Last March, when the Wednesday Journal chain of community weeklies stopped publishing two of its Chicago titles — the Booster and the News-Star — the chain mailed those papers’ 4,000 subscribers a letter offering them a choice: they could request a refund for the undelivered issues, or they could show their support for community journalism by letting the company donate the money to the Community Media Workshop.

The results, according to Wednesday Journal vice president Andy Johnston: about 1,400 refunds and 658 donations. Half the subscribers didn’t answer the letter.

Is 658 donations a lot? It is if you think it is, and that’s how Johnston chooses to think. “I was surprised by how many people took up our offer,” he says. “I thought it would be people with three or four dollars coming back, but there were some with $15 or $20 balances left on their subscriptions.”

CMW is getting a check for about $6,500. President Thom Clark emailed me,  “Quite a wonderfully unexpected fiscal year-end contribution to our coffers. With the recession and strained nonprofit budgets, we’ve seen a marked increase in requests for scholarships to our conference and training workshops.”

A little money goes a long way at CMW. “They can do a few seminars or something else useful with that,” says Johnston.  ” “