Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hard Economic Times

Hollywood aside, we are selective about whom we solicit. We don’t chase after government money. After all, we write about hot button issues like teen sexuality and school reform. Accepting grants from, say, a federal agency that promotes “abstinence only” would be a conflict for us and our articles no doubt would be challenged by the agency. We’re often critical of school districts, state government and local politicians; taking their money in one hand and criticizing them with the other would be hypocritical.

There are foundations that will never lend their name or support to L.A. Youth. Mostly it’s because of our teen sexuality articles and gay/lesbian stories. One foundation thinks we’re pro-abortion, though we’ve never take a position in favor or against. A few object to our stories on birth control and the discussion of condoms. I used to submit grant requests on the gamble that nobody at these foundations would bother to read our newspaper. But they did. Foundations provide roughly 80% of our financial support, and the competition is fierce. The number of non-profits in America increases each year.

Economic downturns like the one we’re in since fall 2008 can ravage the stock portfolios of foundations, leaving less money to spread around. Disasters like the 2005 hurricanes in Louisiana and Mississippi and the events of 9/11 quickly draw millions in charitable dollars. We usually feel the competition for grants intensifying about six months after such events.

We lost a major supporter this year, the Los Angeles Times. For 20 years they donated the printing. The Times is in bankruptcy and financial re-structuring so we must pay them for printing and delivery starting with our Sept. 2009 issue. This is a body blow. The press run will be reduced from 120,000 per issue to 60,000, forcing us to eliminate the libraries. We must raise $60,000 to cover the costs for the 2009-2010 school year and the Times offered $15,000 credit for printing and distribution. Teachers and teens want hard copies even though all our stories are available online.

This will be the most challenging school year in our history.

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