Ryan Van Cleave and I founded C&R Press in late 2006, which brings up to a little over five full years of operation. We had more good ideas than we could possibly generate–and far more energy and expertise than funds–and while we’ve built a solid base of support and backlist of books and authors we’re proud of, we still haven’t approximated the tipping point we still strive for.
Fundraising has been our biggest challenge. As the press has grown, it’s been all we can do to manage the production of our titles and keep things moving for our authors. We’ve literally not once taken advantage of our 501(c)3 nonprofit status in order to write a grant. Neither have we put together a fundraiser, or even initiated a pledge drive. Somehow, we’ve survived from the modest sales of many of our authors, and a few generous donations. A little over a month ago, however, at the AWP National Writers’ Conference in Chicago, we began to reaffirm our belief and commitment that our press (that began “ex nihilo”) can still fulfill the mission and vision that we originally conceived several years ago.
There is far too much going on behind the scenes for C&R right now for any single post, but one thing that sent us spinning into overdrive when we came back from our exhilarating conference was the need to more clearly define who we already are. We met with Christa Payne, the Director of Development and External Relations for the Public Education Foundation, an expert in fundraising. Among other things, we asked:
Why can’t we, as a nonprofit literary press, have a fundraiser? And what’s keeping us from writing and landing local, regional and national grants?
So many grants have such specific guidelines that it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees. For instance, while community development and enhancing the arts is a great intersection between what a grant seeks to fund and what we CAN do, above and beyond we need operational funds to sign and promote the many wonderful authors that come our way, to be solvent. We believe in literature as a transformative and crucial cultural dimension of human experience in and of itself, not necessarily tied to other nonprofit campaigns. How do we communicate that, and how do we find others to join our cause?
The long and short of it is this: Our conversation with Christa and others over the past several weeks led us to confirming a stronger case of not only who we are, or what we do, but most importantly, why we are. When I saw this Ted Talk, it hit me that everything we already are is not being stated clearly enough. Ryan and I went to work. The results can be found on our website. We’re still “in process” on some our aesthetics and design, but the statements are there now. Why (we are), How (we do it), and What (we do).