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Feb. 12, 2019, 7 a.m.
LINK: medium.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Christine Schmidt   |   February 12, 2019

In journalism’s long and treacherous move away from ad dependency, the growing nonprofit news sector is trying to build a culture of philanthropy. At one level, that involves convincing foundations to send grants their way. But probably more important for the long term is building the habit of giving to news in a large number of individuals.

So it’s heartening to hear that more than 240,000 people donated to 154 nonprofit newsrooms in 2018’s last two months as part of the NewsMatch program. Geared as a national grassroots campaign to stir up individual support — backed with checks from a coalition of journalism-friendly and local foundations and, new this year, Facebook — NewsMatch has brought $14.8 million over the past three years to nonprofit newsrooms since its launch in 2016.

This year’s drive brought in more than half of that three-year total: a grand total of $7.6 million, including $1 million from Facebook as part of its ongoing journalism industry sweetener.

The top details (NewsMatch’s full announcement here):

  • More than 50,000 folks who donated through News Match were first-time nonprofit-news donors, compared to 43,000 from 2017.
  • Throughout all of 2018, individuals donated $116 million to nonprofit news organizations, 50 percent more than in 2017.
  • Around 50 more nonprofit newsrooms participated in this round of NewsMatch than 2017 (participants must be members of the Institute for Nonprofit News, which works closely with NewsMatch alongside the News Revenue Hub).
  • Two-thirds of the 154 news organizations this year focus on state or local journalism, and they come from 42 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
  • The third NewsMatch cycle also points to more year-end fundraising savviness by nonprofit news organizations — many which suffered strategically by (understandably) focusing on building a newsroom and de-prioritizing building a business when they set up shop. The training from the News Revenue Hub and INN might hopefully be rubbing off: The average NewsMatch newsroom raised 11 percent more in 2018 than in 2017.

Three years in, the match is spreading. Reader revenue is a huge buzzword across the constricting industry, but over-reliance on any source is unhealthy — so a vibrant nonprofit newsroom likely needs a mix of foundation and small-donor giving to stay afloat.

People showed more willingness to pay for news in 2017, as part of the nationally-impactful (but locally negligible) Trump bump. The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that the number of people in the U.S. who paid for news that year was up 7 percentage points from 2016. But the same study a year later showed the percent of payers had stayed flat in 2018. (Those numbers are for all digital news, not just nonprofit organizations.)

Nonprofit newsrooms pull in almost $350 million in total annual revenue, according to INN’s annual report. Individual giving was in 2018 just one-third of all revenue streams, but the upward year-over-year trend — especially with NewsMatch — looks good. (A full evaluation of NewsMatch 3.0 is coming in the spring.)

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