Strategies for collaborative fundraising that can strengthen local media

When it comes to fundraising to support journalism, power can certainly be in numbers.

In recent years, news organizations have turned to collaboration to provide critical news and information to their communities, and as the partnerships continue to deepen and grow, news organizations are similarly turning to collaborative fundraising to support their work. Collaborative fundraising can be a way to create a central coordinating point around journalism in your community.

In Liza Gross’s work as vice president of practice change for Solutions Journalism Network, she often thinks about how we can strengthen and support the local media ecosystem and begin to leverage each other’s strengths. 

“We don’t need to compete. Working together will bring better journalism and will better inform and engage the citizens,” said Gross.

Gross shared these thoughts at the Lenfest News Philanthropy Summit, a conference focused exclusively on fundraising to support journalism. It was a project of the Lenfest News Philanthropy Network, a community of practice supporting news and journalism fundraisers and development professionals with year-round workshops, in-depth courses, and networking opportunities.

She was joined by a group of journalism professionals who gathered to share insights about their experiences with collaborative fundraising. Other speakers in the session included:

Below are some highlights, but you can click here to catch the recording of the conversation, and here for other session recordings throughout the three day Summit.

Collaborative funding isn’t the solution; it is one of the solutions.

Collaboration can transform and sustain a fragile media ecosystem. We are facing many challenges in journalism right now – including the erosion of confidence and trust in the news and the financial challenges of supporting a viable newsroom.

The guiding principle of the Local Media Project, led by Gross and supported by the Knight Foundation, is to reinforce existing media ecosystems. Collaboration among existing news organizations can enforce and strengthen the existing local media ecosystem during a period of great change and uncertainty.

“How do we create a collaboration that is representative of the community it serves, and can generate content that is equitable, diverse, and captures the complexities of that community?” posed Gross.

Not every funder will be a good fit.

Not all funders are ready or willing to invest in news, and that is okay. In the long run, it is much better to create relationships with funders who are ready, willing, and able to invest in you and see the true value of a collaborative journalism project.

“We make a big effort to stick to what we promise and be really specific about what we can do…” said Gross. “But we also want to make sure that when we expand our pool of funders, we remember that perhaps not every potential funder is suitable.”

What you can do, though, is work with funders of your collaborative to help craft their strategic plan. Gross spends a lot of time reaching out to funders to do this while keeping in mind that you can still fundraise individually while being part of a collaborative and raising funds for it.

Don’t underestimate the power of an opportunity mindset.

The benefit to working out of a scarcity mindset is slim. There is plenty of funding to go around to create a viable media ecosystem in your community. Stay in the space of opportunity and think about making the pie bigger.

“If you are fighting for crumbs and maintain a mentality of scarcity, this is not going to work… We try to infuse our collaboratives with this perspective” said Gross.

Collaboration is about pooling resources.

Much of the resources are financial, but it is often much more about pooling different ideas, points of view, and experiences. Everyone brings something unique and valuable to the table.

Glenn Burkins, publisher of qcitymetro.com, has been a journalist for 40 years. When he first heard of the idea of collaborative fundraising he was skeptical, but he now is on his third project.

“Collaboration works. It works not only for the media organizations, but especially for our readers…” said Burkins. “There are people there who can help us translate stories, who have great reporting skills, and who have editing skills. By pooling those resources, we are able to better serve our audiences collectively than we ever would be individually.”

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