Transparency and need

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun

Emily C. Skaftun
Norwegian American Weekly

As you may (hopefully!) be aware, NAW is running a campaign this month to raise money.

It’s like a pledge drive, and we’re like PBS calling on “Viewers Like You” to keep us in business. But the difference is that we’re not public radio (or even newspaper). We are, for some mystifying reason, organized as a for-profit company. Which unfortunately means that your donations aren’t tax-deductible.

It also means that we’ve had some questions about why we need to hold a fundraiser in the first place. Aren’t we making enough money from subscriptions? After all, we just raised our subscription price about a year ago, to $70!

The short answer is no. But let me give you a longer answer. All these numbers are from 2014, and rounded to the nearest dollar for simplicity.

First, it costs a lot to print and deliver a physical paper. Each issue costs $1,045 to print and on average $867 to ship. Other costs, like credit card and PayPal fees and the software that manages our mailing list, add another $107 per issue. Those are our “costs of goods sold,” and if they were the extent of our expenses we’d only need 1,346 subscribers to break even.

Unfortunately (but fortunately, because I’d go insane working from home!) we also have an office. Rent adds another $306 per issue. Things like postage (sending back issues, books for review, invoices for advertising, etc.) and office supplies add $37. It’s amazing how fast postage adds up! We also need a phone and internet access in the office, which costs $59 per issue. We are probably getting ripped off on that, but there’s a monopoly in our area, so what can we do? All told, having an office brings our per-issue cost to $2,421. So now we need 1,614 subscribers before we break even. So far so good!

Boring but necessary costs of running a business, like bank fees, business tax, and licenses, add another $91. 1,675 subscribers are now necessary.

This is before any of us have been paid for our time. I don’t want to tell you how little we make; I really don’t. In 2014 our payroll was $80,640 (for one full-timer and three part-timers), which adds $1,716 to the cost of each issue. We now need 2,819 subscribers, which, dear readers, is where we hit trouble, because we do not have that many. And this expense really needs to increase: $80K is a decent salary in Seattle…for one person.

We still haven’t paid for any of our content in this calculation. Most of our amazing writers are volunteers, but I would desperately love to pay them all. If we started offering $50 per story (which is low), it would cost us an additional $600 or so per issue, which we’d need another 400 subscribers to support.

Advertising is another area in which we’d like to we need to increase spending. How can we reach the new subscribers we need without advertising? We can’t. And yet, we need the support in order to do it.

And don’t forget that businesses need a cushion to operate. Last year we had to invest in a new computer and new website, and things like that are sure to come up every year.

We do bring in some advertising revenue, and we expect that amount to increase. In months when we meet our advertising target, we break even. In months when we don’t… well, you do the math. Last year, staffing irregularities led to a lot of that second kind of month, which is part of the trouble. This year, Drew’s been pretty solidly at work and shows no sign of slowing down.

All of which is to say that we’re not making our financial woes up. We’re very close to making this thing work, but the bottom line is that with our current numbers of subscribers ends do not quite meet.

This is, of course, why reaching more subscribers is our first priority. Costs for shipping and printing do go up with additional subscribers, but not in a linear progression (setup costs are huge), and virtually none of our other expenses change. Many hands make light work, and many subscribers make sustainable newspapers. If we had 20,000 subscribers we could give ourselves raises and pay all our contributors $100 per story and still bring you the newspaper for $35 per year! Without advertising! 5,000 would be enough to do all of that at our current price.

If you are reading this paper and you haven’t paid for it, I’d like you to consider this, especially if you habitually read the paper for free—for example if you always get it from your neighbor or pick it up at the Sons of Norway lodge. What if every person who currently reads our paper that way paid for a subscription? What if even half of them did?

The Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign is a temporary boost, an injection of funds to buy us time while we build up our subscriber base and advertising. It won’t fix everything, but neither do we intend to give up if we don’t meet our goal. Not before we’ve had a chance to fight for the kind of readership that will let us not only go on but make some changes for the better.

If you’d still like to contribute (and every contribution, no matter how small, sends a tiny thrill of happiness straight into my heart), the campaign runs through the end of the month at or

If you’re interested in something from this list and you don’t internet, you can also support us through the mail. Be sure to clearly indicate what package you’d like on your form (next page). The only restriction is that some packages have limited availability. It will be first come, first serve for these if we run out.

$5: Spread the Word Package
50 flyers and your name on our “Heroes of Ragnarok” page. For the fan of NAW who doesn’t have a lot of money but wants to help by being our emissary. You agree to distribute or prominently display our attractive 3.5×8” flyers.

80 available

$12: Your Very Own Nisse
One Nils Anders Wik die-cut magnet. He’ll make your refrigerator at least 12% more adorable.

Estimated delivery: July 2015

$20: Back Issue Grab Bag
This won’t literally be in a bag. We’ll send you five randomly chosen issues of NAW from the past year or so.

28 available

$25: Postcards fra Norge
You’ll receive one genuine Norwegian postcard with a very short fiction story written on the back, inspired by the postcard itself.

12 available

$50: Who’s that Nisse? Package
One Nils Anders Wik die-cut magnet and one small needle-felted nisse. Is it one of Nils Anders’s siblings? A descendent? We’d love to hear whatever stories the little nisse tells you!

Estimated delivery: August 2015

$100: Happy Birthday Package
One print gift subscription, a Community Connections greeting in any issue (with five extra copies of that issue sent to you or your friend), and your friend’s name on our “Heroes of Ragnarok” page. Community Connections greetings are approximately 5×3.5” and can include a photo and a few lines of message. You’ll work with NAW to design the greeting at least one month prior to placement.

$100/$190: Hovden “Busserull”
Hovden Formal Farm Wear’s flagship garment is the reproduction of the 150-year-old Scandinavian work shirt. You get one hand-made linen busserull in either kids’ ($100) or adult ($190) sizes. For color options, sizes, and other info, visit Price includes shipping to the U.S. Please add $5 for international shipping.

20 available

$150: Scandinavian DJ for a Day
Co-host the Seattle-area KKNW Scandinavian Hour with Doug Warne some Saturday. The show records on weekday afternoons. Write and present two ads for your company (worth $50 each) or club fundraiser. Or air some announcements about your favorite club activities to be presented on the Weekly Bulletin Board. Introduce a few records and chat a bit on air!

4 available

$200: Alternate History Package
One copy of the extremely limited edition “final” issue, signed by the staff of NAW, and a Community Connections greeting in any issue between June 5, 2015, and June 3, 2016 (with five extra copies of that issue sent to you).

29 available

$500: A Visit from the Nisse
Nils Anders Wik will come visit you! Can you help him find his family, other nisse who may have been turned into furniture or otherwise magically changed? During his visit be sure to take lots of pictures. Someone from NAW will conduct a phone, skype, or email interview with you to document Nils Anders’s journey. Afterward, you agree to send him on his way.

Also comes with a prize pack of nisse-related goodies including two magnets and a very special, secret gift.

10 available

$5,000: Your Name in Lights
Profile of your Norwegian-American business/project/etc. We won’t write propaganda for you, but we believe there’s a story anywhere you look, and we’ll do our best to find it. Someone from NAW will conduct a phone, skype, or email interview with you, you provide photos, and the result is a story.

The first of these will also include a visual story. Features Editor Larrie Wanberg will script your story, you supply up to 20 scanned images to fit the script, and he’ll put it together with background music as a short video. We’ll also post it on the NAW website along with your written story. Only one of these is on offer!

This package also includes ad space equal to 2 full pages b/w or 1 page color.

6 available.

This article originally appeared in the April 17, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

Avatar photo

Larrie Wanberg

Larrie Wanberg, 1920–2021, contributed features to The Norwegian American for many years, drawing on eight decades of life experience highlighted by three career recognitions: as a researcher through a Fulbright Scholarship to Norway in 1957; as a health care provider in behavioral science through a 27-year military career and awarded upon retirement in 1981 the highest non-combat medal, the Legion of Merit medal; as an educator, through a 50-year career in college education, culminating in the 2010 Public Scholar award at the UND Center for Community Engagement. Wanberg passed away in May, 2021.