March 2, 2023
Dear SEJ members,
We are excited to formally launch SEJ's Future Council. This fundraising initiative will provide financial support for SEJ's efforts to increase and improve environmental journalism. Funds raised by SEJ from individuals are critical to supporting SEJ programs, such as diversity fellowships to attend our annual conference, story grants for reporters, training opportunities for members and many other benefits. The financial support provided by the Future Council will help SEJ to expand these programs, enable new programs and support the long-term stability of the organization.
Potential members of the Future Council will be invited based on their philanthropic commitment to supporting environmental journalism and their respect for SEJ's editorial independence. The Future Council's sole responsibility is to help SEJ raise funds, through personal donations and/or by making connections to other potential donors.
Members of the Future Council will not have any role in decisions about SEJ policy, initiatives or programs. Those decisions remain solely in the hands of the SEJ Board of Directors and its designees.
As an organization that relies on grants and donations, SEJ has guardrails in place to maintain independence from any type of funder, donor or partner. These guidelines will apply to Future Council members, who will have no role in the decisions about the content of any SEJ program.
Here are some questions and answers about the Future Council.
What will the Future Council do?
The Future Council will be made up of leaders who are committed to raising or donating a minimum of $5,000 annually to support SEJ's work. The SEJ Board will ultimately decide how to spend any funds raised by the council via the annual budgeting process.
Why does SEJ need a Future Council?
Over its 33 years, SEJ has navigated economic recessions, major changes in the philanthropic world, cyclical crises in the journalism industry and a global pandemic. Membership dues cover only a tiny fraction of SEJ's expenses. Outside of the conference, SEJ programs rely heavily on grants and donations. Unlike other nonprofits that can select board members for their connections and capacity to give, we are a membership-driven organization with an elected, all-volunteer board composed of working journalists. While our journalist members have many talents, fundraising typically isn't one of them. SEJ's leadership understands that to continue to weather the uncertain economic climate, the organization needs supporters who can help ensure SEJ's financial stability through their financial commitments and through their connections to other potential donors and supporters. Many other small nonprofits — including public media and nonprofit media — have similar donor circles to help support their work.
Who will serve on the SEJ Future Council?
The SEJ Board of Directors will recruit and invite members to join the Future Council after an extensive research process. The Society is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and aims to ensure that the SEJ Future Council includes members from diverse backgrounds. In the first year, we envision six to 10 members. It will be paramount that any member of the Future Council supports SEJ's mission and programs while agreeing to its editorial independence.
How will this affect SEJ's editorial independence?
SEJ's editorial independence policy is and remains our guiding light. Donors will not determine the content of SEJ programs. This will be strongly communicated to potential members in the invitation letter, the Future Council roles and responsibilities, and in the Future Council agreement.
When will the Future Council start?
Invitations are being issued now with hopes to convene the first Future Council meeting within the next few months. Names of Future Council members will be listed on SEJ's website.
SEJ President Luke Runyon
On behalf of the SEJ Board