In spring 2019, the Winnipeg Free Press launched a yearlong pilot project through which the city’s faith groups help fund additional religious coverage.
Foundation and donor supportSubscribe to Updates Nonprofit news organizations typically lean — at least partially — on the support of foundations and major individual donors to accomplish their work and achieve financial sustainability, and a growing number of for-profit institutions are taking donations for specific work. This application of nonprofit structures to media and a changing dynamic for for-profit news offers important philanthropic opportunities but also creates some tricky ethical and operational questions.
Big Picture A primer on philanthropic support for news
Financial support from philanthropic sources offers all sorts of new opportunities for funding journalism and sustainability. It also raises some ethical questions that can potentially challenge reader trust.
Plan Strategic considerations around foundation and grant support
As revenue models change, so too are the ways funders assess the fit between a news organization and its audiences’ needs, including factoring in reader revenue as an indication of health and impact.
Dive into research on giving motivations of wealthy contributors to help formulate your major donor strategy.
The burgeoning nonprofit news industry requires further work to set operational and editorial work on consistent, ethical footings.
The moment of tension between the GOP and the press after the 2016 election fueled unprecedented donation and subscription revenue for news organizations, demonstrating that context matters for journalism that’s perceived as a public good and its ability to raise outside funds.
Donors have the power to influence coverage, implicitly and explicitly, and this piece unpacks why that’s happening and how media organizations can protect their independence.
Do Tips and tactics around philanthropic support for news
While it’s normal to feel uncomfortable asking for funding to support your work, journalists are well-suited to be grant-seekers – ready to research and write for clarity.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: You have a large list of engaged subscribers for your flagship newsletter. Reader revenue is the next challenge. Here’s an example of how a focused, personalized case for support can drive results.
Build a program of philanthropy to fund journalism. Digital subscriptions can pay for our daily journalism, but the deep investigative work is expensive and needs another funding source to be sustainable under our changing business model.
The Narwhal found that fundraising can be as simple as a direct ask tucked into a email newsletter post-script. Accordingly, they trashed the usual non-profit campaign calendar in favor of timely, specific invitations for their readers to back their action.
Under uncertainty, inewsource launched a three-day fundraising campaign with a match from their board and pulled in more than $45,000. The results confirmed reader and board support for the team’s quality journalism and helped the organization diversify revenue streams during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Use this guide to convince those in charge that you need to turn your homepage into a donation destination during your fundraising campaign.
This guide captures the dynamics and practicalities of pursuing a chunk of the growing pool of grant funding for news. One part how-to, one part roadmap, one part reference, the sum of the parts is an efficient and application-ready toolkit for news organizations who are beginning to explore grants.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Engaging with and fundraising to a digital-first audience doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel or put your content behind a paywall. But you may need to get input from people across different departments and create small cross-departmental teams with different expertise to complete effective fundraising campaigns.
Updates from the News Revenue Hub show that member and donor-driven news organizations are missing money when they set low fundraising goals or restrict their communication with audiences about the necessity and purposes of their fundraising.
Democracy Fund’s Local New Lab embodies the transparency it advocates for among funders in this accessible summary of how to build relationships with funders, steer clear of the pitfalls, and understand what’s beyond a grantee’s control.
This rundown of funders who back individual reporting projects and industry-changing innovation in local journalism is a helpful leg up for non-profit and for-profit news organizations exploring foundation support. It also includes links out to comprehensive resources for exploring foundation funding.
Matches are a powerful incentive for news orgs to recruit donors and engage existing supporters. These case studies show how local news organizations capitalized on the ground-breaking NewsMatch campaigns to fund their work with donor dollars.
Partnerships with trusted community philanthropic bodies can boost foundation and donor fundraising, as The Seattle Times proves with its latest project-specific fund in partnership with the Seattle Community Fund. The structure and tactics they use are adaptable to funding other local reporting efforts.
End-of-year fundraising campaigns with foundation matches are both an art and a science, as an examination of ProPublica’s strategy reveals. Email, direct asks, and a campaign mindset helped the organization bring in more than one-third of its small dollar revenue during its December campaign.
A high-dollar donor shares how they like to be approached.
A quick overview of tactics to improve prospecting for donors.
MinnPost’s crowdfunded, beat-specific blogs are a model for donor-supported journalism on critical topics.
Learn more about how journalism grant-writing requires clear arguments and research to bring in the money.
ProPublica’s president shares a new take on old journalism ethics about advertisers as they apply to new forms of support from donors and foundations.
The Texas Tribune’s donor page is a searchable, public database of gifts to the publication over time.
Among INN’s resources is this downloadable, boilerplate document for donor transparency.