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2012: What we know now on building public trust, raising money and a free press powered by the people

January 23, 2013 in Blog, Revenue

Journalism Accelerator

Was 2012 prosperous for publishers? The four-part series continues, with this third installment offering key lessons from three well-respected practitioners known for thinking outside the box. Mike Fancher, veteran news business strategist; Lila LaHood, director of operations and development at San Francisco Public Press; and Keith Hammonds, director of Ashoka’s Knowledge Initiative, offer their unique perspectives. Fancher sums it up as such: “News businesses – emerging or legacy, large or small – won’t be relevant and economically viable if journalists don’t feel a personal responsibility to make public engagement a core tenet of their work.” LaHood offers insights from the nonprofit trenches: “We learned that we weren’t giving our supporters enough different opportunities to support our brand of local public-interest journalism.” And Hammond sees the opportunity to act as a changemaker is to “produce content that’s relevant; connect it to mechanisms that help citizens and communities make change; articulate a value proposition and (not least) ask to be paid.” See their contributions below for useful context you can compare your experience against. Check back next week as we offer the fourth and final post in this series, with contributions from Josh Stearns of Free Press, Mark Glaser of PBS Media Shift and Dan Moulthrop of The Civic Commons. Read the rest of this entry →

Media Impact Funders

January 4, 2013 in Resources, Revenue

Media Impact Funders is committed to advancing the field of media arts and public interest media funding. Media Impact Funders serves as a resource for grantmakers who fund media content, infrastructure, and policy, those who employ media to further their program goals as well as a collaborative network for funders who wish to learn more about media.

We recently undertook a strategic review in which we listened to many of the leading voices in the field, who urged us to pursue several key strategic imperatives: to serve as a more constant convener, providing a forum for important discussions like our Annual Funder Conversation and pre-conference Institute with the International Human Rights Funders Group; … to become a more vibrant knowledge network; and to become a catalyst for collaboration.

And we heard loud and clear that we need to change our name. Documentary film continues to be a critically important medium. But it’s not the only thing we care about as an organization, and many people have the false impression that film is our main concern, to the exclusion of all other aspects of media in the public interest.

After many conversations and excellent feedback from peers, we’re excited to announce our new name: Media Impact Funders. We are funders, working broadly on media issues in order to create impact.” Source: Media Impact Funders

Priming the Pump: The Case for a Sector Based Approach to Impact Investing

December 21, 2012 in Resources, Revenue

In this discussion paper, we argue for a shift in focus—toward the goal of scaling entire industry sectors, in addition to individual firms. Our experience from the past eight years is that impact investors can massively increase the number of lives they touch by concentrating investments in specific industry sectors in specific geographies, and by investing in a range of organizations to accelerate the development of these industry segments. The need for investment is particularly acute at the earliest stages of innovation, which provide the foundation in which entire new sectors can emerge and scale rapidly by tapping commercial capital markets.” Source: Matt Bannick & Paula Goldman, Omidyar

Grant Center

December 7, 2012 in Resources, Revenue

Grantseeking 101

Are you new to grantseeking, or looking to enhance your program? We offer a variety of professional development resources providing tips and tricks on the grantseeking process. Whether you are starting from scratch or in need of a refresher, we have information to help.” Source: Grant Center

non-profit guides: grant-writing tools for non-profit organizations

November 21, 2012 in Resources, Revenue

Successful grant-writing involves solid advance planning and preparation. It takes time to coordinate your planning and research, organize, write and package your proposal, submit your proposal to the funder, and follow-up.

Organize your proposal, pay attention to detail and specifications, use concise, persuasive writing, and request reasonable funding. Clearly understand the grantmaker’s guidelines before you write your proposal. Make sure the grantmaker’s goals and objectives match your grantseeking purposes.” Source: non-profit guides

JA publisher profile with ProPublica’s Stephen Engelberg: “This may shake out to be a Golden Age of investigative reporting.”

August 10, 2012 in Blog, Community, Craft, Distribution, Education, Experiments, Policy, Revenue, Technology

Stephen Engelberg

ProPublica managing editor Stephen Engelberg at the University of Oregon’s Turnbull Center. Image: Lisa Skube.

Journalism Accelerator

Raising money, gaining audience, having impact. Despite a ten million dollar annual budget, 34 reporters and partnerships with multiple major news organizations, ProPublica faces similar sustainability issues as many startup publishers. ProPublica’s managing editor (set to become editor-in-chief early next year) Stephen Engelberg spoke with a couple dozen journalists at the University of Oregon’s Turnbull Center in Portland this week. Here are his views on some of the major challenges investigative, nonprofit news organizations face today.

Stephen Engelberg had never done any fundraising before becoming second-in-command at ProPublica, the high-profile, nonprofit, investigative news organization set up in 2007. He didn’t have to right away; for the first three years ProPublica received ten million dollars a year from a foundation set up by Herb and Marion Sandler with their earnings from the savings and loan industry. ProPublica’s budget has remained the same, but the Sandler Foundation share fell to half last year. As Engelberg prepares to lead the first online-only news organization to win a Pulitzer Prize, money, branding, the expectations of donors and making an impact are on his mind. Read the rest of this entry →

Challenge Fund for Journalism Report: Learning to Fish

June 27, 2012 in Experiments, Resources, Revenue

While it didn’t find one magic solution, a new study did show that nonprofit media are most likely to remain strong if they use certain strategies: things like seeking funding from diverse sources, engaging in in-person networking, and training board leaders to fundraise better.

