The Interpreter Foundation is now in a position to raise funds to cover its operations, and donations are now tax-deductible. The donation section on the Interpreter website is, thus, somewhat out of date, but its instructions for conveniently donating via PayPal remain correct.
However, PayPal — does everybody know this? — deducts a fee from payments made through its mechanism. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; that’s how PayPal makes its profit and stays in business.
To avoid losing that cut to PayPal, donations can be sent by check directly to
The Interpreter Foundation
P.O. Box 970542
Orem, UT 84097
They can also be wired directly to Interpreter’s account, but I won’t give wiring information out publicly. (Please contact me if you want to wire a substantial amount!)
I mention all of this now because, in the United States at least, people often consider making their major charitable donations at the end of the calendar year. (Think tithing settlement, as an example.) There are tax-policy reasons for this. So I want people to be thinking of Interpreter when they contemplate donations in December.
Why does Interpreter need money? Our needs — now and for the foreseeable future — are relatively modest. We have no office or office staff, pay no salaries or benefits, print no books, employ no shipping personnel, maintain no warehouse inventory. But they’re not nonexistent. We do have to pay certain fees for online services and capacities, we have already (out of private pockets that should be reimbursed) rented rooms for a conference, and so forth. Most relevantly, perhaps, scores and scores and scores of hours have been donated for editing, typesetting, etc.
Let me be precise on this:
Nobody has sought or been given any kind of compensation for the hours that have been dedicated to acquiring and evaluating manuscripts. The academic editing of Interpreter’s online journal has been performed (as it often is, in connection with academically-oriented journals) as a service, by volunteers. So, too, with the source checking. We have a group of idealistic people, most of them young, who have stepped forward to take the lead on and to perform these tasks. In other words, to make it unmistakably plain, such people — including not only our student helpers but those chairing our article and book and review committees as well as William Hamblin and myself — have not been and, for the foreseeable future, will not be paid. The leadership of The Interpreter Foundation is uncompensated. (We have no plans to change this, and, though one or two entirely predictable cynics have claimed otherwise, we certainly have no business model that will ultimately make us rich!)
We’ve also not heretofore paid Interpreter’s technical expert and final editor/typesetter, who have each put in enormous amounts of time, doing for Interpreter what they otherwise get paid to do as experienced professionals — and they’ve done so to such an extent that it has actually cut into their time for profitable work. Though they haven’t complained, we feel that this is, in the long term, not only grossly unfair but unsustainable. So we’re seeking funds in order to be able pay them for their services. They will likely not be paid retroactively for the immense amount of time they donated to the (remarkably quick) launch of Interpreter, and they haven’t sought such retroactive payment. And they’ll probably continue to offer their services to the effort at less than the normal market price of their work. We’re profoundly grateful for their dedication. Moreover, we hope to be able to retain one or more copy editors on a contract basis. And that will require much more money than we’ve had.
For the future, we hope to sponsor more conferences, publish books (we’ve been offered several manuscripts already), do podcasts and scripture roundtables and broadcast lectures, and perhaps even venture into some relatively simple documentaries and the like. All of which is largely contingent upon funding.
How much will this require? We’re still making budget estimates, but we have some pretty good ballpark ideas that we’ve been refining and making ever more accurate. I won’t discuss them here, but would be happy to discuss them with anybody who is seriously considering a substantial donation.
A word about quantities, though: I’ve seen some online discussion of the budget of the Maxwell Institute. Some, on the basis of no information or of flatly false information, have claimed that it was in the multimillions of dollars annually. This is not true, and never was. But there has, in fact, been talk of millions of dollars donated to the Maxwell Institute, and such donations have, in fact, been given. This, however, is what needs to be understood: Those were donations, by and large, to the Maxwell Institute’s endowment. And the Maxwell Institute, as part of Brigham Young University, has followed the University’s rather conservative policy for the use of that endowment — after all, the University manages the Institute’s endowment — which permits 5% of an endowment’s value to be drawn off each year. (This allows for regular and predictable budget planning. In a good year, any proceeds in excess of 5% are placed right back into the endowment account as an addition to principle; in a bad year, so far as possible, 5% is still permitted to be used for yearly expenses.) Thus, while a million dollars, say, sounds like — and, of course, is — a considerable amount, an endowment of one million dollars only produces $50,000 in useable revenue per annum. That’s very useful, but it’s not really an overwhelming volume of cash.
A few hostile outsiders have imagined me and my former colleagues at the Maxwell Institute living lives of sybaritic ease atop piles of millions of dollars in gold, but this is completely wrong (to say nothing of silly): The Maxwell Institute, at least in its heyday, was publishing two semi-annual journals and an annual journal, as well as a variable number of books (including not only such wonderful but expensive tomes as Royal Skousen’s series regarding the textual history of the Book of Mormon but, also, the volumes of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative). It was and is its own publishing company, retaining a staff of professional editors. It was sponsoring conferences and lectures, producing films (most of them Mormon-related but some of them not), and engaging in a number of other activities, very commonly not LDS-related, such as the production of a Dead Sea Scrolls database and digitally recovering ancient texts from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. Moreover, although most of its work was done, at least in the old days, by people employed elsewhere, the Maxwell Institute (formerly FARMS) has long employed and supported a few people — John Gee provides an excellent example — whose work and publications were by no means limited only to Latter-day Saint venues. (For an example of Dr. Gee’s non-LDS-related work that appeared only yesterday, see this.)
Thus, to compare the supposedly vast wealth of the Maxwell Institute to a barely-funded little Mom-and-Pop anti-Mormon Christian ministry, as some have been doing, is misleading at best.
Finally, I’ve seen a couple of discussions about our motivation in calling our new venture Mormon Interpreter. Why, some have wondered, did we choose that title? The consensus view, at least among our critics, appears to be that we chose it as a pathetically childish or, more charitably, as a cheeky and defiant jab at the Maxwell Institute. This way, you see, both are referred to as MI. (Get it?)
A plausible explanation. Except for the facts. First of all, I don’t recall anybody affiliated with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship ever calling it MI. If anybody did, I don’t remember it. I certainly didn’t do so. To me, it was and is (as above) either the Maxwell Institute or, simply, the Institute.
More fundamentally, though, we don’t call our effort Mormon Interpreter. The journal is called Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. And the journal is sponsored by The Interpreter Foundation. It’s pretty hard to get the initials MI out of either of those. (Our URL includes the phrase “Mormon Interpreter,” but that was just a late suggestion from our technical guru, because there are lots of other “interpreters” out there on the web.)