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Aug. 28, 2017, 1:11 p.m.
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LINK: www.theguardian.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Ricardo Bilton   |   August 28, 2017

The Guardian, wounded by the downturn in the advertising market, is hoping that big donors can help pick up the slack.

On Monday, The Guardian formally announced the creation of theguardian.org, a U.S.-based philanthropic arm formed to raise money from individuals and organizations (including think tanks and corporate foundations) looking to fund journalism on particular issues. Since its quiet launch last year, the organization has raised $1 million from the likes of Pierre Omidyar’s Humanity United, the Skoll Foundation, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to fund reporting on topics including modern-day slavery and climate change. The Guardian says it’s secured $6 million “in multi-year funding commitments,” which it hopes will support coverage of topics that would go underreported otherwise.

It’s only been three years since The Guardian, spurred by its blockbuster coverage of the Edward Snowden revelations and resulting Pulitzer Prize, embarked on a global push meant to raise its profile, particularly in the U.S. The reality has been far less rosy: The Guardian, which has been a perennial money loser, has instead been forced to slash its U.S. staff and embark on a set of cost-cutting measures that have put a damper on its growth plans.

There is, however, some good news on the paid membership front. In its earnings report in July, The Guardian said that membership sales and more than 190,000 one-off contributions helped increase its overall revenue by 2.4 percent to £214.5 million ($257 million) for the year ending April 2. Foundation grant revenue increased by 65 percent year-over-year, to £3.8 million, but is still a small part of the Guardian’s overall revenue.

The Guardian’s move comes just a month after Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective acquired a majority stake in The Atlantic. These moves could presage similar actions by other news organizations down the line. But there could also be downsides to the shift. Ruth McCambridge, editor of the Nonprofit Quarterly, has called the mixing of journalism and strategic philanthropy “scary.” Gizmodo Media Group CEO Raju Narisetti wondered if The Guardian, a publication still comparatively flush with cash from the Scott Trust, is really the most effective publication for donors to fund. What’s good for The Guardian could end up being not so good for smaller organizations competing for the same dollars.

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