The study, stemming from a seven-year experiment by the Challenge Fund for Journalism, involved donating $3.6 million in matching grants and coaching services to 53 nonprofit media companies—including CJR—to see if the diverse group would discover new revenue streams.

Participants did find new streams, with help from the matching grant guarantee, and CFJ found that those new sources were most likely to continue if organizations kept their donor lists up to date and made fundraising a daily task, rather than betting entirely on an annual gala. Funding also stayed stronger for companies producing a quality product with a well-organized business model. In other words, organizations that have their ducks in a row are best able to be, in a word used repeatedly in the report, “nimble,” in a fluctuating economy and shifting media environment” Source: Columbia Journalism Review

Press+ Connecting content with commerce

March 26, 2012 in Distribution, Experiments, Resources, Revenue

Journalism has always depended on modest payments by consumers, and the industry must re-adopt this model as it becomes clear that online advertising revenue alone does not sustain robust, independent journalism at newspapers, magazines, or online publications. Everyone, from readers to reporters, is facing the consequences as news organizations of all kinds are forced to cut back…

Press+ powers targeted e-commerce strategies – such as metering, segmented content, and topic-based packages – that will convert your most engaged readers into paid subscribers without turning away casual visitors.” Source:

“Press+ is an RR Donnelley company that is pioneering flexible, sophisticated e-commerce solutions for publishers – and easy-to-use, time-saving services for readers.

Press+ was founded by three veteran digital-media leaders: Steven Brill, founder of The American Lawyer magazine and Court TV; L. Gordon Crovitz, a former Wall Street Journal publisher; and Leo Hindery, Jr., who has led the San Francisco Chronicle, AT&T Cable and YES Network. Under their leadership, the company launched Press+ in 2010.
It’s all about helping publishers around the world reclaim their business on the Web.” Source:

2012: The year of the prosperous publisher

February 8, 2012 in Blog, Craft, Experiments, Revenue, Technology

Journalism Accelerator

Year of the sustainable publisher dragon

...the Year of the Dragon is one of high risks and high returns — a year during which the financial crisis will finally see some light... (self-proclaimed Chinese astrologer Joseph) Chung explains that this is a “Water Dragon Year,” which means a higher flow of communication between people.
(Image by Jim Nix of Nomadic Pursuits on Flickr.)

2012 is the Year of the Dragon, if you go by the Chinese calendar. What will define this year for news publishers? In January we pointed you to some thoughtful – and entertaining – predictions for 2012. But prognostications can only take us so far. Hearing directly from publishing pioneers which trails need blazing, and which may be better off less traveled, is where our work begins this year. To fine tune the JA focus for 2012 we spent January identifying how to support the most critical needs publishers face now, in a way unique to the JA service model.

To do this, we turned to a group of talented people with a wide range of experience in news and information. All of them are familiar with the JA’s conversation and information exchange products, having joined our early pilot project, participated in a more recent forum or generously granted us an informational interview (or two) over the past year.

This time, we asked them to identify what they see as the most urgent challenges in publishing right now, and the greatest opportunities to support publishers’ work. Suggestions and ideas the group raised will guide our priorities for 2012, with fresh insight to help shape our upcoming forum on business models for publishers. That kicks off later this month on February 28 and 29. Many thanks to The Seattle Times’ David Boardman, Anne Galloway, editor of, CEO of the Investigative News Network Kevin Davis, BXB founder Michele McLellan, policy expert Steve Waldman, business coach Joe Michaud, and RJI Fellow/ The Patterson Foundation’s New Media Initiative Manager Janet Coats. Read the rest of this entry →

Finding your funding model (Stanford Social Innovation Review)

February 8, 2012 in Resources, Revenue

In the spring 2007 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, we authored “How Nonprofits Get Really Big,” based on the Bridgespan Group’s research on nonprofits that had been founded since 1970 and reached $50 million in annual revenue. Only 144 nonprofits (excluding hospitals and universities) made the cut, reflecting the steep challenge of raising funds on a large scale…

In the spring 2009 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, we followed up with “Ten Nonprofit Funding Models,” which cataloged distinct types of funding strategies that exist among large nonprofits. We identified 10 nonprofit funding models, further confirming that the paths to growth are not idiosyncratic but strategic.

Since the publication of these two articles, Bridgespan and the Stanford Social Innovation Review have heard from a great many nonprofit leaders. The concept of the funding model—which we define as a methodical and institutionalized approach to building a reliable revenue base to support an organization’s core programs and services—clearly struck a chord. But many of the leaders wanted to know what practical guidance we could offer on how to identify and develop the right funding model. It is one thing to read that Susan G. Komen for the Cure is an extraordinarily successful example of the Heartfelt Connector funding model, which draws on a large grassroots individual donor base with a strong emotional tie to the issue. It’s quite another to figure out if the Heartfelt Connector is the right funding model for your own organization, and if so, how to pursue it.

This article is a response to those requests for the “how” of funding models—the basic principles through which organizations can understand and investigate their long-range funding options and then develop a realistic plan for choosing and implementing them. The principles are born out of our research as well as consulting experience with dozens of nonprofit clients that have sought pathways to growth and financial sustainability.” Source: Stanford Social Innovation Review