Reader’s Gifts Exceed $12,000 Matching Offer, Helping Launch Gazette’s Nonprofit Era

Start-up contributions by supporters of The Hardwick Gazette have significantly exceeded the generous $12,000 offered by an anonymous benefactor to support the online publication’s conversion to a nonprofit organization.

$14,319.43 in contributions were made in the first three months of 2024 to fund NEK Public Journalism (NEKPJ), the Gazette’s nonprofit publisher beginning with the January 10 edition. The matching campaign’s total of just over $26k, when added to other major start-up funding, brings the Gazette’s income before advertising to just under $40k for the year’s first quarter.

197 total contributions to the matching campaign ranged from $5 to $1,000 and averaged $72 each. That average, roughly twice the 2023 subscription price, means donors have helped provide the paper free or at reduced cost to another 200 people who, for whatever reason, have not chosen to make a donation.

The Gazette editor and board report that most of the start-up tasks have been accomplished. While there is more to be done, producing the paper each week is becoming routine, as it has been for much of the Gazette’s 135 years.

The Gazette is now produced with a more than full-time volunteer reporter-editor. Two paid staff members handle production and administrative duties. Both work more than half-time, but usually less than full-time.

A handful of contract writers and columnists, along with a photographer are paid. Volunteer community journalists, student writers and sometimes interns round out what goes into the paper that’s in front of you now.

Even with those contributions it’s costing about $3,000 more each month to produce the online paper than contributions and ads are bringing in. Returning to print will cost even more. That’s a project that the board is currently evaluating. It will almost certainly bring an increase in readers, but also an increase in costs.

More readers for the paper mean advertisers will see more value. More advertisers will add to the Gazette’s revenue and bring a benefit to readers by making them aware of useful goods and services, plus events and activities available in the area.

Almost 700 readers now click on the weekly “What’s new in the Hardwick Gazette” email to read or download the paper. That is up from just under 480 in the first weeks of the new year. The average visit to the Gazette website lasts just over two minutes. That doesn’t include time spent by people after they download the paper in PDF form to read at their leisure.

2,500 unique visitors made over 2,700 visits to read the April Fool’s Day edition and the regular Wednesday, April, 3, issue, as well as all the rest of the content there last week.

Obituaries and police reports have been the top items of interest to online visitors each week.

The sale of the Hardwick Inn several weeks ago, last week’s pieces about Cooperation Vermont’s plans for the future of Goddard College and dueling eateries in Cabot rank at the top for reader interest in individual stories since early January.

Interest in coverage of the Hazen Union boys and girls basketball team’s trips to the finals at the Barre Aud last month is close behind.

19,600 visitors to the Gazette’s website have been there over 22,000 times since January. Those who’ve spent the longest amount of time at the site have come from VTDigger and Marshfield’s Jaquith Public Library.

Facebook offers its own statistics, showing that just over 2,000 people have liked, shared or commented on the Gazette’s posts in the last week and 20k in the last 28 days. Fourteen percent of visitors there come from Hardwick, 3% each from Craftsbury, East Hardwick, and Greensboro (including Greensboro Bend), then 2% each are from Morrisville, Barre, Woodbury, Cabot, and Montpelier. 97% are from the U.S., with only 11 visitors from each of Canada and the United Kingdom, then less from other countries.

Even with more readers and more advertisers, grants from foundations and corporations will be important to creating a sustainable future for the Gazette. That requires IRS nonprofit status.

The board of NEKPJ is just weeks away from completing an arrangement with a fiscal sponsor that will allow contributions to be tax deductible. That extra step became necessary because the IRS backlog of 501c3 applications is so long it will take seven months from the time the application was submitted in late December until it is likely to even be assigned to an examiner to review, as NEKPJ learned in January from U.S. Rep. Becca Balint’s office.

The Hardwick Gazette publishes weekly on Wednesdays (or often Tuesday evening.)

Printed copies can be read at the Craftsbury Public Library, Greensboro Free Library, and Jeudevine Memorial Library in Hardwick. Copies are also available at Hardwick’s Village Restaurant, Front Seat Coffee, The Civic Standard, and Nikki the Barber at Tracy’s Clip Joint.

The Hardwick Gazette now depends upon and appreciates receiving donations in any amount at the website HardwickGazette.org, or by mail to: P.O. Box 9, Hardwick, VT 05843. Those donations will retroactively qualify as tax deductible when NEKPJ receives its IRS 501c3 designation, but, of course, your particular tax consequences depend on many factors and you should consult a proficient tax professional before making decisions that affect your taxes.

Paul Fixx, Editor

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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