3 ways to make accounting less stressful
It’s almost tax season for many of us, and if you’re running an independent news business, the thought of getting your books in order while also, y’know, running a news business might tempt you to take those “don’t do your taxes” commercials literally.
But bookkeeping doesn’t have to be a drag, especially with the right support.
To help prove the point, here are three ways we’ve seen our members make finance less fearsome:
1. Learn the basics of accounting and finance. Even if you’re a self-described “mathphobe,” there are resources available that can help you level up your finance skills.
For starters, LION members can take self-guided courses on accounting basics or financial management for news entrepreneurs, as well as get a step-by-step walkthrough of how to use LION’s financial planning workbook. We also offered a GNI Startups Lab program on Managing Money & Risk last year, and the progress our participants reported was dramatic.
“I’m not a numbers person, I’m a words and story person, so getting a handle on the financial part of my business was really intimidating to me,” Shauna Rae from Radar Media told us. “That’s what this lab helped me uncover and overcome.”
(Don’t want to wait for our next program? SCORE is leading a one-hour webinar on bookkeeping basics for small business owners on Tuesday, March 21.)
2. Hire an accountant or bookkeeper. Learning a brand new skill isn’t always an option for time-strapped publishers – or at least not the best option when there are other priorities to consider.
That’s why we’ve seen many LION members outsource their accounting to an expert to save themselves time and stress.
3. Find a fiscal sponsor. If you haven’t officially launched your news business yet as an LLC or nonprofit, another option to consider is fiscal sponsorship.
Fiscal sponsors don’t always provide accounting support, but those that do can sometimes provide the same time-saving benefits as a hired accountant without as many up-front costs.
“El Tímpano is fiscally sponsored,” founder Madeleine Bair shared in our News Entrepreneur Community last year. “They take a higher cut than most, but it’s worth it to us as they provide a significant amount of admin & operational support.”
Here’s more advice for how to find the right fiscal sponsor for your news organization – and in case you missed it, here’s last week’s newsletter featuring my new favorite budget template.
– Ben DeJarnette, newsletter writer, and the LION team
P.S. LION is hiring! Learn more about our Marketing Manager position and please help us spread the word. The deadline to apply is March 26.
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8 resources for independent publishers
We’ve heard from Canadian news publishers that they need more targeted support than many programs offer, so we’re thrilled to share that LION members in Canada can now sign up for free, one-on-one coaching sessions with Hannah Sung and Natasha Grzincic.
No matter what business challenges you’re facing, these sessions are a perfect opportunity to talk through your ideas with an expert and make a plan.
Each coach will be hosting meetings between March 27 and April 28, and it only takes a minute to sign up.
Now here are seven other resources and opportunities for independent news publishers:
1. Learn how to minimize your legal risks at this pre-publication review workshop with a pair of attorneys. (TODAY)
2. Apply for one of these awards, grants or fellowships with upcoming deadlines:
- The Ida B. Wells Fellowship selects three journalists to pursue an ambitious investigative reporting project and supports them with mentorship and a $25,000 award. (Deadline: March 12)
- The Data-Driven Reporting Project gives financial awards to organizations and freelancers working on document-focused, investigative stories. (Deadline: March 13)
- The yearlong ProPublica Investigative Editor Training Program aims to increase the ranks of investigative editors from diverse backgrounds. (Deadline: March 13)
- Muckrock is awarding grants of up to $50,000 to support projects that help analyze, preserve and grant access to key documents. (Deadline: March 17)
- The Center for Cooperative Media is awarding pilot grants up to $15,000 to accelerate cross-field collaborations in civic science journalism in the United States. (Deadline: March 17)
- The Maynard 200 Fellowship is a tuition-free professional development program for leaders, storytellers, frontline editors/managers, and media entrepreneurs of diverse backgrounds. (Deadline: March 31)
- The McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism provides experienced journalists with grants up to $15,000 and the editorial support needed to produce deeply reported enterprise and investigative business stories. (Deadline: March 31)
3. Make your work more efficient at this SCORE workshop on how to use Google Workspace tools as a small business. (April 4)
4. Get support implementing Google Analytics 4. The Google News Initiative is offering monthly webinars and individual office hours to help publishers migrate to GA4.
5. Make better sense of your newsletter metrics. ONA is hosting an idea swap for newsletter professionals about metrics and tracking success. (March 29)
6. Find a career opportunity with LION member LAist or another public media outlet at the Public Media Virtual Career Fair. (March 29)
7. Rethink your crime coverage. Research has found that traditional crime reporting can damage community trust and reinforce stereotypes. This Trusting News guide will help you re-evaluate your crime coverage and better align it with your community’s needs.
What we’re reading
Founder’s syndrome. How to tell if you’re holding back the newsroom you built – and what to do about it. (Reynolds Journalism Institute)
Paying for news. Why independent publishers should feel good about a recent report on what Gen Z and Millennial Americans are willing to pay to support. (Poynter)
Tool tip. How journalists and other investigators can get the most out of the Wayback Machine. (Digital Investigations)
Back to Substack. Why a newsletter publisher returned to Substack just two years after leaving it. (The Generalist)
State spotlight. How a nonprofit news network is working to improve state politics reporting, in partnership with LION members. (Nieman Lab)
LIONs in the news
The Solving Sacramento partnership has become a model for civic media collaborations, and as Nieman Lab reports, it all started when the publisher of a local alt-weekly reached out to The Sacramento Observer’s Larry Lee for advice early in the pandemic.
“COVID was the moment where you say, ‘Whatever we were doing before, now’s a good chance to either fix it or find another solution,’” Lee said.
Since officially launching less than a year ago, the Solving Sacramento collaboration has produced more than 80 stories on affordable housing and homelessness, and it now plans to expand its coverage to focus on the city’s arts scene.
“We’re a better community if we have healthier newsrooms,” Lee said. “I think there’s enough resources in the region to help us [all] be sustainable.”
In other LION member news…
- Borderless Magazine, Planet Detroit, Tostada Magazine and The Land teamed up with the Energy News Network on a climate resilience series that was republished by 22 other news publishers, including fellow LION member Block Club Chicago.
- The Harvey World Herald has received a $48,500 grant from the Field Foundation to help scale up its reporting, launch a grassroots marketing campaign, and bring print voter guides to Harvey residents ahead of an April general election.
- Indiegraf celebrated International Women’s Day by profiling eight women news leaders, including LION members Eden Fineday (IndigiNews), Kelly-Anne Riess (The Flatlander), Annelise Pierce (Shasta Scout), Nancy Flores (Austin Vida), and Megan Raposa (Sioux Falls Simplified).
- Sahan Journal founder Mukhtar Ibrahim was featured as a “40 Under 40” leader by the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal.
How to reach us
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