Help Us Reach 1000 Members by 2020

It's a rough time to be an online publication, but you can make a measurable difference in helping us thrive

As we approach both a new year and a new decade, let’s be honest: we all kind of feel like crap. Media seems to be crumbling, and also the country, and also the planet. Electric Literature can’t fix that—we’re just an online literary magazine. But we can offer one place on the internet that elevates art, engenders thoughtful discussion, and isn’t beholden to corporate interests. It’s also one cause where your support makes a real and measurable difference. If you’re looking for a way to feel just a tiny bit of hope, good news: We’re trying to reach 1000 members by the beginning of 2020, and you, all by yourself, can get us 0.1 percent of the way to our goal. (By contrast, each vote counts for… you know what? Never mind, nobody needs those numbers.)

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Electric Literature’s survival over the last decade is due in large part to our adaptability. The publishing industry, particularly on the internet, is constantly changing and we’ve had to reinvent ourselves every year to stay out in front. EL was launched in the summer of 2009, and after six issues as a radically optimistic, multi-platform literary journal, we started over from scratch with $0 and plan to relaunch Electric Literature online.

Ten years and a few more relaunches later, we have become a $300,000 organization that has served over 15 million readers, 6 million of them in the last 2 years. We pay all of our writers, and everything we publish is free to read. 

But the truth is that, like many outwardly successful people who came of age in the 2000s, we’re often one missed check away from broke. Our budget is a patchwork of individual donations, fundraising events, grants, advertising, sponsorships, and merchandise sales. We make it work, but it’s not seamless. There have been many months when we zeroed out our bank account, or weren’t able to pay our staff and writers on time. We’ve faced five-figure budget deficits and sleepless nights, and been buffeted by the whims of companies much larger and better funded than us. (Twice in the last two years, we’ve had to start our membership campaign from scratch because of pivots by the platforms we relied on. That won’t happen again—we’ve since brought the whole thing in-house.)

Like many outwardly successful people who came of age in the 2000s, we’re often one missed check away from broke.

Our situation is not unusual. These are the realities of running an independent nonprofit that has no institutional affiliation or individual benefactor. The reason I’m sharing these struggles with you now is we’ve mapped a clear path for this to change. While one-off fundraising campaigns have helped us launch important initiatives like Read More Women and meet long-held goals like raising writers’ payments, if we are going to survive in the long term, we need to think long term.

That’s why I’ve set a goal of 1000 members by 2020. Each member of Electric Literature who contributes $5 or more a month gets exclusive benefits like store discounts and year-round submissions with a shorter response time, plus a tax deduction and the knowledge that you are part of our community—and an integral part of our survival.

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One thousand members would mean $60,000 annually, which would allow EL to:

  1. Always pay writers on time
  2. Stop using Amazon affiliate links
  3. Improve benefits for staff members
  4. Pay off credit card debt
  5. Cover unexpected and emergency expenses

In 2014 Electric Literature became a registered nonprofit so that our mission—to make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive—would always be our top priority. As an independent nonprofit, we can never be bought or sold, we have no owner and no corporate affiliation, and we exist through public support. This means that our only obligations are to our writers and to you, our readers. We’re invested in you, and we hope you also feel invested in us.

We’re starting this push on November 12, 2019 with 166 members, down 400 after yet another reset due to corporate whims. We’ll end it on New Year’s Eve at midnight.

For ten years, Electric Literature has been dancing perilously close to the edge. Now we’re asking you—834 of you, specifically—to be our guardrail. 

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