Starting and Running a Magazine

by Jordan Hylden, Harvard ’06

Jordan Hylden was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Harvard’s Ichthus.


Show Me the Money

So, now that you’ve basically gotten your act together, the next step is…(erp!) figuring out some way to pay for it all. The ideal solution to your financial needs, of course, is to have a rich and generous uncle. Barring that, however, and assuming that you did not in fact already win the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, you need to find yourself some cash money. Magazines don’t print themselves, ya know—someone has to pay for them. Thankfully, that’s where the Augustine Collective may be of some help. Over the years they’ve formed relationships with various foundations interested in helping student publications get off the ground. You’ll want to get in touch with them (click here) to see if there is a match.

Aside from national foundations, you’ll also probably want to find funding on a local level. This means asking for financial assistance from your campus chapel, student activities fund/student government, Christian fellowships like Intervarsity and Campus local churches, and Christian alumni. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: there are lots of people who maintain a strong interest in their alma mater, and will be very glad to be of assistance. There are people who regularly donate to students raising money for mission trips, service projects, and etc. They’ll likely be willing to help you, too.

Another source of revenue is advertisement sales. I’d recommend going to local churches, fellowships, and businesses first. In particular, churches with an eye to student ministry will likely be interested—often, they have a budget for this sort of thing. Don’t neglect the local pizza place or Chinese restaurant, either—they know that college kids are hungry, and they want as many late- night-munchies take-out orders as possible. Before you do any of this, of course, you’ll need to put together a budget. Don’t just scratch this on the back of an envelope—do it professionally, using Excel, Money, Quicken, or some other such program. That way, when you go around cap in hand for money, you’ll be able to show people that you’re responsible enough to have planned ahead. (If you’ve been following along, of course, you’ll have already put together a budget to hand to the University office. If that one was adequate, great. If not, then put together a real budget—it’s no good asking for money unless you can show that you have a good plan for how to spend it.)

Your main expense, of course, will be printing the darn thing. Since you go to a college, you can bet your boots that somewhere near you are several printing companies, all catering to campus publications (and probably other publications as well, like local magazines and newspapers). Go around and ask for quotes. There are many different options, having to do with paper quality, and you’ll have to figure out what’s right for you. Part of figuring out this expense will be determining how often you want to print each year, and how many copies you want to distribute. At Harvard, we printed once a semester, and distributed to every undergraduate room on campus, totaling 3,000 copies per printing run. Most everybody lived in a dorm, so we were able to saturate the college quite nicely. We printed on rather high-quality paper, so it ran us about a dollar per copy—totaling an expense of about $3,000 per semester. That was basically our only cost, so that’s what we concentrated on raising each time around. Other conceivable costs include software purchase—if your campus computer lab doesn’t provide the necessary layout software (although most places do), you’ll have to buy it.

If you decide to sponsor lecturers on behalf of the magazine, or host conferences, you’ll have to factor that into your budget as well (although, so you know, ISI will likely be interested in helping fund that). You may want to host regular dinner discussion groups, in which case you’ll have to buy food. I won’t bore you with details—much of this will depend on your own particular vision.

The main thing, to sum up, is to put together a sound budget, and then to combine national sources of funding with local (student activities fund, advertising sales, churches, etc.). Probably, you’ll want to put a specific person in charge of this job (for instance, your Business Manager), and then find people willing to take charge of specific tasks (for example, your Advertising Manager). Don’t let this part scare you off! It’s not as hard as it sounds! Once you’ve become a solid organization, with a staff and a constitution and a budget, with a clear set of goals and recognition by the university, you shouldn’t have too much of a hard time figuring out the financial part. There are a good number of foundations and people out there who’ll want to see you succeed, and I have no doubt that they’ll be interested in helping you out.

Next step: Finding Articles.