January 5, 2023
How do you make your year-end fundraising stand out? How might a giving campaign raise more than money? For some participants in NewsMatch, the answer was to broaden their appeals to embrace a spirit of togetherness. These members of the Institute for Nonprofit News launched creative engagement strategies that increased trust with their constituents, fostered ongoing collaboration with other news organizations and, yes, boosted their bottom line.
As a Spanish-language news organization serving immigrant communities in North Carolina, Enlace Latino NC was aware of El Tímpano, an analogous news organization on the West Coast, but the two INN members had never worked together. Similarly, Enlace Latino had received consulting from the New York City-based Documented to learn about reaching immigrants through WhatsApp, but the two organizations had never partnered. That all changed with this year’s NewsMatch campaign.
Each year, INN members participating in NewsMatch receive fundraising training and tools and the promise of a matching gift from a collective fund if they meet an individual fundraising goal. This year, Enlace Latino’s development director, Lupita Ruiz, ventured to ask her counterparts at El Tímpano and Documented if they would like to join forces in a collective fundraising ask. The three organizations worked out common messaging for GivingTuesday, which they shared extensively on social media and through email. In a highly unusual twist, each post included links to donation pages for all three organizations.
The results, Ruiz said, were donation levels similar to what Enlace Latino NC received in the past but also positive feedback from audience members who said they appreciated the three newsrooms coming together. Perhaps most importantly, relationships across the three organizations have outlasted the one-day initiative. Ruiz explained that she and Documented’s development director, Andrea Bichan, and El Tímpano’s founding director, Madeleine Bair, now connect on other questions and challenges particular to fundraising for Spanish-language publications. Ruiz will join Bichan on a panel at the upcoming Lenfest Philanthropy Summit.
“It was a pathway for continuing with other related communications,” said Ruiz.
Shasta Scout is a startup that became a member of INN in 2021, so this was only their second NewsMatch. With its coverage of environmental issues and Indigenous affairs, the organization might appear at first glance to be progressive, but founder Annelise Pierce is committed to nonpartisan news coverage in a famously conservative county. (In early 2022, a right-wing militia used the recall process to gain a majority in the county Board of Supervisors.)
At the start of December, Pierce decided to do something risky: She displayed a breakdown of the organization’s 2022 expenses and revealed that she was able to keep costs down because she has been working without pay while the organization gets off the ground.
Her audience’s response to this transparency was strongly positive. One reader sent a message saying, “Just want to let you know that I think you are doing a great job. Even my conservative friends concur.” And another reader whom Pierce identifies as “deeply conservative” wrote, “Wish all news outlets were as transparent as you.”
Pierce suggested that it’s important for a news organization to be able to reach across the political divide and identify shared values.
“One of the strengths of the conservative side of the political spectrum is a focus on fiscal responsibility, and that’s something I care about as a founder,” said Pierce.
While the impact on donations from posting the expense sheet may have been minimal, Pierce says that finding common ground with area residents was equally important.
“This is a long game for us at Shasta Scout. The whole purpose is not just to bring in funds this year but to deepen trust with our audience.”
Scott Gordon, the publisher of Tone Madison, also took some risks that created goodwill with his audience while showcasing the news organization’s focus on arts and culture. Tone Madison hosted a NewsMatch kickoff party at a cocktail bar, where they used a large blank wall to project images of original editorial art they’ve commissioned over the years. The event attracted a good crowd, and 20% of proceeds from food and drink went to the nonprofit.
“We’ve tried to have more events that are just super simple and give us a chance to talk with readers and supporters in person, and that’s something that feels like a nice thing to add when you’re about to deluge people with fundraising emails for two months,” Gordon said.
Tone Madison also released a Madison music compilation, “To Grow a Garden,” featuring a variety of work from local artists, much of it unreleased, that was made available to purchase on Bandcamp. The compilation generated $900 toward their NewsMatch goal while bringing new listeners to local musicians.
As Tone Madison’s music editor, Steven Spoerl, wrote on the website, “At a time when depleted local news outlets around the country devote only scant resources to covering arts and music, Tone Madison has stubbornly kept its focus on the unusual and underappreciated work people are creating right here, right under our noses.”
Prison Journalism Project (PJP) took the conventional fundraising pitch and supersized it. The publication has a unique mission: They train incarcerated individuals to become journalists and publish their stories, thus empowering them to be a voice in criminal justice reform. One of their board members is Wesley Lowery, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist and the author of, “They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement.” Lowery asked his 640,000 Twitter followers to support PJP’s NewsMatch campaign, and the organization Long Lead responded with a $10,000 pledge and challenged others to “match our $10,000 to make it a cool $20,000.” An individual donor responded with the match.
PJP’s Director of Development Marcia Maziarz continued to leverage the matching concept of NewsMatch, sharing a $15,000 match from the board of directors on GivingTuesday and later using a $5,000 match from a major donor to inspire donations during the last three days of the campaign.
“It was a good year for us,” Maziarz says.
Each of the nonprofit news organizations described here took a different approach to switching up the traditional year-end donor appeal, but they share a sense of collectivity. For Shasta Scout, it was letting readers in on their line-item financials. For Tone Madison, it was gathering and celebrating the work of local artists. For PJP, it was using the power of personal and professional networks to reach new donors. And for Enlace Latino and its partners El Tímpano and Documented, it was building mutually supportive relationships that will strengthen fundraising into the future.
A total of 320 nonprofit newsrooms participated in this year’s NewsMatch campaign, leveraging a matching pool of $5.7 million to inspire donations from businesses, philanthropies, and individual donors. INN is currently collecting data from the newsrooms and will report results this spring.
This piece was originally published on INNsights.Back to top