By Michele McLellan, Jesse Holcomb and Emily Roseman
Sept. 28, 2021
Definition: Our survey asked whether a publication “has a primary mission of creating content for, about and/or with communities of color.” There are 50 such organizations in this study, making up one-fifth of the nonprofit news field.
TLDR: Nonprofit news organizations whose primary mission is serving communities of color have nearly doubled in number since 2017.
Growth: Only 10 of these organizations existed prior to 2008, when nonprofit news entered a sustained period of growth. An additional 16 launched prior to 2017. Since then, 24 have launched, including four during the COVID crisis in 2020.
Mission: Outlets that cover communities of color tend to be local and to focus on a small number of topics. For now, they are largely an urban phenomenon: Most of the local outlets are based in metro areas or cities including New York City, Boston and Seattle. In terms of mission, they are more likely to cover news and events than to focus primarily on in depth investigations or explanatory journalism.
Total revenue: Organizations in this group have a wide range of revenue. However, a significant percentage generate $250,000 or less a year. As a result, they generate 15% of total revenue in the field while representing one-fifth of all outlets. Median revenue in 2020 was $520,000, which is significantly higher than the rest of the field.
Revenue mix: These organizations collectively receive from foundations a share of revenue that is significantly higher than the rest of the field. At the same time, their share from individual giving is about half that of the rest. The earned revenue share is about the same.
Revenue outlook: Some of these organizations operate in communities that do not have a lot of wealth, posing challenges for developing a significant donor base from direct audiences. Continuing foundation funding may be critical as these community-focused outlets explore funding methods.
The percentage of personnel overall that are people of color is much higher than in the rest of the field: 55% of all personnel are people of color, including 52% of top executives.
In the individual organizations, people of color usually make up a significant share (40% or more) of total personnel. The median number of full-time equivalents for this group is 6.8, slightly higher than in the rest of the field.
While most of these organizations say digital is their primary distribution platform, some use other methods of engaging their communities, such as SMS. Nearly half publish in at least one language in addition to English or exclusively in a different language.