By Michele McLellan, Jesse Holcomb and Emily Roseman
Oct. 5, 2022
Definition: National organizations focus on public affairs issues that affect the entire country. “National” in this context largely means the United States, except for three survey respondents that cover national news in Canada. Global organizations generally take aim at broad world topics or they produce news of distant places. This study covers 60 national and 21 global organizations, collectively making up less than one-third of the field.
National and global news organizations are the oldest and most established group of nonprofit news outlets. Their prominence and reach dwarfs the rest of the field, and as a group they enjoy a greater share of foundation funding than their counterparts.
Growth: More than half of the national and global outlets in this study have been operating for a decade or more. Additional organizations have launched at an average rate of about four per year since 2012. Three launched in 2021. Their bases of operations are heavily concentrated in the Northeast and in Washington, D.C.
Mission & Impact: National and global outlets are most likely to produce analysis and explanatory reporting. Nearly half cover a limited number of related topics, such as environment, education or health typically under a common umbrella of policy. Well over one-third specialize in a single topic.
The majority of national and global organizations enjoy much larger budgets than their counterparts. Four in 10 generate revenue of $2 million or more and an additional three in 10 take in between $500,000 and just under $2 million annually. Median revenue in 2021 was nearly $1.2 million, about the same as in 2020.
Revenue mix: National and global outlets enjoy strong support from foundations that provide well over half of all revenue for this group and from a mix of small donors and major gifts of $5,000 a year or more. Earned revenue from sources such as advertising, sponsorship or events plays a much smaller role in the revenue mix.
Share of foundation funding: Foundation support for national and global outlets outstrips the size of this group of outlets within the nonprofit news field. They employ just over half of the field in terms of staff size and represent about one-fourth of the total number of nonprofit outlets. Yet they bring in close to 70% of foundation dollars for nonprofit news.
Revenue outlook: With their prominence and reach, national and global organizations are well positioned to continue to expand their donor base. At the same time, it is possible that some of the national foundation support they enjoy could shift to resources for the expanding local nonprofit news ecosystem.
The median number of personnel in this group is 13 and the number of paid employees per organization ranges from 0 to 170.
About one in five of these organizations say serving communities of color is a primary mission, similar to state/regional outlets but lower than the locals. As a group, these outlets are much less likely than the rest of the field to cite specific target audiences, although one-third say elected officials and policymakers are an audience they want to attract.