All Commentary
Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Giving Thanks for Ten Years of Growth and Progress at FEE

Out of all the things I'm grateful for, FEE's success is at the top of the list.

The holidays and final weeks of the year are upon us. It’s a time to count blessings. While socialists, so-called “progressives” and others of similar persuasion busy themselves counting the other guy’s blessings, we who believe in liberty, free markets and personal character take stock of our own.

Personally, I’m thankful for more than anybody has time to read about, but right now I am spending a lot of time appreciating the wonderful opportunity I’ve had to lead FEE for more than ten years as its president. Last June, I announced that when our board of trustees chooses a successor, I will step into an active president emeritus role. That will hopefully allow me more time to write and lecture. The search process is on track and will likely culminate with the announcement of a new president sometime in the first half of 2019.

As I mentioned in my June statement, our FEE team has accomplished much in the past decade. My 10+ years represent by far the longest and most consequential of any FEE presidency since that of our founder, Leonard Read. For the benefit of our readers and especially our thousands of financial supporters, I’d like to recap some of our accomplishments since 2008.

FEE’s Phenomenal Growth

Big and tough decisions were made. One was to move from our ancestral home in Irvington, New York to Atlanta, Georgia. Many of us felt a deep and long-held attachment to the old mansion on the Hudson.

I attended my first FEE seminar there in 1977. But the numbers made the case for moving. We chose Atlanta, cut our operating costs in half, avoided a small fortune in future upkeep of a 140-year-old building, and now have an office that fits our needs and mission perfectly. Good stewardship of donor dollars demands their most efficient and effective use in everything an organization does, including where it houses itself.

Another big, tough decision was to re-focus and re-staff the editorial/content team. The wisdom of that decision was proven quickly. Our readership had been flat or declining for 15 years but it’s risen dramatically every year since that decision.

We approach a million unique visitors to most months of the year.

Reflecting where our targeted audience goes to read content, we ended the costly print edition of our venerable monthly magazine, The Freeman. We now publish online every three days the equivalent of an entire issue of The Freeman. And instead of a readership in the thousands, we approach a million unique visitors to most months of the year.

We also do a lot less preaching to the choir these days. Not because we don’t like diehard, 65-year-old free marketeers (I’m one of them!) but because that’s not how we’re going to win the future. FEE is now focused, laser-like, on young newcomers to liberty of high school and college age.

The Numbers to Back It Up

Take a look at these impressive numbers that tell our story of growth since 2008:

Overall revenues, at $6 million last year, are three times what they were in 2008. Moreover, the million-dollar deficit we faced at that time was erased within two years. Every year for the past eight, our bottom line has been in the black and big. We’ve rebuilt our reserves and put FEE on its soundest financial footing in decades. Our auditors give us the highest marks and Charity Navigator ranks us in its top category for nonprofit soundness and management.

Total assets are $2 million higher than they were in 2008. We have no mortgage and zero debt.

Our staff generates more content and in-person interactions in a month than some organizations do in a year.

At our low point a decade ago, our employee count was just eight. Now we have nearly four times that number. More importantly, productivity has soared. Our staff generates more content and in-person interactions in a month than some organizations—many times our size—do in a year.

Monthly page views on the web site averaged 165,000 in 2008. We now average about 11 times that.

Ten years ago, we had no presence on Facebook. Our “reach” there was zero. Now it’s common for our Facebook reach to exceed 300,000 in a week. We’re prominent in other social media our audience uses as well.

In 2008, we had no Alumni Network, no organized effort to cultivate and engage our seminar attendees after they’ve come to their first FEE program. We now exceed 20,000 alumni in the network.

When I assumed office, our video views were zero because we hadn’t produced any! We are on track to end this calendar year with a number approaching 14 million views just since last January.

We feature 100+ free eBooks on our site today; we had none a decade ago.

We had no online courses a decade ago. Now we feature 17 courses, free and easily downloadable from the website. Some three thousand people have completed at least one course; many thousands more have used one or more in a partial way, and often as teachers in their classrooms.

In-person attendance at FEE seminars in 2008 was stuck where it had been for years at about 450 annually. This year it’ll set a new record of around 4,800. Add in the numbers in the audiences at single-lecture FEE presentations around the world and you’re looking at about 25,000.

To New Beginnings 

There’s a new spirit at FEE, more aggressively positive perhaps than at any time in our history. We embrace and master the newest technologies. We actively seek ways to know our customers better, serve them valuable opportunities and content, and leverage the distribution of our work through our network of partners across the country and around the world. We hire the most competent, dedicated people we can find. They’re all on the same page, working passionately for shared ideals they fully understand and can articulate.

You have many options regarding where to put your scarce resources. As you consider your year-end giving, I hope you will put FEE at the top of your list. For a staff that has worked tirelessly in the past decade to exemplify excellence and produce results, doing so would be a very welcome vote of confidence!

FEE’s many accomplishments would not be possible without our generous supporters. As we continue to advance the ideas and principles of free markets and individual liberty among the rising generation, I ask that you please consider supporting FEE in this endeavor. You can do so here.

Thank you, FEE supporters, for all that you’ve done for us to make FEE the vibrant and productive organization it is today!

  • Lawrence W. Reed is FEE's President Emeritus, having previously served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019). He is also FEE's Humphreys Family Senior Fellow and Ron Manners Global Ambassador for Liberty. His Facebook page is here and his personal website is