By Christian Crittenden and Raymond Lucas
Despite fear of losing money when the annual convention went virtual, the National Association of Black Journalists forecasts a 30 percent surplus from this convention — more than expected — paving the way for what President Dorothy Tucker says may be another virtual convention next year if the COVID-19 outbreak continues.
NABJ board members have implemented new financial strategies and gained a plethora of new sponsors, partners and donors. Many of these partners prefer to remain anonymous, but Twitter’s announcement of a $125,000 donation to the organization and Mark Cuban’s gift of $100,000 have helped the organization come out into the black.
Facebook’s $250,000 grant given to NABJ in 2018 still has around $165,000 left to distribute in scholarships over the next three years. From the beginning of this year through March, the unaudited net income was nearly $1.5 million.
The virtual convention resulted in fewer expenses for career fair booths and travel for partners as well as a break in convention registration prices for the 3,173 attendees. Professional member rates started at $190 and $90 for students, down from $325 for professional members last year.
“We had no intention of canceling the convention,” Berry said. “We couldn’t reveal that in March. We had already started in early March planning for the possible virtual convention. So we were way ahead, but we just couldn’t tell everybody that because we had contractual obligations that would have cost us a lot of money. If we would have announced it earlier, we would have taken a $1.4 million hit.”
In addition, Berry said, bringing the board together instead of having members travel for in-person meetings saved money, and the organization made other cuts in the budget to trim costs.
The surplus comes as NABJ joins with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists for this year’s convention.
NABJ has made a profit before when joining forces with NAHJ. In 2015, NABJ was facing a debt of over $700,000 but a joint convention with NAHJ the following year brought the association back to its feet with a surplus of $1.2 million. The official figures for this year have not been released yet.
“We were able to pay off all those debts,” NABJ Treasurer Greg Morrison said. “We’ve had a surplus situation every year since then.”
From that point on, NABJ has been much more comfortable financially, even after the Miami convention’s expenses exceeded expectations last year by about $500,000, for a total of $2.4 million because of record-breaking attendance. That extra attendance also brought in added revenue.
NABJ has also been able to provide relief to some members experiencing financial hardship by dipping into funds set aside from other projects.
“We went through about 150 applicants for folks and listened to what their stories were,” Morrison said. “Hopefully, we were able to help someone pay a phone bill one month or a light bill one month.”
Achieving a surplus is a jump over the first hurdle, but remaining in the black amid the national economic turmoil is a task for the incoming treasurer who will be elected after polls close at 5 p.m. ET on Aug. 7.
“To those who doubted it saying, ‘It’s not gonna work,’ we’re going to prove you wrong,” Morrison said. “We’re still here and we will be here.”