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True Genius: How to go from “the future of journalism” to a fire sale in a few short years
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July 12, 2021, 2:16 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   July 12, 2021

Foundation support is crucial for nonprofit news organizations of all sizes. A recent INN report, for example, found that grants from foundations accounted for an average of 47% of revenue across local, national, and global publications.

With foundation funding disproportionately going to publications with a national focus, however, local news can get left out. There’s a growing belief that community foundations (as well as local individual donors) will have to step up.

You can see this thinking over at Report for America, which asks that the host newsroom raise at least a quarter of the reporter’s salary from the community or in American Journalism Project promoting local journalism to “local philanthropists who used to donate to the opera or museums.” And you can see it throughout a new report from Media Impact Funders, which highlights the role of community foundations in media-related grants.

This new report builds on a 2019 release that showed philanthropic giving to journalism quadrupled between 2009 and 2019. This year, the Media Impact Funders report touts 153 community funders giving grants to 700 recipients as “encouraging.”

This data report clearly shows the significant role that community foundations are playing in funding media within their own communities and on the national level. While the bulk of giving across many media types is concentrated to just a handful of community foundations, the scope of giving today is an encouraging sign that community foundations are recognizing the importance of supporting media as part of a larger strategy to build and sustain healthy communities.

Ultimately, though, we’re talking about a sliver of community foundation funds being earmarked for “journalism, news, and information.” About $1.6 billion of the media-related grants — about 5% — came from community organizations. Just $124 million of those funds were directed toward journalism.

The funding data covers 2009 to the present. Candid — formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar — compiled the data by gathering information funders submitted directly and by reviewing 990 tax forms and other public information.

The grants may be assigned to more than one category, and the line between “media content” and journalistic endeavors aren’t crystal clear (I asked Media Impact Funders for clarification and will update this post if I hear back). The “media content and platforms” category, for example, includes grants awarded to public broadcasters, support for printing and distribution costs for newspapers and magazines, and web content like “online version of print publications.”

The report spotlights a handful of local foundations and lists the top 10 foundations funding media in the west, midwest, south, and northeast regions of the United States. In the midwest, for example, The Chicago Community Trust tops the list with 1,412 grants totaling $38.5 million since 2009.

You can read through the rest of the report here.

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