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NewsMatch Leads to Record Setting Year for Nonprofit News

By Josh Stearns / 2018 February 14th

​We launched NewsMatch — a $3 million fund to match donations to nonprofit newsrooms — because we believe that strengthening local and investigative journalism is critical to a healthy democracy. The fund was a partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation designed to make 2017 a record-breaking year for giving to local and investigative journalism.

​The results are in, and NewsMatch was a resounding success. Nearly every one of the more than 100 newsrooms who participated raised more dollars from more donors than ever before.

  • From October 1 to December 31, NewsMatch raised more than $4.8 million from individual donors and a coalition of foundations.
  • Local newsrooms raised even more on top of NewsMatch: in total, more than 202,000 donors contributed $33 million to local, nonprofit newsrooms.
  • Of those 202,000 donors, 43,000 were new donors giving to an organization for the first time.

​There is no doubt that NewsMatch helped strengthen journalism in America over the last three months, and supported the growth of charitable giving to newsrooms. Together, the 100+ local and national participants received nearly 320,000 more donations, from 77,000 more donors in 2017, compared to 2016.

​What made NewsMatch a success? We are undertaking an in-depth evaluation of last year’s program to see what lessons we can learn from our efforts. However, we know three key things that made NewsMatch stand out this year.

​1. Creating New Platforms for Journalism Philanthropy

​We created the first one-stop platform for donating to nonprofit news. At NewsMatch.org, donors could give to more than 100 newsrooms with one transaction — simplifying the process for donors and inviting more to join.

​Beyond individual donors, we also built the NewsMatch campaign as a platform for partnerships between local and national foundations. Over the course of last fall, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the News Integrity Initiative, the Wyncote Foundation, The Gates Family Foundation, and the Rita Allen Foundation all joined NewsMatch as partners, creating double and triple matches for many of the participating organizations. Around the country, local newsrooms also set up at least 20 other matching efforts with local funders and donors, further extending the reach and impact of this program.

​2. Building the Capacity of the Nonprofit News Sector

​NewsMatch has always been about more than raising money. From the start, our campaign was designed to build the long-term capacity of nonprofit newsrooms to connect with their communities and cultivate support from their readers. In partnership with the Institute for Nonprofit News and the News Revenue Hub, we created a stockpile of campaign templates, provided weekly guidance for small newsrooms who lack big fundraising teams, and offered weekly coaching and training webinars.

​We have seen the impact of this work in the dramatic increase of year-by-year giving and in the boost of new donors — both of which bode well for the field. “With the support of NewsMatch, we had a record setting year, more than doubling the donations we received in past years,” Lauren Fuhrmann of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism told us. “NewsMatch provided the roadmap, tech support, and national exposure that we needed to have our most successful year-end fundraising drive ever.”

​3. Raising Awareness About the Need to Support Nonprofit News

​While public media and some nonprofit magazines have been around for decades, the current generation of local and investigative journalism organizations are relatively new. For the most part, people aren’t accustomed to giving to nonprofit news. We understood that it wasn’t enough for NewsMatch to double donations if people didn’t understand the importance of donating in the first place. NewsMatch elevated nonprofit news through #GivingNewsDay, which saw journalists, celebrities, and politicians on both sides of the aisle talking about the importance of donating to nonprofit newsrooms. Public voices like Mark Ruffalo, Michael Kelly, Cara Mund (Miss America), Katy Tur, Greta Van Susteren, and others joined the effort. Additionally, Facebook donated $100,000 in free advertising to publicize NewsMatch and its participating newsrooms.

​“One of the most important things we can do is increase awareness about the need for and benefits of nonprofit journalism — that is, to add to the usual American philanthropic checklist of schools, hospitals, churches, and cultural institutions the possibility of donating to journalism. NewsMatch helped enormously in that effort,” Richard Tofel, president of Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit news organization ProPublica, wrote to us in an email.

​This work would not have been possible without our partner funders, grantees, and newsrooms who brought such creativity and passion to the project. We are especially grateful to Lindsey Linzer at the Miami Foundation — which hosted the fund — and Jason Alcorn, who served as project manager.

​NewsMatch catalyzed a lot of energy and proved that people support reporting they trust and rely on: but it is just one piece of a much larger puzzle. No one campaign can reverse what has been lost from local news and investigative journalism over the last decade of layoffs and cutbacks, but we are nonetheless optimistic. We continue to be encouraged by the rising nonprofit news sector and intrigued by what it can mean for renewing public service journalism as a core part of our communities. At Democracy Fund, we are committed to investing in the people and organizations who are helping build a brighter future for local news, and we look forward to continuing this work with NewsMatch in the future.

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