“We are having a budget crisis,” outgoing Society of Professional Journalists president Claire Regan said.
Regan explained the extent of the crisis was first realized around March 2023. The board then hired the company Your Part-Time Controller to take a closer look at the organization’s finances. After that, the board pushed through a budget with a deficit in April.
Fast forward to August 2023, the organization continues to struggle with the deficit. According to the August monthly financial summary, the organization ended the month in a deficit position with a $69,000 loss and a $96,000 loss for the year. Year-to-date revenues are $160,000 lower than budgeted with four months of cash on hand.
Regan credits a large portion of the losses to declines in membership and dues. According to the outgoing president, there are currently 4,200 members in SPJ, lower than in previous years.
This loss in membership could be due to a variety of factors. Regan believes that members and potential members are struggling to afford dues. According to the SPJ website, working professionals pay $78.75 for a yearly membership. The outgoing president also explained that fewer people working full-time in the media industry, coupled with the increase in freelance reporters, could also lead to a decline in membership.
As a result of these financial troubles, Regan and her board decided to cancel the annual journalism conference in 2024.
“It’s reckless to have a convention when you have a deficit,” Regan said. “We’re worried about this convention. This convention may lose money.”
Regan further explained the organization will now have to shift its focus back on its brand and mission and think of new ways to increase membership. One of the ideas the executive board is considering is transferring everyday management to Association Management Company to decrease the amount of staff and salaries in the budget. The board also hired a fundraiser to assist with gaining assets from non-members.
“We’re at a crossroads. We’re going to survive. We’re going to make it. We have since 1909,” Regan said.