors of research and thought, it has to have a significant presence in digital space. The ASJA Educational Foundation website will be that presence, and its impact will be profound.

I plan on taking advantage of the matching donation, which for me has the added appeal of a BOGO coupon. How much will hinge on whether I get a potentially lucrative ghostwriting contract…one that, by the way, I found through ASJA.

Ready to contribute? Visit the Anniversary Campaign funding page to make a one-time or recurring donation. The campaign is looking for an experienced grant-writer among the ASJA membership. If you can help, please contact board member Jennie Helderman.