ELCA NEWS SERVICE
May 7, 2007
ELCA Publisher Finishes 2006 With Positive Operating Income
MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) -- Augsburg Fortress, the publishing ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), reported it finished 2006 with $20,000 in operating income, the first time in many years the publisher completed its financial year in the black.
A key factor in the positive financial report was nearly $6.2 million in sales of Evangelical Lutheran Worship, said John Rahja, chief financial officer, Augsburg Fortress. Evangelical Lutheran Worship is a new series of ELCA worship resources introduced in October 2006. Its centerpiece is a primary worship book.
Total net sales in 2006 for Augsburg Fortress was $44.3 million, well above the publisher's budgeted forecast of $40 million, Rahja said in a report to the publisher's board of trustees, which met here April 20-21.
"We made a little bit of black ink, and that's a lot better than a lot of red ink," said Beth A. Lewis, president and chief executive officer, Augsburg Fortress, in an interview with the ELCA News Service. "But we're not in a place where we can just now rest on our laurels. We have to continue to listen and learn and serve and create high-quality resources." Lewis added that finishing 2006 in the black financially "takes some of the pressure off" of the employees who, she said, have stepped up to new challenges and opportunities to help the company achieve financial success.
Annette Citzler, board of trustees chair, LaGrange, Texas, said it's "very gratifying" to see the publisher affirmed by congregations and members of the ELCA. "I really think that it means that the church has acknowledged that Augsburg Fortress has kind of reclaimed its whole sense of identity as the publishing house of the ELCA," she said, commenting on the positive financial news. "I think the church for years had kind of sensed that we were drifting from that, and I think that under Beth's (Lewis) leadership we have managed to reclaim that."
For the first quarter of 2007, Augsburg Fortress posted net income of $2.5 million, ahead of its budgeted forecast of $1 million, Rahja said. Net sales for the quarter were $15.7 million, versus a budgeted amount of $13.5 million, he said. Net sales of Evangelical Lutheran Worship were more than $6.6 million for the first quarter.
Rahja reported that Augsburg Fortress recently paid $492,394 in royalties to the ELCA from sales of Evangelical Lutheran Worship under an agreement established at the beginning of the Renewing Worship project in 2000. Lewis told the board the royalties will go into a shared fund that will support the development of future worship resources.
In addition to the success of Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Lewis reported that Augsburg Fortress' Web-based resources have been well received by ELCA congregations. A total of almost 6,100 congregations are subscribing to herewestandconfirmation.org, sundaysandseasons.com, akaloo.org or newproclamation.com, she said.
In her report to the board, Lewis noted that the "theme" of the board meeting was "Moving from Survival to Strategy." The publisher's staff needs to continue its move into "a strategic mode," and the board of trustees should continue to hold Augsburg Fortress accountable, she said. For 2007 the publisher's strategic plan includes a continuing emphasis on relationship building, leveraging Web-based resources, more "print on demand" resources, forming strategic ecumenical partnerships and continuing efforts in research and development, Lewis said.
Augsburg Fortress signed an agreement to manage a bookstore at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), one of eight ELCA seminaries. The publisher will also close its bookstore at Union Theological Seminary, New York, she said.
The trustees spent a significant part of their meeting discussing strategic planning led by the Rev. David Tiede, former president of Luther Seminary, an ELCA seminary in St. Paul, Minn. The session was significant for the board, which has spent most of the past decade trying to keep Augsburg Fortress afloat, Citzler said. "I think now the board has an opportunity to dream bigger for this organization and figure out additional ways of maybe being in service to this church that we ... never had the possibility of before. It's a nonprofit organization, but that doesn't mean it can't build financial resources that can serve the church in still greater ways," she said.
The board elected new officers from its current board: Michael D. Bash, Long Lake, Minn., was elected board chair; Janet Thompson, Eagan, Minn., vice chair; and the Rev. Marty E. Stevens, Gettysburg, Pa., secretary. It also honored seven trustees whose terms end this year and churchwide advisors who will retire later this year.
Audio of comments of Beth Lewis is at http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/070426b.mp3 and Annette Citzler is at http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/070426a.mp3
on the ELCA Web site.
Information about Augsburg Fortress is at http://www.augsburgfortress.org/ on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog