How Funders Support Journalism with Ease and Precision
The newspaper business was never perfect, but it provided a base of watchdog reporting that kept politicians honest and community news that kept people engaged. When the advertising that subsidized news moved to tech platforms, millions lost much of the journalism that connects us to our communities and helps us learn about the issues that shape our lives.
That loss tears at the fabric of our country. Democracy works when citizens are informed and engaged. The impact of not having trustworthy news is well documented; it includes a drop in civic participation and vulnerability to disinformation. For foundations and nonprofits dedicated to solving social problems, a lack of trusted information sources can limit the impact of their programs and services.
NewsMatch drives growth of independent, nonprofit news
NewsMatch was created by forward-looking philanthropists to restore and reinvent independent news, and seven years on, it has become a powerful means to do just that. The year-end matching grant program managed by the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) provides funders with an easy, precise way to support nonprofit journalism through unrestricted grants; at the same time, participating news organizations learn and implement the mechanics of fundraising, boosted by the power of these matching grants.
The program is an engine of the nonprofit news movement, which is starting to not only fill the news deserts left by the collapse of newspapers but also to create new forms of community news and information. These outlets are creating a more representative model for reporting; nonprofit journalism often prioritizes – and is trusted by – audiences underserved by traditional media, including communities of color and low-income, rural, and immigrant audiences. INN counts more than 425 members, who among them employ about 4,000 journalists – more than Gannett, the country’s largest commercial newspaper group.
NewsMatch offers a proven mechanism for funders to support nonprofit news with ease, transparency, and precision – and see their contributions matched. It ensures that funding only goes to nonprofit news organizations that meet high standards for independent journalism and transparency around funding and control, vetting that’s vital for public trust in an era when partisan websites designed to look like local news outlets are propagating.
What’s more, funders can target their contributions by geographic region or an issue area that they care about. For example, the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation focuses on the Great Lakes region and issues such as gun violence, criminal justice reform, education, climate, and economic mobility. Through NewsMatch, they are boosting local news organizations such as Outlier Media, Planet Detroit, and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service that have deep community reach.
More than 15 institutional funders are supporting NewsMatch in 2023. INN handles the logistics, and The Miami Foundation administers the funds. The structure exists, and philanthropists only need to add water in the form of funding to see their impact grow.
“INN and The Miami Foundation make NewsMatch really easy for us”, says Hugh Dellios, who heads the journalism program for the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation. “They do all the vetting of small newsrooms and make sure they are doing good journalism.”
Fundraising training promotes financial sustainability
Telling individual donors that their contributions will be matched during the November-December giving period is a powerful incentive. But NewsMatch goes beyond providing matching gifts. Participating organizations receive critical training and tools to develop their own fundraising prowess. So the impact of NewsMatch endures.
The NewsMatch team guides members in enlisting local philanthropists and businesses to support their mission. In 2022, the amount secured by newsrooms from community foundations, local donors, and local businesses surpassed the $5.4 million invested in NewsMatch by national foundations such as Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Kaphan Foundation.
“Hyper-local newsrooms that serve communities of color often do not have the infrastructure to raise money on a significant level. NewsMatch gives us access to staff and resources to flourish,” says Ron Smith, executive director of Milwaukee News Service. “With information comes power. NewsMatch helps ensure that newsrooms that serve diverse populations get the help they need so that they continue to inform and transform their communities.”
In 2022, participating organizations also raised over $38 million in donations from more than 230,000 individuals (many of them first-time donors) which, combined with gifts secured from local businesses, philanthropists and community foundations, resulted in a total of $43 million generated during the last two months of the year — about 10 times the amount of matching funds from NewsMatch. Since 2017, the campaign has helped raise more than $270 million to jumpstart emerging newsrooms and support independent media outlets that produce fact-based, nonpartisan news and information.
This year, 353 news organizations from 46 states have been approved to participate in NewsMatch, 16% more than in 2022. Nearly one in five participating newsrooms have a primary mission to serve communities of color and 22% of applicants indicated their organizations are led by individuals who are Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC). As the most recent Nonprofit News Awards showed, these mission-driven nonprofit news organizations know how to turn funding into impact.
The business model for journalism is transforming, but our society’s need for trusted journalism has never been stronger. NewsMatch is helping build that new model, by helping hundreds of news organizations to support and sustain themselves.
For funders who want to support journalism, democracy, or their priority issues, NewsMatch is ready – just add water.
NewsMatch is run by the Institute of Nonprofit News in partnership with The Miami Foundation, which oversees the fiscal administration of NewsMatch funds, and News Revenue Hub, which provides fundraising training to participating newsrooms. 2023 NewsMatch supporters and anticipated supporters include Democracy Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation, Inasmuch Foundation, Independence Public Media Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Maida Lynn, Vere Initiatives, Walton Family Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Wyncote Foundation. In-kind support provided by The New York Times.