littlebylittlebecomeslotLast night, I was watching a movie on television while I was reading the day’s mail. In addition to the usual advertisements for products and services, the movie segments were interspersed with several appeals for donations. There were compelling and even heart-wrenching solicitations from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), from St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and from Feed the Children. I switched the channel to public television, hoping to avoid the commercials, but there I was immediately confronted with requests for support for PBS (the Public Broadcasting System).

Reading my mail had much the same result. There were five envelopes, in addition to the political flyers. One letter was from my mother (thanks, Mom!) and four were requests for financial support: from a local shelter for homeless youth, the local SPCA, the National Parks Foundation, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I wondered if this day’s mail is representative of other people’s correspondence. Is it possible that on average four out of five envelopes contain requests for money from one cause or another?

I also wondered how much money is spent on television and direct mail campaigns – money that could be devoted directly to the particular cause being promoted.

Then I began to wonder what the content would be if TIRF were ever to produce a television advertisement or do a direct-mailing campaign to the population at large. Perhaps there would be compelling scenes of children learning English in classrooms around the world. Or maybe there would be images of individual language learners working online or studying with tutors or peers. Or maybe we would feature images of people from different countries negotiating an important agreement.

But perhaps there is another way for me to communicate TIRF’s history and current position to you. Let me share some important numbers with you. Since the Foundation first started providing Doctoral Dissertation Grants (DDGs) in 2002, TIRF has supported 95 doctoral candidates from 22 different countries as they completed their degrees. During the past seven years, grants in the amount of $200,000 have been awarded through TIRF’s DDG program.

TIRF has been serving the field of language education for seventeen years. There is one paid staff member – Ryan Damerow, our Chief Operating Officer. Among his many duties, Ryan serves as TIRF’s webmaster and newsletter editor, as well as managing all TIRF’s records and correspondence and just about every other aspect of TIRF’s business.

Since the Foundation’s incorporation in 1999, fifty-one Trustees have served as volunteers on the Foundation Board. The Trustees are not paid. In fact, they pay their own travel and lodging expenses to attend board meetings. They are expected to donate themselves and to leverage donations from others. I am grateful to these fifty-one generous and hard-working colleagues, whose efforts have sustained the Foundation over some very lean times.

Now let me share with you some sobering news. In 2016, there have been only forty-five donors. In addition, from 2013 to 2015, we have been running a deficit budget. We have absorbed more than $40,000 in losses during these deficit years, which has taken a toll on our cash reserves. We hope to be able to continue our operations, but doing so will require your assistance. This information is provided here to help you understand just how dire our situation is becoming. We need your financial support.

I wish it were within TIRF’s finances to pursue fundraising strategies that allowed us to spend money to raise gifts. But keeping with our tradition of operating on a shoestring budget, we do not have the ability to conduct a direct-mailing campaign or pursue television advertisements. The means available to us for fundraising include our website, newsletter, social media, and email. We will continue to use these vehicles for communicating our message to you and our other supporters, in hopes that we can avoid another deficit year. Through our continued work together, I am optimistic that we will positively affect our field for decades to come.

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Best wishes,