Media Moves

Journalism philanthropy grows by leaps and bounds with a shift in donors

September 19, 2019

Posted by Yvonne Zacharias

A report by Christine Schmidt in the NiemanLab provides ample evidence that journalism philanthropy continues to grow but not in in ways that you might think. 

Her report is based on research from two sources: Media Impact Funders and the Institute for Nonprofit News. 

There has been a phenomenal increase in non-profit news outlets since 2009, according to MIF. Here are the numbers: In 2009, just under 300 funders made $69 million in grants to just over 300 recipient organizations in the United States. By 2017, over 1,200 funders made over $255 million in journalism grants to 925 organizations.

That’s a quadrupling in journalism-focused philanthropy. 

Throughout 2018, nonprofit news outlets brought in $450 million in annual revenue — $100 million more than the previous year — and employ 3,000 people (two-thirds of them journalists). Those numbers come from the annual INN Index surveying its 230+ members on the state of their journalism finances and operations.

Individuals and families now donate nearly 40 per cent of all the revenue going to news nonprofits, according to INN. For the first time in studies of the field, foundation funding of nonprofit newsrooms fell below 50 per cent in 2018. By comparison, the Pew Research Center found that in 2011, foundations contributed nearly two-thirds of revenue while donors accounted for about a fourth across the nonprofit news field.

So there has been a significant shift in who is giving and who is not.

Overall, the increase in individual-giving donor revenue was driven by donors of $5,000 or more, who accounted for more than two-thirds of all donor revenue.

Of $17 million in community foundation support for investigative journalism, more than $6 million—or 35 percent—was directed toward two national investigative news outlets: ProPublica and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Schmidt’s report concludes that philanthropy is playing a critically important role in advancing new business models.

Media Impact Funders’ full report is available here, and INN’s report is here.

The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University is focused on attempting to help journalism figure out its future in an Internet age.



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