Applications are open to receive a Sustainability Audit in 2024

Get an expert analysis of your news business and $20,000 in direct funding.

January 10, 2024 by Hayley Milloy and Andrew Rockway

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Photo by tadamichi from Getty Images Pro

In 2021, LION Publishers launched the Sustainability Audits and Funding program to help independent news publishers answer one of their most-asked questions: “How is my business doing?”

It’s a big question –– and one that’s not easily answered alone. That’s why, over the past two years, 175 LION member newsrooms have enrolled in the program to receive a detailed assessment of their news business and a roadmap for moving closer to sustainability. Each participant was also given $20,000 to implement recommendations from their Audit report. And after completing the program, 93 percent of participants say they feel more confident in their organization’s ability to reach sustainability.

This year, we’re excited to extend the opportunity to at least 170 additional LION members. Applications are open for three remaining cycles in 2024, and we’ll accept applications on a rolling basis (you can apply now for any or all of the three cycles). The first cycle, which will begin in February, is full. For consideration in the second cycle (May-July), apply by April 15. The deadlines to be considered for cycles three and four are July 8 and September 9, respectively. Our 2024 Audits are available to U.S.-based LION members who did not receive an Audit in 2022 or 2023.

We know that capacity is a major challenge for news leaders, so we’ve designed the Audit to make the most of your time by having an expert analyze your organization, then directly address your primary challenges with support tailored to your specific needs. The total time commitment to participate is just five hours over the course of about ten weeks.

Here’s what the Audit experience looks like in three steps –– you will:

  1. Fill out a questionnaire that details your business’s operational readiness, financial health, and journalistic impact.
  2. Schedule and complete an interview with one of our Audit analysts to dig more deeply into questionnaire responses, goals, and organizational practices.
  3. Review the Audit report your analyst provides, including a high-level summary, a list of sustainability indicators, benchmarking data, a prioritized list of recommendations, and more. You’ll have a chance to reconnect with your analyst after you receive the report to ask questions and gain any necessary clarity.

After the program, you’ll then submit a funding request to receive the $20,000, outlining two to three recommendations your business will act on. 

Here’s what past Audit participants say about their experience:

“I was hesitant to apply for the Audit and skipped earlier opportunities but decided to give it a shot. I’m glad that I did, not only for an opportunity to bring in critical funding to reach specific goals but for an outside person to give me an honest evaluation of what I’m doing here. In my situation, I’m a one-person newsroom who also sells ads, handles membership issues, and stays on top of the books and budget. In short, there is little time for me to commit to the type of effort needed for a deep dive into certain areas of the business. The auditor’s interview and the suggestions I received through the Audit have recharged my efforts to take action. It’s become more clear to me that I must take certain areas of the business more seriously to achieve sustainability and continue to do what I love doing for myself and my community.”

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

“This Audit is the single most important examination of our business in the past decade. It’s so easy to keep doing the same things and trying new products or services without having a roadmap of where it leads. This Audit provides a map to sustainability and recurring revenue and provides helpful information on what we are doing right and what we need to improve on.”

Laura Lorek, Silicon Hills News

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to participate in the LION Sustainability Audits and Funding program. The funding and recommendations reinvigorated our efforts to make Now Habersham sustainable, and we are seeing positive results from it. As we approach our ninth year of service, I can, for the first time, see a sustainable, profitable future ahead of us.”

Joy Purcell, Now Habersham

What opportunities might your Audit report uncover, and how could those findings propel your organization forward? Find out by applying for your Audit today. To learn more about the program, sign up for our virtual Q&A on Friday, January 19, at 2 p.m. ET, or contact Andrew Rockway at [email protected].

Sustainability Audits are provided at no cost to LION members. If you’re not a LION member, check out our membership benefits and how to enroll.

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