Four months into one of the first and largest investments in revenue experimentation in nonprofit media, eight news organizations are putting their innovative ideas to the test, drawing lessons on how to generate revenue outside the box. The progress made by some of these organizations is promising, yet a lot of work remains ahead before victory is declared.
The INNovation Fund is a $1 million partnership between INN and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The two-year program funds inventive projects that achieve or advance financial sustainability in a nonprofit newsroom. INN administers the fund, dispersing micro-grants of up to $35,000 to selected recipients.
The first of four rounds of grants was awarded in mid April 2014, and the application deadline to submit proposals for the second round is Sept. 2, 2014.
For its first round, INN received a cornucopia of 118 proposals from nonprofit media, each with a unique concept ready to go and in need of funding. For some of these organizations, the grant was crucial.
“As a young, unfunded nonprofit we could not have taken our investigations across the country to further expand our readership on a national level without this grant,” says Melissa Troutman, co-founding editor of Public Herald, who is hitting the road on a national screening tour of “Triple Divide,” a documentary film based on investigation into the negative impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Pennsylvania.
Sustainability is the name of the game for all of these nonprofit news organizations whose survival often depends on grants, foundations and donations. And with the majority of their resources focused on producing quality journalism — which isn’t cheap — few dollars go to pursuing strategies that would eventually generate more funds.
Some already have other funding mechanisms in place, like paid memberships, fund drives and merchandise sales. However, the revenue generated from those sources often isn’t enough.