What does sustainability mean for the Beacon?

To be sustainable into the future, the Beacon ultimately needs the support of a substantial number of the 1,100 households in Andover. Last year we received donations from fewer than 320 households, down significantly from the year before. We need to reverse that trend and get closer to 350 households (still fewer than one in three Andover households!) supporting the Beacon with an annual donation.

Sustainability also means a large and engaged corps of volunteers who help create each monthly issue of the Beacon and help keep AndoverBeacon.com up-to-date … but that's a story for another time.

Why doesn’t the Beacon just sell more ads?

That’s a good question, but the answer is very complex. The Board of Directors has wrestled with that question for years. Here are the basic forces at work, in a nutshell.

The Beacon’s ad sales are inherently limited because:

  • it has a very limited circulation
  • there aren’t a lot of businesses in its circulation area
  • it must compete with several other area print publications for ad sales

On top of these inherent limitations, current business trends suggest that the Beacon’s ad sales won’t grow in the future because:

  • the current tough economic times have caused advertisers and potential advertisers to fail
  • the current tough economic times continue to suppress the creation of new businesses to replace businesses that fail
  • the type of business most likely to advertise in the Beacon — relatively small, very local businesses — are increasingly being gobbled up or squeezed out by larger, less local businesses
  • marketing choices for businesses just get wider and wider — Web sites, cable TV, satellite radio, YouTube, Facebook, infomercials, etc. — and the perceived value of newspaper ads in that mix of marketing choices gets lower and lower

Despite all this gloom and doom, we think we can maintain ad sales at about the current level for the foreseeable future. But in terms of increasing ad sales by about 30% (which is what we’d need to do to reach sustainability without increasing local donations) — well, that just doesn’t seem to be a viable option.

Why isn’t the “Get A Round Tuit” campaign working?

  • After 11 years, people may be a little tired of it.
  • It really can only get people to put “Donate to the Beacon” on their to-do list, where it has to compete with dozens of other to-do items, many or all of which may seem more important and/or more urgent than writing a check to the Beacon.

Why should the new “It’s Up to All of Us” campaign work any better?

Because the new campaign is based on direct, personal contact, it puts donating to the Beacon on a much different footing than the other items on the potential donor’s personal to-do list.

In many cases, the direct, personal contact will inspire them to make the donation on the spot. In other cases, the extra “oomph” of that direct, personal contact (and the desire to avoid the embarrassment of having to be asked again) will make them move it to the top of their to-do list and then actually do it.

The Andover Fourth of July Committee has used a direct-contact campaign like this one for many years and with great success.

Will the “Get A Round Tuit” campaign finally go away?

Probably not. We think the two campaigns will work together well every year.

The Round Tuit envelope (February) will push for donations early in the year; the All of Us direct contact campaign in the fall will “reel in” all the folks who meant to “get a round tuit” earlier in the year, but never quite managed to.

So the two campaigns are more complementary than redundant. Round Tuit stimulates the organized folks to donate early so no one will come looking for them in the fall; All of Us corrals the less-organized folks who function best when they get direct, personal attention.

As a canvasser, who should I approach?

We’re approaching this in an organized but flexible way, and in a way that will be easy for canvassers and easy on the community.

In the first week of October, each canvasser will have the chance to pick names of their Andover friends and neighbors from a long list of Andover households who have not donated to the Beacon yet this year. You pick the names that go on your list! We are not asking you to approach strangers!

One important goal of this list-making process is that each person who hasn't donated to the Beacon this year should appear on one and only one canvasser's list. We want people who haven't donated yet to be approached, but we don't want them to feel unnecessarily “bombarded.”

We’re hoping that each canvasser will end up with a list of about 20 of their Andover friends and neighbors, but the number of names you pick is entirely up to you!

Once you’ve picked the names you want on your list, you are free to approach them in the time and the manner of your own choosing. We ask, however, that you don’t approach anyone who’s not on your list – they may be on someone else’s list, or they may have already donated to the Beacon this year.

How should I approach them?

That’s entirely up to you, and your approach can certainly vary from person to person on your list.

On the Canvasser Materials page, you'll find a sample e-mail that you can easily use in a personalized e-mail; in a letter; as a telephone “script”; or even as talking points if you run into one of “your” people at the Transfer Station or knock on their door.

If you can think of any other ways we can help make it easy for you to approach people on your list, please let us know. (Though we should probably draw the line at smoke signals…)

What should I say to them?

On the Canvasser Materials page, the sample e-mail will give you the gist of what you should ask: “The Beacon can't continue with only 200 households supporting it – will you help?”

Asking doesn't need to be complicated, because your job is just to ask them to donate; we don't expect you to persuade them that they should donate. (Hopefully, the Beacon speaks for itself in terms of why they should donate.)

What if they have questions?

On the Canvasser Materials page, the Donors' FAQ is written specifically for potential donors. The sample e-mail includes a link to the Donors' FAQ for their convenience.

What if they ask me how much is a “reasonable” donation?

Whatever they choose to give is fine. We’re not asking for a specific amount from local households (except that for a gift or seasonal subscription to be mailed to an out-of-town address, we ask for a minimum donation of $30).

Having said that, however, we probably haven’t been as helpful as we might be. So here is some more information that you might find useful.

