Pitching your journalism to local funders? Here’s advice from three experts

Listen to our latest News Guest episode to learn how these LION members build and strengthen their relationships with funders.

November 16, 2021 by Ben DeJarnette

News Guest Ep. 9 guest photos

Journalism. The Fourth Estate. The lifeblood of democracy

As a nonprofit news organization serving communities of color in Madison, Wisconsin, Madison365 could use any of these buzzwords to describe its work. But when executive editor Robert Chappell talks to funders, he tries to avoid them altogether. 

“Journalism is kind of an abstract thing. [My advice is to] find something they’re passionate about that they want to fund,” Robert says. “Journalism is your tool to [make a difference], but what you’re really appealing to is the other funding interests that they have.”

In our latest episode of News Guest, Chappell and fellow LION members Kimberly Spencer (Chalkbeat) and Kimberly Griffin (Mississippi Free Press) share their advice for building relationships with funders, especially those without a long history of supporting journalism. 

A common theme: Don’t assume that prospective funders will automatically recognize journalism as a public good. Instead, make the case for the impact of your journalism, and focus on the issues that a prospective funder cares about most. 

“For us, it’s really about accountability,” says Kimberly Spencer, Chalkbeat’s senior director of development and donor relations. “If you’re an education funder, you want to know what’s happening with [education] dollars, and we are the people who are going to hold policy makers accountable.”

Listen to the full News Guest interview to learn more about how these three news business leaders pitch their journalism — and how they build lasting relationships with the people and organizations that they’re asking to fund it. 

Inspired to level up your fundraising? Join us on Tuesday, Nov. 30 for a LION Lesson that will help you build or refine an end-of-year giving campaign. (You must be a LION member to attend.)

If you’re starting from scratch, we’ll give you advice on how to develop a lightweight membership or donation campaign that you can launch before the holidays. If you’re already deep in the weeds, we’ll help you trade notes with other publishers and learn ways to level up. 

RSVP here for the LION Lesson, and let us know in the registration form what support you’re looking for so that we can cater the breakout groups to your needs. 

News Guest is a monthly podcast to help you build and grow a sustainable news business. If you enjoy this episode, please rate and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you do your streaming.

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