A grim irony of MERIP’s history is that demand for our work rises at times of extraordinary turmoil in the region we cover. This was true during the 1987-1993 Palestinian uprising and the 1990-1991 Gulf war, and it is true today. By almost every measure, from subscriptions to Middle East Report to press calls to internship applications, interest in MERIP’s perspective has grown dramatically from the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, through the September 11 attacks on the United States and the “war on terror,” up to the US-led invasion of Iraq and the ensuing cataclysm in that country. The number of visitors to our website has increased by a factor of 100 in the same time span.
One would think that greater interest in MERIP’s work should put the organization on a firmer financial footing, and earlier in the decade, that was true as well. But, one by one, the foundations that discovered (or rediscovered) us in the aftermath of the September 11 events have changed their funding priorities. The modest grant support we were attracting five years ago has diminished, and we find ourselves staring at a year-end deficit of at least $60,000.
The shortfall in MERIP’s annual budget is structural. Subscriptions to the magazine and sales of single copies rarely bring in more than 40 percent of the revenue we need to pay our expenses. Every year, we must fill the gap by asking for support from foundations, churches and others interested in making our independent voice heard. And we count on our most steadfast supporters, our readers, to chip in as well. You have answered the call — the gifts of small donors have risen steadily in both absolute terms and as a percentage of our income every year since 2000.
MERIP is accustomed to doing a lot with a little. Staff salaries are low — even by the standards of non-profits — and there is no fat in the budget to be trimmed. We rely very heavily on the hard work of volunteers in producing the magazine and running our media outreach program, which, along with our website, has raised our public profile far higher than our size would seem to dictate. We couldn’t help but be proud when a visitor to our Washington offices joked about having “a Wizard of Oz experience.”
But we aren’t magicians. To reduce the anticipated shortfall, we have already made painful spending cuts. And we are, of course, trying hard to secure new sources of institutional support for our program work and bolster magazine revenue.
We are fortified in these efforts by the knowledge that our publications (thanks to the Internet) are being more widely read and used than ever before, and that our outreach to the media is mixing MERIP voices into the mainstream. Even more, we are encouraged by the fact that you, who share our commitment to independent, unflinching analysis of the Middle East, have also proven in the past to share our determination that this project continue. Especially now, when the Middle East is so troubled and so many people want to learn about why, we need you to come through again.
If you read this magazine in a library or at a friend’s house, please subscribe. If you are a subscriber, please urge your like-minded friends and colleagues to follow suit, and please send us a contribution if you have not done so in 2007. If you can, please consider doubling the amount you normally give.
If MERIP’s critical, alternative perspective matters to you, and you want others to see and hear it in the years ahead, please respond now to this appeal.