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Publishers Corner: Reimagining the future of the Press

Earlier this year, we formed a steering committee of active community members to work with us to envision and plan our path forward. We fine-tuned our mission statement and identified the need for broader community engagement—both in producing the Press and ensuring its long-term financial sustainability.

In our first two years of publication, a small handful of community-minded residents gave generously to the tune of $160,000 to help us launch the paper and to fund the inevitable operating deficits. Thanks in large part to the volunteer spirit of those who have reported, edited, proofread, and coordinated printing and delivery, the Press has been in the mailboxes of two-thirds of Harvard households for nearly 13 years.

In 2015, as startup funding was dwindling, we asked for help and readers and advertisers responded, increasing their support with additional donations, and more recently, becoming sustaining subscribers and advertisers. Such support has been enormously helpful, and we are deeply grateful. Thank you!

We’re now confident of breaking even, at least for awhile longer, but we are less assured about the longer term. Nor can we expand to cover a growing list of issues that demand attention.

Once again, we need help—from everyone. We need those who have already signed up as sustainers to continue that commitment. When the renewal notice comes, please renew as a sustainer. If it makes it easier, sign up to have a regular amount (monthly, quarterly, annually) withdrawn from your checking account. Just like your phone or electric bill, make your Press sustaining subscription part of your household budget.

To avoid annual fundraising appeals, we will also ask those who can to make larger donations—which would ensure funding for growth and ensure that our staff is adequately compensated for their work. We are working with organizational experts to find a way that all who want to can “own a piece of the Press,” without compromising the independence that has been a hallmark of the paper.

And finally, recognizing that some of our readers may be able to make more substantial donations if they can take a tax deduction, we are exploring options to have a nonprofit adjunct organization to fund tax-exempt activities. Not everything we do qualifies for tax-exempt funding (e.g., Press opinion and editorial, reporter point-of-view), but enough does that if having a tax-exempt support organization would significantly enhance fundraising, it may be worth the extra time and cost. Because it is a lengthy and expensive process to obtain IRS approval of a new nonprofit, it would be helpful to hear from those who would make significant donations to help us determine if the cost and effort are worthwhile.

As one member of our steering committee said recently, “A great community newspaper needs the community behind it.” In August and September the steering committee will hold outreach sessions to inform the community of ways to participate and will also announce new initiatives such as a speaker series. If you don’t want to wait, give us a call or email to apply to help with the editorial, production, or business needs of the Press.

Check out our list of current sustainers to appreciate that more than 20% of all subscribers have enrolled as sustainers. Now would be a good time to add your name to the list, renew your sustaining subscription, or inform us of your interest in making a larger contribution—all ways to help ensure the Press will endure. And if you want to roll up your sleeves and be part of our team, or maybe you dream of one day owning and operating the Press, let us hear from you!

These are ideas to mull over during the long summer days. Meanwhile we’ll be back in your mailbox August 9 after our summer hiatus.

We look forward to continuing the conversation in August and providing the town with top-quality journalism for what we hope will be many years to come. And, as always, we welcome your thoughts.

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