NABJ reports profit from 2021 Virtual Convention, new revenue streams

By Kiah Armstrong and Daniella Johnson

NABJ Monitor

With the addition of diverse new revenue streams, Treasurer Walter Smith-Randolph, says a surplus is projected by the end of 2021. 

NABJ launched the NABJ Shop in May and plans to unveil the NABJ Media Network by the end of August.

“Our year to date actual convention net income surplus also exceeds what we budgeted, so all in all, we’re doing really well,” Smith-Randolph said. 

However, despite the surplus, the uncertainty of a post-pandemic world led re-elected NABJ President Dorothy Tucker to note that NABJ will continue to save money for the organization and its members.

“Let me just put a couple of things in perspective,” she told the board of directors Aug. 20. “As Walter says, the advantage that we are in right now is that we know that we are going to need more money for our own business, like any business that you have invested into yourself. It is your business and this is ours.”

There were at least 2,500 convention registrants this year, NABJ Executive Director Drew Berry said. Last year’s joint convention with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists attracted a combined number of about 3,000 registrants. 

Last year’s virtual convention paved the way for NABJ to exceed the projected net surplus by $300,000, according to NABJ’s 2020 financial report, which gave this year’s convention an air of optimism.

“From January 2021 to April 2021, basically NABJ is in one of its strongest positions ever,” Smith-Randolph said. “We had a lot of grant funding. We also had more scholarship funding coming in, as well as sponsorship dollars, especially with the racial reckoning that we went through last year.”

Two rounds of COVID-19 relief grants were given out to members who faced evictions, layoffs and other hardships.

“Of course, when we’re getting money, we want to give that back to our members,” Smith-Randolph said. “And so we were able to do that through scholarships, fellowships, grants, and through the COVID-19 relief grants.”

Some of these funds came from partnerships such as the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. This allowed the NABJ to use the $300,000 earlier this year to distribute Black Press Grants, which gave 28 awards of up to $10,000 to freelancers or Black-owned media to produce content based on the effects of COVID on the Black community. 

“We’ve tripled the amount of webinars that we normally have because people are at home and they want to get that training at their fingertips, and we’re charging for that,” said Smith-Randolph. “We’re charging sponsors to interface with our members and to have these workshops.” 

COVID-19 paradoxically has been a blessing to the NABJ in terms of saving money. Smith-Randolph says the excessive donations that were given last year paved the way for these new opportunities to diversify the revenue for NABJ.

Auditor Arnold Williams joined the convention’s business meeting to provide insights on NABJ’s audit of the 2019-20 fiscal year.

“Your financial statements and disclosures are fairly presented,” Williams said. “Of all the years we’ve audited, 2020 was your strongest year.”

NABJ doubled its liquidity and held investments steady throughout the pandemic. From 2019 to 2020, assets almost doubled from $3.6 million to $6.1 million. Smith-Randolph also disclosed that NABJ’s assets increased by $1.6 million totaling $7.5 million as of Aug. 17.

In 2020, NABJ earned $1 million less than in 2019, but due to the pandemic, the expenses in 2020 dropped by almost $2 million from 2019. Overall, revenue and net income exceeds NABJ’s initial budget, and expenses are under the initial budget. 

According to Williams, the board needs to discuss how NABJ will shift cash profits into the investment portfolio. 

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