Greetings from Orion! I hope you had a wonderful start to 2023. The staff and I feel overwhelming gratitude for all you’ve done for us. In this report, I share with you the highlights of 2022 and the auspicious beginnings of 2023, all of which you have made possible.
We closed out 2022—our historic 40th anniversary year—with generous support and commitment from you and other donors. Charitable giving was strong throughout the year and our unaudited numbers show that we raised approximately $795,000. Donors at all levels support the planning that goes into every issue of the magazine. From the initial concept to the technicalities of managing production schedules, every aspect of Orion is bolstered by donor support. Collectively, donors who made gifts of $5-$499 contributed an amazing $156,000! Continued growth in support from individuals and households, donor-advised funds, and foundations is vital to the health and well-being of Orion. Every donation that we receive improves our ability to bring you the best environmental writing and art as well as to attract an array of institutional partners who are vital to our mission. Plus, a robust funding program increases our ability to compete for grants.
For example, we submitted a competitive grant application to the National Endowment for the Arts in 2022. A few weeks ago in January, we were able to announce that we received a $25,000 Grants for Arts Projects award (more on that below). The strength of our fundraising program surely helped us receive this much-needed and appreciated award.
If you know of a foundation that might be interested in learning more about the value Orion brings to the environmental landscape, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Launched in January 2022, Orion’s three-year strategic plan guides our work in harnessing mission-driven growth, maintaining editorial excellence, strengthening our financial resources, and producing more efficient work. With the first year of the plan now complete, I am happy to report that we made outstanding progress on every goal outlined in the plan, ending the year with an uptick in subscriptions, a stronger donor base, more streamlined project management systems, and high morale. We have also made promising headway on launching a new website later this year.
While Orion will always be a print magazine, the strategic plan calls for a reevaluation of our digital presence. To that end, we have hired a web development and design firm and are creating a new website that will make it easier for readers and donors like you to renew your subscriptions, purchase merchandise, and support the organization without having to enter your contact and banking information multiple times, as our current configuration requires. It will also allow those with subscriptions to more easily access our content, change an address, and give a gift subscription. Finally, the new layout will also do better justice to the digital versions of the handsome artwork and photographs that we publish.
New Board Members
In September 2022 Orion welcomed two new board members. Randy Winston is the Director of Writing Programs at The Center for Fiction and the creator of Milkshake Scholar, an online milkshake interview series. Randy also served as Fiction Editor at Slice Literary Magazine for 6 years and is currently working on his first manuscript of fiction and a memoir. Randy sits on the board for WriteOn, a fellowship program that connects students at George Jackson Academy, the only need-blind upper elementary and middle school in Manhattan for gifted boys from low-income families, with New School MFA students. He holds a Bachelors in English & Professional Communication from Southern Polytechnic State University, now Kennesaw State University.
Orion also welcomes Dr. Mel Michelle Lewis, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice at American Rivers. In this leadership role, Dr. Mel provides strategic guidance on social and environmental justice initiatives and creative visioning for the future of clean water for everyone everywhere. Dr. Mel is also a Collaborator with The Art of Change Agency and an Affiliated Researcher with the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to Joining American Rivers, Dr. Mel was Associate Professor and Director of the Ecosystems, Sustainability, and Justice Program, co-founder of The Space for Creative Black Imagination: An Interdisciplinary Making and Research Institute, and Chair of the Humanistic Studies Department at Maryland Institute College of Art. Previously, they also chaired the Center for Geographies of Justice, the Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Department, and Africana Studies Department at Goucher College, as well as the Department of Ethnic Studies at Saint Mary’s College of California.
Both of these new board members care deeply about Orion’s mission and bring a wealth of expertise in nonprofit leadership and fundraising to our organization.
The Book of Bugs
Following 2021’s record-breaking anthology Old Growth, which quickly became Orion’s best-selling book of all time, The Book of Bugs is now Orion’s second best-selling book, racking up more sales every week. We launched the book in October 2022 with an event in partnership with Xerces Society, a science-based nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. The event featured Robert Pyle, Lulu Miller, Robert Black, and David Quammen in conversation about their writing and insect conservation. Thank you for helping to make this book such a success.
The popularity of both books and a review of archived Orion material in preparation for the 40th anniversary has encouraged us to publish another anthology. Hint: The book for 2023 will be a “feather” in our cap!
Subscriptions to the print magazine serve as a critical revenue stream for Orion. Thankfully, we have experienced an uptick in subscription numbers in the last three years, and 2023 is off to a strong start. Unfortunately, at the same time, the ongoing paper shortage and increasing inflation rates are affecting our bottom line. Thus, as of February 1st, we are increasing our subscription rates slightly–the first time we have done so in twenty years. Thanks to support from donors like you, however, we are able to keep the increase to no more than the cost of a cup of coffee, ensuring that we can continue to bring Orion to as many readers as possible. Thank you for helping us to weather these uncertain times.
Record Number of Workshop Attendees
Last year witnessed the return of our beloved in-person writing workshop at the Omega Institute in New York’s Hudson Valley. We were able to enroll 67 students, the largest cohort this workshop has ever hosted. In addition, we held 20 virtual writing workshops throughout the year, another record. These workshops are not only vital to Orion’s business plan–they are integral to our mission, helping to nurture emerging nature writers who will bring to their craft Orion’s unique and powerful approach to the genre.
Forthcoming Spring Issue
Our spring 2023 issue will arrive in mailboxes in mid-March. This is perhaps Orion’s most ambitious issue yet, featuring work exclusively in or about the act of translation. More than twenty-five languages from around the globe will be represented. This issue was funded, in part, by a recent grant from the National Foundation for the Arts and will be accompanied by a virtual launch event co-presented by Words Without Borders later this spring.
The more people and organizations that know about the vibrancy and success of Orion, the better we are able to serve you and bring the ideas of our contributing writers and artists to fruition. One of the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic and from our 40th anniversary is that events are a popular way to both introduce Orion to new audiences and bring together existing Orion enthusiasts. Therefore, in addition to hosting several virtual events in partnership with like-minded organizations, we’ve decided to host another virtual fundraising event of our own.
Mark your calendars! On May 9th at 6pm ET, “Orion’s Ode to the More-Than-Human-World” will feature Dr. Jane Goodall, sharing her story of why she fell in love with animals and dedicated her life to being their advocate. Also making appearances are some of Orion’s favorite writers with their favorite more-than-human friends: Sy Montgomery will introduce us to Fire Chief, a 60-year-old snapping turtle; Francisco Cantu will take us to his backyard, where we’ll meet his flock of chickens; and Pam Houston will walk us around her farm, where we’ll say hello to her donkey, sheep, and alpaca; and many more. The event will be fun for the whole family (even family members with fur, feathers, and scales). If you’d like to join us, please register here: https://us.givergy.com/OrionMagazine2023.
It would mean so much to me and everyone at Orion if you would encourage your friends and colleagues to attend as well.
Thank you—sincerely—for your continued support of Orion. Your generosity helps us to continue pursuing our mission: to invite readers into a community of caring for the planet. We couldn’t do it without you.