UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds


Where the money comes from

By David Wilson

I’m always pleased when someone asks about the stories we run. It means readers are engaged with the magazine. When someone takes the time to ask about how we pay for it all — well, that really makes my day.

It doesn’t happen very often. Let’s face it, revenue and expenditures aren’t as captivating as words and images. But those dollars and cents are every bit as important. Without adequate and reliable funding, there would be no words or images — or at the very least, the words and images wouldn’t measure up to our readers’ expectations.

In some ways, producing content is the easy part of publishing a magazine. Paying for it is more problematic. You can control content: choose the right subject, writer and images, place them in the hands of skilled editors and designers, and there’s a decent chance the end product will turn out well.

Cobbling together the resources required to produce, print and deliver the magazine is a dramatically less certain undertaking. Two of our most important revenue streams, subscriptions and advertising, are closely linked to the health of the economy; if the economy sputters, they sputter too. And while different levels of government currently support Canadian magazines, we are all too aware that governments giveth and governments taketh away.

The Observer’s ties to The United Church of Canada add a further layer of uncertainty. Our readers are mostly United Church members or adherents. Aging and declining church membership means fewer paid subscribers. It also means the denomination as a whole cannot support the work of the church to the extent that it once did. The grant we receive from the General Council is still vitally important, but it is a fraction of what it used to be. The same goes for advertising booked by various church departments.

The one funding source that isn’t so subject to external forces is the Friends of The Observer Fund — it’s as healthy as our readers want it to be. Donations provide a cushion against systemic challenges (the 2008 economic meltdown stands out as a particularly vivid case in point), as well as the capacity to invest in measures to ensure the magazine’s long-term well-being. Over the years, the Friends Fund has become our lifeline — the difference between an Observer with a secure future and an Observer with a doubtful one.

Is it an accident that this message appears in the same issue as our spring Friends Fund appeal? Of course not. From now into the foreseeable future, we’ll rely more and more on donations from our readers to keep the magazine stable. Doing everything we can to promote the Friends Fund isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.  

Author's photo
David Wilson is the editor-publisher of The Observer.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

Outrage is the new normal

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: A Tale of Two Cancers

by Observer Staff

Catherine Gordon's October 2017 feature for The Observer, 'A tale of two cancers,' recently caught the eye of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and his Washington, D.C.-based team, and inspired a short documentary. Gordon talks about the experience of writing the article and participating in the film.

Promotional Image


October 2017

Fall from grace

by Justin Dallaire

Don Hume was a United Church minister nearing retirement. Then he tried crack cocaine.


September 2017


by Jane Dawson

Restless longing is at the core of the human condition, urging us onward through life. What happens when it veers off course?


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Promotional Image