Description of Organization
Established in 1990 as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization, The Tricycle Foundation is dedicated to making Buddhist views, values, and practices broadly available. In 1991 the Foundation launched Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the first magazine intended to present Buddhist perspectives to a Western readership. Tricycle soon became the leading journal of Buddhism in the West, where it continues to be the most inclusive and widely read vehicle for the dissemination of Buddhist perspectives. Publication of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review remains the Foundation’s chief activity, and our readership includes longtime practitioners, those who are curious about Buddhism or meditation, and those who do not identify as Buddhist but value the teachings of wisdom and compassion Buddhism has to offer.
In 2013, Tricycle Magazine won the Utne Media Award. Here's what the judges had to say:
"After much deliberation, some back-issue rereading, and more than one impassioned speech, we're very pleased to announce Tricycle as the winner of Utne's 2013 Media Award for Body/Spirit Coverage. With a wealth of exceptional titles to choose from, the decision was difficult to make. Tricycle stood out for great writing and presentation—but most important was a noted willingness to surprise, even challenge, readers. Through this atmosphere of lively dialogue, Tricycle offers Western Buddhists (and many more) a point of entry to a community of thoughtful spiritual seekers."
In late 2016, Tricycle Foundation received a $25,000 grant to support the general operating expenses of the organization.
In Mid-May 2015, Tricycle Foundation received a $66,000 Pay it Forward, Recoverable Grant to deepen their donor prospect pool, expand the subscription base and to build capacity for both earned and contributed revenue. The requested funds were used to amortize the cost of a website rebuild including services rendered by the design and tech teams. The website design was a mobile-friendly (responsive design) site, designed to improve readability and streamline site navigation. Tricycle’s multimedia offerings, developed in large part in recent years, became more easily identifiable and accessible on the site. The grant was paid back in full in September 2016, including a donation to the Lenz Foundation Technical Assistance Fund.
2008 - 2010
Following Tricycle’s initial successful online expansion, the Foundation granted Tricycle a further $100,000 to develop the Ning Project, which will enabled the magazine to launch an open-ended online social network where it can post "Tricycle Talks," podcasts, videocasts, blogs, and other interactive features in various media formats. In addition, Tricycle requested and the Foundation granted the sum of $23,600 to further develop its website. The object is to provide a uniquely independent public forum for exploring contemporary and traditional Buddhist ideas and their integration with Western disciplines. The goal is to provide an online home for Buddhists of different traditions, who are given an opportunity to come together and find a voice in the dialogue between Buddhism and the broader American culture.
2004 - 2007
The Lenz Foundation has entered into a long-term partnership with a well-known magazine, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, which services the broad needs of American Buddhism and the American Buddhist community. Through Tricycle, the Foundation has donated in the past several years approximately $80,000 for distribution of meditation materials to prison inmates and to the confined elderly/disabled, and has funded approximately $154,000 for Tricycle’s annual "Change Your Mind Day" program. Change Your Mind Day is a national event, designed and implemented by the Tricycle Foundation for the purpose of providing members of the Buddhist community throughout America to join in sharing their wisdom and experience with those who might benefit from a change in their direction, with all the tools that the American Buddhist community has to offer in its collective wisdom. In 2007, Tricycle revamped these programs to provide online support for both projects, and received an additional $60,000 grant.
Results / Update
This two-year, $100,000 grant from the Lenz Foundation contributed toward the first phase of our Online Community Building Initiative – the creation of the Ning platform. Ning is the platform for the Tricycle Community website: community.tricycle.com. The social media features Ning provided us with inspired us with the ideas to create a full-featured vibrant interactive global Buddhist community.
Our Ning community is growing rapidly. Members on six continents have joined us to form a community now nearly 15,000 strong and growing—and that with very little marketing!
Members write blogs and interact with teachers and each other on Ning, and what we learned from serving multimedia and text content on Ning has helped the main Tricycle site reach its present state of maturity. Before Ning, we were a website for a magazine. After Ning, we are a vibrant online community reaching a growing audience using a variety of social-media tools.
Further, the Ning platform provided the necessary springboard for our new business strategy - a sustainable financial model in an industry undergoing radical change.
Through an in-depth strategic planning, research and business development process, we developed a new, long-term strategy that is based upon a values-driven approach to our market. In other words, rather than view ourselves as a media organization selling a product to individual consumers, we see ourselves as the organizers of a diverse, inclusive, global spiritual community that provides teachings and support to individuals on a spiritual path. Global digital networks make it possible for us to do something not possible before—to bring like-minded people together in dialogue to discover how the universal Buddhist values of wisdom and compassion can positively shape the way we live and act in contemporary society. With our new online social network—the Tricycle Community—we are now global in reach. We envision the Tricycle Community as a resource that will ultimately assist other organizations that are promoting global spiritual values to also go to scale. Catalyzing this large global community is something we can uniquely do that will be of enormous benefit to a wide range of like-minded organizations.
With this in mind, we tested the community’s willingness to pay for online content. The results continue to be positive. Tricycle consumers demonstrated that they would be willing to financially support a high-quality, online community experience, supplemented by archival content in print and online. We have, to date, almost completely converted our subscriber list of customers purchasing a $24 yearly magazine subscription to customers purchasing a $30 yearly “sustaining” membership – which entitles them to not only the magazine but also premium online features such as Tricycle Retreats, online video teachings every week by contemporary Buddhist teachers; Tricycle, The Digital Edition; The Wisdom Collection, which comprises two decades of magazine and online content; the Tricycle Gallery, which includes the best in Buddhist art to download and share; Tricycle Book club, featuring online discussions with leading Buddhist authors; and soon, a monthly film selected by the editors and viewable online.
Tricycle’s social-media effort has taken off. An active blog, steady Facebook and Twitter feeds, a weekly newsletter and Daily Dharma reach tens of thousands every week.
The Ning platform ultimately served as a launch for the now much larger Tricycle Community at tricycle.com. In the first year of our offering memberships—touting the online retreats and direct exchanges with dharma teachers as the main offering—we signed up 6,000 new members and renewed 50% of our base. The cash from these renewals and new subscribers and the low online acquisition cost have eradicated the need for direct-mail efforts to garner new subscribers. This resulted $190,000 savings in our annual budget and takes us a step closer to sustainability. Our paid-membership is now pushing 30,000.
Our online offerings continue to become more sophisticated. For example, in June 2011 we partnered with Buddhafest to offer the online component their film festival (we also sponsored the live event). We sold 2,000 passes at $20 each (on top of the membership fee). The e-book promotion for our 20th anniversary has also driven memberships and in just the first few days over 2,000 e-books have been downloaded. We are now providing monthly themed e-books to enrich our offerings, since our first e-book drove memberships at a pace equaling the film-festival promotion. These two offerings drove 1,415 new paid memberships and 1,085 renewals in June and July alone.
The Lenz Foundation’s generous $100,000 grant has taken us further than even we had expected. The Ning community now serves as a rich prospect pool for the now much larger paid membership base online (Basic Membership, which requires no fee, is even much larger and, like Ning, is a rich prospect pool.)
We have put your generosity to good use and are grateful beyond words. We look forward to sharing our progress with you!