The Partnership Approach

Approaching funders can seem like a transactional business that journalists are not comfortable with. But it actually can be equated with what a reporter does in approaching sources. People who take a call from a reporter don’t talk because they want to make the reporter happy and help the reporter meet a deadline. Talking to the reporter serves some greater need. The source and the reporter become partners, in a way, in getting news out to the public. They both have different needs, but their needs align.

Fundraising is similar, although not confrontational in the way reporting sometimes can be. We encourage an approach captured very well by Jennifer McRae, a Harvard researcher who writes about the alignment between philanthropists and social change leaders. It is not begging for money, putting your hand out. It is asking for someone to invest in you, but that investment is made around a common value, in which your patron, investor or donor is a partner with you in accomplishing something.

You go in conveying your story and the impact you have or hope to have, but you also need to explore and understand your prospective donors’ values and what they want to accomplish. Your fundraising depends on finding a shared goal, although it may be something you and the donor value for different reasons.

This may sound theoretical, but the partnership approach is an important way for nonprofits to frame their relationships with funders to successfully develop revenue streams. The previous chapter explained the various revenue streams that can pay for your reporting. The initial work you do understanding your audience and your community needs will help you determine what revenue models will work for you. It is important to have more than one revenue stream, and not be overly reliant on the interests of benefactors that may shift over time. But each revenue stream takes time and effort to develop, so rather than chasing every type of revenue, you may have an anchor and some secondary revenue streams. The advice in this section applies to all philanthropic giving, whether from a foundation or an individual of high net worth, and it applies to reader revenue, whether it involves membership or individual donors. The only revenue stream it may not apply to is earned revenue, which may be more transactional.

RESOURCES: “The Generosity Network: New Transformational Tools for Successful Fund-Raising” book by Jennifer McCrae and Jeffrey C. Walker