Nonprofit news organizations have an enormous, largely untapped opportunity to dramatically grow their earned revenue. This was a major finding from INN’s 2020 Index, including data that shows earned revenue makes up, on average, just 11% of reporting members’ total revenue. But, as some members have proven, the potential to earn revenue from sponsorships, events and advertising is huge, with some news organizations generating as much as one-quarter or even one-half of their budgets from relationships with businesses.
Launched in 2020 with support from Google News Initiative (GNI), the GNI-INN Sponsorships Lab includes:
This playbook is written for nonprofit newsrooms who are just getting started with earned revenue programs or looking to build more than just a small percentage of recurring revenue from relationships with businesses. If that sounds like you, you’ll find a lot in here that applies to your work and your organization.
Grist offers clients advertising opportunities on its website, within its events, and across its five newsletters (two daily, three weekly). But the site’s real earned revenue bread-and-butter comes from its sponsored content. In FY 2020, Grist made over $160,000 in earned revenue, with close to half of that (46%) coming from sponsored content.
At the beginning of 2020 the outlet started offering ads systematically. By the end of 2020, just five months after joining the GNI-INN Sponsorships Labs, the organization generated over $20,000 entirely from newsletter ads.
VTDigger streamlined their ad availability and packaging process and landed a single large sponsor to cover costs (and more) for a virtual event series over the fall and winter. In 2020 VTDigger grew revenue from sponsorship and underwriting by more than 10%.
The Rivard Report generates three times more revenue than the average nonprofit newsroom by bucking the typical reliance on grants and individual donations by managing to generate about one-third of its revenue from sponsorships and what it calls “business memberships.”
Madison365 — one of only a handful nonprofit outlets dedicated to serving communities of color in the U.S. — has managed to build more than half of its revenue from event sponsorship, business membership packages and additional advertising.