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News & Press: President's Corner

The First 100 Days

Monday, November 11, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Veronique Dodson
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The First 100 Days
November 11, 2013
Bob Butler
President of NABJ 

Hello NABJ!

The first 14 weeks of your board of directors’ 2013-2015 term has been very busy. We provided members with valuable training at the September Media Institute for Media Professionals and during the Region I Conference, both in New York and the Healthy NABJ Media Institute on Health Reporting in San Francisco.

We renewed existing partnerships and established new ones, resulting in our receiving $185,000 in grants and more than $200,000 in funding commitments for 2014.  And NABJ is on track to end 2013 well in the black.

The Fall Board meeting was held October 18-20 at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, the site of our 2014 summer convention. We hope you have marked your calendars! The meeting featured training by Professor James Honan of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.  During the first session, Professor Honan and founder Maureen Bunyan helped the board crystallize its goals for the next two years and explained the responsibilities of non-profit board members.

In the second session, founders Bunyan and Allison Davis walked the board through one of its most important areas of responsibility: the development – or fundraising – process. Key in this discussion was how to be successful fundraisers without violating journalism ethics.

The training concluded with one of our sponsors, Xavier Dominicis, Vice President of Public Affairs at Rent-A-Center, explained how to establish relationships with organizations and companies that could lead to mutually beneficial partnerships.

This is important because each board member will oversee and provide support for a regional conference, Media Institute or other program to provide training for members in each of our six regions. Each is responsible for raising local funds for his or her respective program. This also will help provide training opportunities for members who can’t attend the annual convention and provide revenue outside the convention in the third and fourth quarters, which have traditionally been slow periods of economic activity for NABJ.

In addition to the training, the board and the Boston Association of Black Journalists held a reception Friday night to introduce NABJ to the Boston community. Board members used what they had learned earlier in the day to engage potential sponsors and partners for the convention.

Outside the board meeting, board members continued to oversee vital board initiatives, some requested by the membership, some by board members.

The NABJ Constitutional Commission, which members directed the board to create at the 2013 business meeting, was established in August. That body is hard at work discussing possible changes to the Constitution, Bylaws and Operating Procedures. The commission has surveyed the general membership twice on topics ranging from membership criteria to governance.

The board is making appointments to the NABJ 40th Anniversary Committee, which the membership directed the board to do at the summer business meeting. So far the committee includes founders Les Payne and Allison Davis, former President Condace Pressley, Lynne Adrine, Rochelle Riley and VP Print Errin Whack.

The new NABJ Finance Committee is now reviewing 2012 governance expenses as directed by the members at the 2013 business meeting.

The Finance Committee also will review the previous finance committee report that concluded NABJ was on a trajectory to suffer 2013 losses as great as $300,000. That figure was cited in a report distributed at the business meeting that had neither been reviewed nor approved by the board, finance manager or executive director. As President, I will ensure that this doesn’t happen again so that members always get accurate financial information.

And the good news is: Year-end projections released at the end of September show that NABJ will end the year with more than the budgeted net profit of $25,000. That figure is approximate and could rise or fall depending on what happens the rest of the year.

NABJ has received a two-year, $150,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to be used for convention scholarships and to finish implementing NABJ Cares.

We also received a $20,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation to be used for general support, a $5,000 from the Gannett Foundation for the Watchdog Journalism Award and $10,000 from the Dow Jones News Fund for the High School Journalism Workshop.

We also have begun to receive 2014 commitments from current sponsors – so far about $200,000-- and we are in line to secure new sponsorships for the Hall of Fame, the Health Disparities Conference and the convention.

As you may know from news reports, NABJ is in talks with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) about collaborating on a 2016 convention, the year after our 40th anniversary celebration. As part of our due diligence we have been talking with current sponsors about the possibility. At this point, many are receptive to the idea.

This year, as in every year, our convention is our most important fundraising event because the bulk of our annual revenues and expenses come through the annual convention. The success of our annual conventions depends on three pillars:

      1)Obtaining strong sponsorships

      2) Managing expenses

      3) Meeting our contractual obligations for room-night, food and beverage guarantees at our host hotel to
          avoid penalties

This year, those three factors contributed to the success of our Orlando convention:

      1) We maintained longtime sponsors

      2) We fell slightly short of our sponsorship revenue goal but also spent less than planned

      3) We exceeded our room block, food and beverage commitments

As a result, NABJ saw a net profit from the Orlando convention of more than $900,000, which is consistent with our profits from the 2011 and 2012 conventions in Philadelphia and New Orleans, respectively.

Since the election in August I have had dozens of meetings with news managers, affinity groups, current sponsors and potential sponsors. The meetings have taken place in 11 cities in eight states. Board members and I will continue to have meetings with members, sponsors and those organizations that believe in NABJ’s mission and can help us meet our goals of employment and promotions for black journalists and fair coverage of our communities.

Finally, we have hundreds of students who represent the next generation of journalists and media professionals. Many of them need mentors. Please reach back and find a student who can benefit from your many years of experience. And students! Don’t be afraid to seek out a mentor. Many of us "old heads” would be more than happy to help. Many times, no one asks. Don’t wait for anyone else. Ask for yourself. Find the mentor for the career you deserve! And don’t forget to dress for the job you want!

Yours in Service!


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