Advocating for Journalism Philanthropy

INN’s development consultant Irma Simpson advises that nonprofit publishers should be proactive in making the case for journalism to non-media funders. Funders’ missions often align with nonprofit newsrooms on issues including education, environment, consumer protection and more.

Simpson says that because the commercial-news sector has diminished so dramatically, nonprofit news organizations should highlight their ability to fill the gap and serve the unmet information needs of their communities.

  • Offsite Resource: “Journalism and Media Grantmaking: Five Things You Need To Know,” by the Knight Foundation’s Eric Newton and the Knight Digital Media Center’s Michelle McClellan, has some food for thought on approaching non-media funders. Although the publication targets the funding community, it’s a great resource for media organizations for making the case for why they should be funded.

Just remember: Even given any hopeful changes in philanthropic practice, the need greatly outweighs the resources available. In any given municipality, journalism philanthropy is eclipsed by arts grant making, which supports a complex nonprofit ecosystem from the S.O.B.s — symphony, opera, ballet — on down.

It could be that the philanthropic infrastructure for public-interest journalism is still taking shape. Perhaps in five years journalists will see deeper grantmaker commitment to nonprofit, public-interest information services. Awareness of the crisis of journalism, and of the nonprofit answer to that crisis, is on the rise, and new funding initiatives are always in development.

Meantime, news organizations can look to foundations for support, and submit the best proposals they can to grant-making programs that match their interests, even as they conscientiously diversify their revenue streams to achieve broad-based financial sustainability.