Knight Foundation Releases Report on Nonprofit Sustainability

Running a nonprofit news organization is tricky business. While the ventures aren’t in it to make money, raising enough of it to achieve the ever-illusive “sustainability” is a constant concern.

Today, the Knight Foundation released its report on a year-long sustainability study detailing how a group of successful nonprofit digital newsrooms are engaging audiences and diversifying revenue. Mayur Patel and Michelle McLellan examined eight nonprofit digital news organizations, half of which are INN members:

The report, “Getting Local,” focused on the economic viability, business strategy, social impact and adaptability and capacity of nonprofit ventures. As it’s name implies, the report urged newsrooms to diversify funding with local sources and vary their income beyond grants through membership campaigns, events, sponsorships and advertising. In order to do so, it suggested nonprofit news organizations spend a significant fraction of their funds outside the newsroom.

The report “offers a useful way for foundations and others interested in supporting nonprofit news to think about and assess the sustainability of these types of emerging organizations,” Patel and McLellan said in a Knight Foundation blog post.

Ironically, one of the organizations in the study,  Chi-Town Daily News,  closed in 2009 while the it study was still being conducted.  In an analysis of the study, Poynter’s Rick Edmonds had this to say: “The report finds that Chi-Town relied almost exclusively on foundation funding, was mostly staffed by out-of-towners and spent heavily on editorial and an attempt at citizen journalism — while neglecting business development.”

To read Patel and McLellan’s full blog post about the study and to view the report, please visit the Knight Foundation’s website.