Articulate your case for support: How does your nonprofit benefit society?
A key step to raising funds and growing community support is to articulate the social benefit of your work and its mission. For a nonprofit, a mission is the public promise the organization makes to the community it serves, and the foundation of IRS approval. A case for support encapsulates the reasons the public should rally to the cause.
Many people became journalists driven by idealistic hopes about their enterprise or investigative reporting. But for generations, news has been viewed mostly as a business, and a very profitable one. Thinking of news as a charity can be a startling idea to many.
So you can’t create a nonprofit that simply replaces a for-profit newspaper with the same coverage, services and business models, and say it’s nonprofit because the ad-supported business model no longer works. That’s unlikely to justify nonprofit legal status or win you donors. Nonprofit news organizations are called on to expand their mission to include more public-interest coverage, foster media literacy, hold events to encourage civic engagement, and provide educational and training opportunities for young and diverse voices.
In developing your mission statement, you’ll want to go beyond journalism terms (credibility, fact-based, accountability, etc.) so your work can be easily and broadly understood. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Synthesize what you learned in the previous step: What did you learn from your community? What are their most compelling information needs? Address how your new news organization will address these information needs and serve your community in your mission statement and in your organization’s plan.
Then, talk with nonjournalists – community leaders, consumers – about the news you will provide as a nonprofit, to make sure the way you articulate your mission is understood, and to incorporate the feedback you get about the value of your work to consumers, donors and diverse civic groups. Visit with both the movers and shakers and community-based organizations.
Differentiate what you will be doing as a nonprofit from your prior commercial status. Many nonprofits focus on coverage that would not be commercially viable, such as investigative and deep, explanatory news that costs more to produce than you’d make from advertising, subscription or even membership revenue. The type of news you cover can be a distinguishing factor for a nonprofit. So can other factors, such as sharing your content with other news media and holding community events.
Offer specifics beyond the idea that journalism is generally a public service – that won’t distinguish your new nonprofit from your old for-profit. A more specific case helps with funding, too. Consider the civic impact of sharing your content with other media, engaging the public through events, getting their input on coverage via public forums, or producing a voter guide. We all know such activities have impact, but you must articulate it forcefully. For a nonprofit, that’s a critical skill!
Don’t underestimate the community value of an unbiased local news organization, not only to news consumers, but to local businesses, community organizations, other nonprofits and civic institutions that need to engage with their community.
Once you are clear on your scope and mission, put it on paper.
Develop a series of strategic communication plans for your readers, community leaders, advertisers and corporate sponsors to convey your plans and goals, their role and what they can expect.
Use your news channels to lay out the public benefits and commitment to the community this transition represents, and how it benefits each stakeholder group. Write a post explaining your nonprofit values and your mission statement and include it with your communications. Use web posts, FAQs, social media and editorials.
Develop a set of fundraising tools, including leave-behind executive summaries, a pitch deck and case for support for potential funders briefly outlining your mission and impact, strategy, your team, target market, revenue model, fundraising goals, and a financial summary including how becoming a nonprofit will ensure your sustainability..