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New INN case study shows how Sahan Journal utilized NewsMatch to build sustainable local funding

September 8, 2021

In 2019, the news startup Sahan Journal raised $25,500 in individual donations throughout INN’s two-month long NewsMatch campaign. In 2020, just a year later, the outlet more than doubled this number — with $58,070 in contributions.

In INN’s latest case study, we show how one nonprofit news organization — an outlet focused on providing coverage for immigrants and people of color in Minnesota — harnessed the power of NewsMatch to establish fundraising best practices and substantially increase overall revenue. In addition to offering fundraising guidance to other news organizations, this case shows funders how NewsMatch is a catalyzing force that turns national seed funding into community and local support for news. 

What’s the case’s biggest takeaway? NewsMatch is not just a one-off campaign. This INN program builds long-standing, reliable revenue streams for nonprofit news organizations.

Here are three of the case’s lessons for news leaders: 

1. Host a brainstorm session to craft your outlet’s unique value proposition. (Plus, it boosts team morale.)

Before Sahan Journal’s 2020 NewsMatch campaign, public media fundraising expert Valerie Arganbright virtually gathered the news outlet’s staff to brainstorm phrases that separated their nonprofit from other publications in the state.

She organized two brainstorm sessions — one to generate as many ideas as possible, and another to select the best of those ideas. The result? An invaluable list of phrases to use in fundraising campaigns (and a list of exhausted, trite words to stay away from).

Some of their winning lines include:

2. Get comfortable asking for money — particularly from community funders.

For many reporters, fundraising does not come naturally. Before kicking off last year’s campaign, Mukhtar Ibrahim — founder and executive director of Sahan Journal — was in the same boat.

“Valerie told me that you are not asking for money personally — you are advocating for the mission of the organization,” he said. “That really helped me to take the personal feeling out of it.”

Because Ibrahim whole-heartedly believed in the news outlet’s mission, he turned to his large social media following as well as connections in the community and began to solicit donations. 

Utilizing NewsMatch templates, Ibrahim emailed several community funders. Three local funders — Minneapolis Foundation, U.S. Bank, and Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation — replied and offered their support. 

The local foundations offered a combined $40,000 in matching funds.

3. Hire a staff that reflects your organization’s mission.

Sahan Journal aims to tell the stories of immigrants and communities of color in Minnesota.

“We hire journalists who believe in the mission of Sahan Journal and care about the community that we cover,” Ibrahim said. “They’re critical to our success.” 

Several of Sahan Journal’s reporters are first- or second-generation immigrants who not only support the mission, but understand the experiences of their audience.

Interested in getting involved with NewsMatch? Click here to learn more. Read the full case study here. Want a print-friendly PDF version of the case instead? Download one here.

NewsMatch is supported through the Fund for Nonprofit News, an open collaborative fund at The Miami Foundation. In 2020, NewsMatch funders included Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Facebook Journalism Project, Google News Initiative, the Abrams Foundation, the Inasmuch Foundation, Independence Public Media Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust, Natasha and Dirk Ziff, the Rita Allen Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Present Progressive Fund at Schwab Charitable, the Walton Family Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Wyncote Foundation, along with individual supporters across the U.S.

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