Historically, the average donation from an Andover household has been about $40. In our planning and thinking about sustainability for the Beacon, we’ve used that average figure. We know that not everyone can donate that much, while others can, and will, donate that much or more. So whatever amount they feel comfortable with is fine.

To give them some points of reference, here's what their donation could buy:

A donation of … 

 … pays for these vital steps in keeping the Beacon going.

$30

  HostingAndoverBeacon.com for two months

$40

  Internet access for the Beacon office for one month

$50

  Printing and mailing bills to advertisers for one month

$75

  Phone and Internet access for the Beacon office for one month

$100

  Rent for the Beacon office for half a month

$250

  Printing the Round Tuit envelope each February

$500

  Mailing one monthly issue of the Beacon

$1,000

  Insurance premiums for the Beacon for one year

$1,500

  Printing one monthly issue of the Beacon

No matter what level of donation makes sense for the donor, every dollar is greatly appreciated!

What if they want to donate cash?

That’s fine. Take their cash and fill out the appropriate parts of the Take-Away form.

What if they want to donate by check?

That’s fine. Take their check and fill out the appropriate parts of the Take-Away form.

What if they want to donate by credit or debit card?

If they have a smartphone or a computer, they can visit AndoverBeacon.com, click on the Donate button, and make their donation right in front of you. The transaction will automatically appear in the Beacon’s computer.

If they say they’ll do it “soon” and they’re willing to give you an amount, then treat it as a pledge.

If they can’t give you an amount, tell them you’ll let the office know that they’ll be donating, and ask them on what date we (the office) should send them a reminder if we haven’t received their donation.

What if they say they’ll donate, but not right now?

If they’re willing to give you an amount, then treat it as a pledge.

If they can’t give you an amount, tell them you’ll let the office know that they’ll be donating, and ask them on what date we (the office) should send them a reminder if we haven’t received it.

What if the donor wants to buy a gift subscription for an out-of-town friend or relative?

We’ll need a minimum donation of $30.

Get the donor’s mailing address and the gift recipient’s full mailing address.

What if the donor wants a seasonal subscription?

We’ll need a minimum donation of $30.

Get both of their addresses.

Find out what months they’re at which address (keeping in mind that the Beacon is mailed within a few days of the first of each month).

What if the donor has a question or problem about an earlier donation or subscription?

They should contact Charlie at Charlie@nullAndoverBeacon.com or 735-6099, and he’ll straighten it out.

What if the donor wants an advertisement in the Beacon instead of or in addition to a donation?

That’s fine! They should contact Charlie at Ads@nullAndoverBeacon.com or 735-6099, and he’ll help them place their ad.

What if they say “No”?

You’re done! Your job is just to get them to make a decision about whether or not they’ll donate this year, not to persuade them to donate.

What if I want to try to persuade them?

Frankly, you’ll be most persuasive if you just tell them honestly why you support the Beacon. But for what it's worth, here are some of the reasons why we think people should support the Beacon.

  • As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the Beacon's sole reason to exist is to serve the Andover community. Every dollar we raise goes directly to that cause.
  • The monthly Beacon newspaper provides a valuable service to the community that no other organization provides.
  • The Beacon's Web site at AndoverBeacon.com likewise provides a valuable service to the community that no other organization provides.
  • The information in the newspaper and the Web site helps strengthen Andover's sense of being a strong community in many ways, including:
    • through news of community events, organizations, schools, and businesses
    • through news of present and former Andover residents, young and old
    • through news and information about our town government, boards, committees, etc.
    • through photos and features about Andover history
    • through photos and features about life in Andover and the beautiful setting we all enjoy
    • by publishing letters and opinions that are civil and are specifically about Andover issues
    • through coverage of Andover candidates and Andover issues available nowhere else
    • through in-depth coverage of our annual Town Meeting and School District Meeting
  • The Beacon provides a widely-read, widely-available source of information about community organizations and their programs and events, making their work in the community that much more efficient and effective.
  • The community's support allows us to deliver the newspaper and the Web site at no charge, making the Beacon much more valuable to the community than if it were only available to paid subscribers.
  • Many people in the community feel strongly that if we didn't have the Beacon, the loss would be significant.
  • For the Beacon to continue over the long term, the support of a substantial portion of Andover's 1,100 households is essential.
  • No one's being asked to give more than they can afford in support of the Beacon – rather, the Beacon relies on “everyone” doing what they can.

For a rather more fun look at why people should support the Beacon, don't miss this.

Do I have to finish by October 31?

No. But it would be very helpful to us if you did at some point finish your list and report back on each person on your list. Loose ends tend to drive Charlie nuts (and unfortunately, “nuts” is just a short putt away for Charlie these days).

What happens when the campaign is over?

One of the most important parts of this year’s campaign will be collecting feedback from our canvassers on what did and didn’t work. That feedback is your chance to help us fix problems, build on successes, and plan a smoother, quicker, easier, and more effective campaign for next fall. You can fill out a critique form here.

So be sure to make notes about everything that works and doesn’t work as you go along — your feedback at the end is vital in making this campaign ever more successful every year.

If there’s anything else you need or if you have a problem or question, call Charlie at 735-6099 or e-mail him at Charlie@nullAndoverBeacon.com.