We're in the midst of budget season and we here at the Society are working hard to (once again) reverse cuts to NASA and its Planetary Science Division. But I wanted to take a minute and give you all an update on our fundraising efforts that actually lets us do this kind of thing.
Did you know that The Planetary Society needs to raise our entire operating budget every single year? Membership fees cover about a third of our total operating costs, with the rest coming from donations from individuals. No government money. No corporate money. That keeps us independent, but it also means that we rely on the generosity of our membership to keep things the lights on—literally. We're actually now building a long-term reserve fund, the Carl Sagan Fund for the Future, but it will take some time to make this fund large enough to provide the type of investment return necessary to fund significant portions of our operations.
So in the meantime we fundraise for each program individually. Most of this is tied to our education, science, and technology projects, but we also ask our members and the public to support our growing Advocacy program. This program pays portions of my salary, supports our travel to D.C., fees to our lobbyist, developing outreach materials, and so forth.
This year, we set a goal of raising $85,000 and a stretch goal to net $125,000. I should note that neither of these numbers covers the entire cost of our advocacy program, which runs around $250,000 per year when all staff time is included. So maybe I should say that our stretch, stretch goal is $250,000, though that'd be high for us, historically.
As of last Friday, we've raised $98,858.17 from 1,539 individuals, nearly half of which donated online. This is great! I want to thank everyone who has donated so far. This really does help us maintain and grow our advocacy program, which I feel is the most effective one out there.
But if you haven't donated yet, I'd like to ask for your help in helping us reach our stretch goal of $125,000. If we can reach that within the next month, we will use some of those additional funds to place a full-page ad in a D.C. newspaper to promote a mission to Europa within the context of a healthy planetary exploration program at NASA. This will tie nicely with a major article about Europa coming out in July from National Geographic, as well as help influence the decision processes going on this summer as NASA prepares their initial budget requests for 2016 (yes, we're already thinking about 2016!).
These funds allow us to pursue a truly year-round program. Instead of being reactive, we want to head off problems before they start. We need to be ready to fly to D.C. at a moment's notice to take advantage of sudden opportunities. I can travel to scientific conferences to work with scientific societies to coordinate our messages and to gather important feedback. The more stable our fundraising is, the more efficient we can be.
Our revenues are already higher than than they were last year, which I take as a sign that people are responding to our work. If you have more questions about what we're doing, take a minute to browse through my blog posts. I'm also available at @CaseyDreier on Twitter or via email@example.com if you have questions about the program.
Again, I want to thank everyone who has helped us build this program. We have exciting days ahead.