By Richard Prince, Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education
WASHINGTON - The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is projecting a $240,000 deficit for the year and its current cash flow is "at dangerously low levels," Michele Salcedo, the NAHJ president, said in an announcement on the association website.
Salcedo made the revelation in the seventh paragraph of a "Season's Greetings" message from the organization. Posted on Tuesday and e-mailed Wednesday, it began, "The holidays are hard upon us. Many of us are rushing around buying last minute gifts, sending out holiday cards to those we hold dear but don’t see as often as we’d like, getting ready for feasts and fiestas."
In the eighth paragraph, the message said that "The board approved in a conference call on Dec. 18 another bridge loan to be taken from the stock fund, this one for $25,000. The same terms apply as the one taken in August: It is to be repaid by June 1 at 3 percent simple interest. The vote was 8-4."
In August, the board authorized borrowing up to $50,000 from an investment fund, but Salcedo wrote then, "Fortunately, a sponsor payment arrived in the office on Friday making it unnecessary to activate the bridge loan. Stocks have not been sold or money withdrawn."
In the latest message, Salcedo disclosed:
The "challenges to raise revenue to meet expenses continue, and the NAHJ board of directors and staff have implemented a number of austerity measures. We’ve made some $270,000 in cuts in overall expenses — including personnel and benefits, a one-week furlough for staff, accounting services, audiovisual costs and printing. And we’re not done. To ensure accountability, we will do a financial audit. Still, we are forecasting that NAHJ will end the year with around a $240,000 deficit.
"At the October board meeting in Atlanta, we set a goal for the board to raise $36,000 by the end of the year. We are nowhere near meeting that goal. That shortfall, coupled with outstanding pledges, corporate contributions, and sponsorships, has put NAHJ’s current cash flow at dangerously low levels."
Word of the NAHJ board's conference-call vote reached Journal-isms on Monday, but NAHJ officers declined to confirm on the record that such a vote was taken.
Board members then received a strongly worded message from an NAHJ officer that " 'leaking' info about NAHJ isn't being noble. It's pathetic. This ain't wikileaking inform about the war in Iraq. . . . We're not trying to hide anything. . . . where I come from, snitches get stitches."
The "Season's Greetings" notice is apparently the first to members of Saturday's decision. Salcedo continued in her message, "Obviously, we cannot continue with this route. More accurate budgeting practices are being put in place and we’ll have a detailed fundraising plan, with monthly goals not only for member donations, but also grants and sponsor donations, early next year.
"But for NAHJ to meet the financial challenges, we will continue to need the support of members. I am giving NAHJ $5,000 and challenge you to join me."
NAHJ has taken other steps to resolve its financial issues.
In November, Salcedo announced that the organization had decided "to nullify chapters that have been inactive for more than a year and reclaim their share of membership dues," and, as an emergency measure for 2011, to claim all incoming dues, funds that had been split 50-50 with local chapters."
The annual conference is the major source of revenue for most of the journalist of color organizations.Attendance at this year's NAHJ conference in Denver was about 700, "a slight drop from the 800 people who attended last year's event in San Juan, Puerto Rico," which itself represented a drop in attendance, the NAHJ convention newspaper reported.
In October 2009, then-president O. Ricardo Pimentel warned members that "cuts in funding from sponsors, exhibitors and advertisers as well as registration at our annual convention have left NAHJ with a $300,000 budget shortfall. . . . if we do not raise more funds now, NAHJ will have to cease operations and stop all programs for the rest of the year."
The organization was able to weather that storm and continued its advocacy, its skills training for its members — and its fundraising.