Fundraising strategies for newsrooms

It’s no secret that local news organizations are struggling financially. Even before the pandemic accelerated declines in revenue, outlets were looking for new ways to support their journalism. 

And one increasingly common revenue source for both nonprofit and for-profit newsrooms has been philanthropy. News organizations have turned to individuals, foundations, and even large tech platforms for support through donations and grants. This fundraising has only taken on added urgency in light of the coronavirus. 

Here at the Lenfest Institute, we’ve compiled a number of tools and resources for newsrooms seeing philanthropic support. I’ve reported on fundraising strategies extensively in Solution Set, and I’ve rounded up some of those case studies below. We’ve also collected a growing list of COVID-19-related funding opportunities, which you can find here

I’m excited to introduce another resource for newsrooms: The News Philanthropy Network, a new community of practice to support those focused on fundraising to support journalism. The Network is very much an experiment as we try to figure out how to effectively share strategies and best practices in this emerging field. 

We’ve started by offering Zoom-based conversations for members to share what they’re working on, what’s worked, and what lessons they’ve learned. 

Our next discussion is focused on holding virtual donor events — yes, a virtual event on virtual events. Kristi Waite from The Seattle Times and Niki Lessig from the News Literacy Project will share more about how their organizations have connected with donors during the pandemic. We’re meeting next Thursday, June 4 at 3pm EDT/Noon PDT. Register for the event here.

Please sign up even if you don’t think you’ll be able to make it, so we can add you to our email list and keep you in the loop about future updates. 

Please feel free to reach out with any questions. 

Here are some Solution Set stories from the archive on fundraising strategies: 


Inside ProPublica’s fundraising playbook

I spoke with Jill Shepherd, ProPublica’s director of online fundraising and outreach, to learn more about how the nonprofit plans for its year-end campaigns, how it structures its messaging, and how it chooses the various channels it uses to reach readers.

Here’s how The Salt Lake Tribune crowdfunded $31,000 to support a Report for America journalist

The Salt Lake Tribune partnered with Report for America and the News Revenue Hub to crowdfund support for a reporter. I sat in on the partners’ post-mortem meeting on what worked and didn’t with this campaign. Get an inside view of how to plan a fundraising campaign in this case study. 

Duke and North Carolina are basketball rivals, but off the court their student newspapers collaborated on a fundraising challenge

The student newspapers at Duke and UNC competed to see who could raise the most money in the lead-up to the rivalry game. Their newsrooms also worked together to produce a joint preview section that was distributed online, in print on both campuses and sent to donors who contributed to the challenge.

Why this New Hampshire foundation decided to support journalism

Get the perspective of a funder in this issue to learn why organizations that historically haven’t funded journalism may be interested in investing in great reporting. 

The nonprofit inewsource mobilized its board members to match reader donations

We just published this last week, but here is an overview of how the San Diego-based inewsource engaged its board members in a matching campaign at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


That’s it for me this week. I hope you’ll join us next Thursday for our next News Philanthropy Network gathering, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or anything. 

Thanks! 

Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

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