Image journal survives $55,000 loss

Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image journal, says the journal is back on track financially after losing $55,000.

This article was edited on Nov. 1 from its original version published on Oct. 30. 

When Gregory Wolfe hired an event management company to handle online registration for Image journal’s two weeklong Christian writing seminars this summer, he thought he would save some money.

But after failing to receive $65,000 in registration fees handled by a company called Acteva, Wolfe realized something was wrong.

Wolfe said Image still doesn’t have $55,000 of the original $65,000 he expected to receive from Acteva. But thanks to extra fundraising efforts that raised $40,000, Wolfe said Image is now financially afloat.

“We wanted to save time and money,” said Wolfe, who publishes and edits the faith and art journal and directs SPU’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. Image’s office space is on Seattle Pacific’s campus, and the journal regularly hires SPU students as interns.

In July, Image hired Acteva, a software company that specializes in handling online registration for small nonprofit organizations. Image hosts yearly writing seminars called the “Glen Workshop,” and the proceeds make up part of Image’s yearly operating budget.

The journal hired Acteva to collect registration applications and credit card information for this year’s workshop.

Wolfe said he was interested in Acteva because of its reputation of catering to small nonprofit organizations and its online connections to Stanford and Yale Universities.

“The people we worked with were polite, prompt, and their software worked perfectly,” Wolfe said.  “At that point, there weren’t many complaints online.”

“They seemed like a reputable company,” he said.

Before hiring Acteva, Image registered people over the phone and entered their information into a database by hand.

Acteva agreed to handle the registration information and fees and mail Image checks bi-monthly. They would keep a percentage of the registration fees for their service.

Wolfe said Image received payments from September to December. Wolfe said that in January the checks started to bounce.

In early May, Image contacted Acteva and was told they were experiencing cash-flow problems. Months passed, and checks never came in.

At that point, Image switched credit card payments for the writing workshop back to its own bank accounts.

“We quickly realized that if we didn’t take action, we would never get anything back,” Wolfe said.

Image filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General’s Office of California and the City of San Francisco.

The Better Business Bureau lowered Acteva’s rating to an “F” and removed it as an accredited business after receiving more than 98 similar complaints. The Attorney General’s Office of California dismissed Image’s complaint, saying they don’t help with personal, legal or collection services against individual companies.

The City of San Francisco is currently investigating the company’s business practices. Following Image’s complaints, Acteva returned $10,000 of the missing funds to Image journal.

“We still faced a very serious financial crisis,” Wolfe said.  “We decided that it was time to go public with our story.”

On Aug. 30, Wolfe published two entries on Image’s blog, “Good Letters,” asking for $25,000 in donations. He said that although they needed more, they were afraid of intimidating donors. Within 10 days, the posts had garnered attention from Christianity Today and generated more than $40,000 in donations.

“We were worried,” Wolfe said. “But we have a very loyal community.”

Wolfe said that between the money returned and the donations, Image is back on track financially.

Jason Brown, who also claims Acteva owes him money, created in May. Brown accuses Acteva of failing to pay back $65,000 to his wife’s nonprofit. Brown’s website has received more than 60 complaints from organizations around the country.

On his website, Brown estimates that Acteva may owe $2 million to universities and nonprofit organizations.

Currently, Image is working with Eventbrite, an online ticketing service that promotes events through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, to plan future events.

“I think Image’s future looks bright,” Wolfe said. “God willing, lightning won’t strike twice.”

Sophomore Madison Holup, an intern with Image, said the journal was straightforward with her about the financial situation.

“I was told that interns would have to take on more work because of everything that happened,” Holup said.  “I welcomed it… It’s great experience.”

Image will still host its two workshops this summer. The Glen West workshop will be held in Santa Fe, N.M. and Glen East will be in South Hadley, Mass.

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Alex Cnossen

Editor-in-Chief Alex Cnossen is a junior journalism major.