By Brian Carome
Last fall, we decided to increase the suggested contribution for a copy of Street Sense to two dollars and that change went into effect January 2nd. It was the first time in nine years that we asked our readers to pay more for the paper. We rely on circulation to cover nearly 25 percent of our operating expenses, and therefore we came to this decision cautiously, knowing it might lead, at least temporarily, to a decrease in circulation. We did not make the change to upgrade to a higher quality paper, add new features to the publication, or invest in online infrastructure to deliver the paper electronically, as some might guess. Quite simply, we made the change because our vendors deserve a raise.
Under any circumstances, direct-sales is difficult work. It takes determination, incredible self-motivation, a willingness to smile and be courteous in the face of rejection, and perseverance. In the case of the 130 Street Sense vendors who distribute our newspaper every day, it takes a willingness to work in whatever weather conditions Mother Nature serves up.
Because they believed so strongly in our product and the opportunity for betterment that association with Street Sense offers, our vendors actually volunteered to take a pay cut in 2009 in order to help stabilize the organization as the recession began to affect our other income streams. They agreed to pay 35 cents for each copy of the paper, up from 25, reducing their profit margin by 10 percent.
While the January 2nd rate change to our readers coincides with an increase in the per paper price for vendors of 15 cents, it means that your vendor keeps $1.50 for each paper he or she distributes, a 131 percent increase. It is our goal and genuine hope that this change quickens the path beyond homelessness for more of our vendors. Let us know what you think, by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.