Here’s why 2018 was the best year ever

Best year ever at Elliott Advocacy

No two ways about it: 2018 was the best year ever for this consumer advocacy site and organization.

And I’m not just talking about the numbers.

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But let’s start there:

✓ We hit the 10 million page view mark for the year. Traffic rose nearly 25 percent from 2017.

✓ We had a record 7,000 requests for help in 2018. That’s an eye-popping 69 percent increase from last year.

✓ Our daily newsletter, Elliott Advocacy Today, added 5,000 new subscribers, hitting the 24,000 subscriber mark — an increase of more than 20 percent.

But 2018 was more than a year for the record books. Elliott Advocacy got some serious forward momentum, thanks to its new status as a nonprofit organization. Its mission is clearer than ever. And we know who got us to this point (hint: you did!). But more on that in a moment.

By the way, there’s still time to make a tax-deductible donation for 2018. Here’s how.

Forward momentum for our best year ever

In 2018, Elliott Advocacy became the first stop for people who need help with a consumer problem. But that’s not all.

In May, this site became a nonprofit organization. It has operated as a de facto nonprofit for many years, but getting our 501(c)(3) status from the IRS was a necessary step toward fulfilling our mission. This fall, for our first fundraiser since becoming a nonprofit organization, we raised nearly $16,000 from readers like you. We’re very grateful for your help.

Our first report card as a nonprofit was better than I could have imagined. We have an average of five stars (out of five) on the site Great Nonprofits. This is what my advocates and I were put on this earth to do — to help real people with real problems.

We’ve doubled down on our outreach, too. Thanks to help from the sales team at King Features Syndicate, my columns Problem Solved and Travel Troubleshooter were picked up in many new publications, including the Mercury News in San Jose, Calif., the Hartford Courant and just last week, the Fargo (N.D.) Forum. This summer, I also became a contributor to Forbes.

I also just wrapped up a proposal for my latest book, tentatively called “Always Right! The unauthorized guide to the fall and rise of customer service.” It explains how, over the decades, companies have adopted customer-hostile policies and practices. And I tell you how to push back and get the customer service you deserve. Along the way, I also explain how I became a consumer advocate and founded this organization — a story filled with drama, lawsuits and federal subpoenas. (Chapter 1 — Chris almost goes to jail!) I know you’re going to love this useful book.

Building a new nonprofit organization

Our mission is clearer than ever. My team of advocates and I are building a strong organization that will lend a caring hand to everyone who asks. We’re dedicated to empowering consumers to solve their problems and helping those who can’t.

But how?

First, I’ve taken steps to separate my personal life and journalism from the organization. A few years ago I began posting personal updates to my site. This summer, we redesigned both Elliott Advocacy and and moved many of my regular columns to my personal site.

In 2019, we’ll be working to raise the funds to pay a professional staff and cover our operating expenses. It’s a long road ahead, filled with writing grant proposals and attending meetings, but it will be worth it. By this time next year, I could be writing to you from our new headquarters. That is also one of our goals: to open an office.

We also have a clear vision of where we’d like to be in 12 months: Consistently delivering 1 million monthly pageviews. Helping 1,000 consumers a month. Reaching the 30,000-subscriber mark for our daily newsletter.

And wouldn’t it be great if we raised the $1.2 million we need to fully fund Elliott Advocacy for 2020?

I realize that some of these numbers might sound ambitious. But if we never set a goal, we’ll never achieve it.

Thank you for your support in 2018

None of this would be possible without you, of course. And by “you” I mean the good people who read this site every day. You take the time to leave comments and to share the stories you read here. You participate in our fundraisers, allowing us to keep this site operating.

You are the reason I wake up at O’Dark Hundred to answer emails and write stories. Your encouragement, commentary — and occasional criticism — drive me to create the best consumer advocacy organization in the world.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to my colleagues. Our executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman, undertook one of the most important projects of the year, creating a plan to improve our search engine optimization (SEO). She is also the driving force behind the response team that answers consumers every day.

I’m also beyond thankful to our management team, including Andy Smith and Mark Pokedoff (editing), Barry Graham and Dwayne Coward (forums), John Galbraith (research), Teri Bergin and Laurie Harris (newsletters), Will Leeper (standards and practices) and Steven Glover (IT). They’re in the trenches next to us every day, fighting for consumers.

And they are not alone. We have a large group of dedicated volunteers who help in the forums, by researching corporate contacts and in and creating the newsletter. Without them, our efforts to help consumers would collapse.

I’m also honored to work with the corporate sponsors listed in the footer of every page and whose “underwritten by” messages appear in the articles you read. These companies believe in great customer service and are willing to actively support it. From fundraiser premiums to sponsoring our annual customer service awards, they are there for us. I hope you’ll consider giving them your business in 2019.

Finally, I want to thank our families. My kids have endured long weekends where Dad is working on a case or scrambling to meet a deadline. I know that’s true for many of my advocacy teammates. We’ve all sacrificed personal time to create this organization. At the end of the day, it is a sacrifice shared by our families. I want to acknowledge this and to offer a heartfelt “thank you” to the sons, daughters, wives, husbands, and parents who saw my teammates a little less in 2018 because of the important advocacy work that needed to be done.

As 2018 ends, we’re standing on the verge of greatness. We are about to create a nonprofit that promises to help people for years, if not generations to come.

Thanks for joining us on this advocacy adventure.