From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
PRESBYTERIAN SURVEY REPORTS HEALTHY YEAR-END SURPLUS
05 May 1996 08:09:03
95066 PRESBYTERIAN SURVEY REPORTS HEALTHY YEAR-END SURPLUS
By Julian Shipp
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Plagued by chronic financial deficits, "Presbyterian
Survey" magazine was recommended for termination by a task group of the
General Assembly Council (GAC) in November 1993.
But in February 1994 the council granted a reprieve and the
128-year-old magazine survived to report a 1994 year-end surplus of nearly
Following the union of the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.) in 1983, "Survey" became the official
publication of the new denomination. "A.D.," a publication of the United
Presbyterian Church (USA), was discontinued shortly before the reunion.
"Survey" inherited the northern church's subscription list and offered
a free, three-month subscription to each "A.D." subscriber along with the
opportunity to become regular "Survey" readers. This strategy contributed
to the magazine's subscription peak of 198,000 in 1986, according to Erica
Bowie, manager of financial systems/subledger in the Corporate and
Administrative Services office.
"At one point we were anticipating that we were going to be up to one
quarter of a million subscribers," Bowie said.
But when the Presbyterian Publishing House, which housed the magazine
until 1993, levied two subscription rate increases in 1986, subscriptions
spiraled downward. There are currently about 83,000 "Survey" subscribers.
The second rate increase occurred on Oct. 25, 1986, leaving prices at
$6 for the every family plan (in which a church purchases a subscription
for every active family that is a member of its congregation); $8.50 for
the group plan; and $11 for the individual plan. (Rates for the every
family plan were lowered to $5.00 in June 1989.)
As churches struggled with dwindling financial resources and shrinking
membership throughout the denomination, most found it difficult to afford
the suddenly pricier every family plan.
"More than half of all our subscriptions come from the every household
plan," said Catherine Cottingham, "Survey" managing editor. Eva Stimson,
associate editor, says, "And really think [the double increase in 1986] is
the main reason for the decrease in subscriptions at that time."
"Survey" lost money throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1986 the
magazine lost a whopping $289,605. In 1988 the deficit was $28,692 with
149,000 subscribers. The following year, the deficit was $9,324 with
135,000 subscribers. By 1993 the economic situation had worsened to the
point that a recommendation to discontinue the magazine was issued by the
Communication Task Group in November 1993.
Because of the unavailability of reliable financial figures and an
unwillingness among GAC members to create a void by terminating a
publication, the CTG reversed its recommendation when it brought an amended
report back to the council three months later.
"We kept Survey' going in the end basically because we decided to
keep what (publications) we have until something new is decided and to not
leave a void in the interim," said the Rev. Bill Lancaster, a CTG member
and associate for mission at Foothills Presbytery in Greenville, S.C.
A key element to the subsequential financial survival of "Presbyterian
Survey," Cottingham said, was the decrease in staff from eight to three
full-time and one part-time positions.
On the current staff are Cottingham; Eva G. Stimson, associate editor;
and Linda C. Crittenden, part-time art director, and Tanga D. Algee, the
magazine's administrative assistant.
The reduction in employees resulted in a greater workload for the
remaining staff, but increased flexibility in the magazine's budget.
Cottingham said another significant factor in the magazine's financial
turnaround is the fact that it no longer has to pay overhead costs to
Presbyterian Publishing House (PPH), since the magazine is no longer part
of that organization.
PPH became an independent company, the Presbyterian Publishing
Corporation, on Jan. 1, 1994, "Presbyterian Survey" became a new part of
the GAC's Office of Communication.
Cottingham also credited loyal "Survey" readers for helping keep the
magazine afloat. After word spread that the publication might be canceled,
"Survey" received many letters of concern.
"[Our readers] are our backbone and we couldn't have done it without
them," Cottingham said.
# # #
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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