June 28, 2018

2017 Was a Record Breaking Year for Giving to Nonprofit News, Here is Why

NewsMatch Brought More Dollars to More Places to Support More Trustworthy Journalism

Washington, DC — As trusted information providers, local and nonprofit journalism organizations play an essential role in providing news that communities rely on to stay informed, make decisions and participate in civic life. In the wake of the digital disruption of news and declining trust in the media, there is an urgent need to redouble funding for local and state coverage to ensure the nonprofit journalism sector can fulfill its democratic mission.

That is why the Democracy Fund, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Knight Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation came together in 2017 to launch NewsMatch, a national matching-gift campaign to grow fundraising capacity in nonprofit newsrooms and promote giving to journalism among U.S. donors.

A new study released this month by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University revealed that from 2010 to 2015 nearly $1.8 billion in grants were given in support of journalism. However, only a small fraction, about 4.5%, went toward nonprofit local and state reporting. The report also found significant and troubling geographical gaps, with the majority of philanthropic dollars ending up in a few coastal cities.

NewsMatch was designed from the ground up to respond to the gaps that the Harvard research now highlights so clearly. It supported newsrooms in almost every state, brought new foundations and donors in, and expanded the capacity of journalism nonprofits to develop support from their community.

Today we are releasing the results of an external evaluation of NewsMatch as well as our reflections on what we learned over the past year.

In 2017 NewsMatch provided 109 newsrooms with more than 500 hours of fundraising training, a professional campaign toolkit, national marketing around the importance of contributing to nonprofit news, targeted advertising using $100,000 in ad credits donated by Facebook, and a 1:1 match of individual donations, up to $28,000 per news organization. Nearly all 109 organizations who participated in NewsMatch raised more money, from more donors than ever before. In total NewsMatch helped raise nearly $5 million for local and investigative journalism and inspired 43,000 new donors to give to nonprofit news. Those are just the topline results. The report dives deep into how NewsMatch was structured, what worked and what didn’t.

We are currently raising dollars for NewsMatch 2018 in hopes of making it even bigger than last year. Several updates to the 2018 program reflect the evaluation’s suggestions:

  • We will support nonprofit news organization’s membership models by matching the full-year value of new recurring donations during NewsMatch.
  • We will offer extra bonuses to small and medium organizations that show they have measurably improved their fundraising capacity over 2017.
  • We recognize that individual donors support nonprofit news in many ways and will match gifts made by individuals through their businesses and family foundations.

As in 2017, NewsMatch is open to members of the Institute for Nonprofit News. The deadline to apply is Aug. 1, 2018.

NewsMatch was first launched by Knight Foundation in December 2016 and supported 57 nonprofit and local news organizations with matching grants at the end of the year. Building off the success of the 2016 campaign, Knight Foundation partnered with Democracy Fund, the MacArthur Foundation, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), News Revenue Hub, and The Miami Foundation to co-design and expand NewsMatch 2017 in an effort to increase the impact and reach of the program. By the end of the year we were joined by more than 20 other foundations and donors who set up matching campaigns alongside the national NewsMatch effort.

It was clear to us then — and still is today — that if nonprofit news organizations are to achieve long-term financial sustainability, they have to draw more support from individual donors. Individual giving provides nonprofit news organizations with the unrestricted dollars that are critical to safeguarding editorial independence, building organizational resilience, and creating relationships that can improve the public’s trust in journalism. Yet despite the need for individual fundraising, many nonprofit news organizations lacked the resources and expertise to run professional fundraising campaigns. Nor had there ever been a unified national message around the importance of making giving to nonprofit news a core part of U.S. philanthropy, especially during the critical year-end fundraising period.

Thus, we launched NewsMatch 2017 with three goals:

  • Incentivize new donors to support nonprofit news organizations
  • Build the fundraising capacity of nonprofit news organizations
  • Raise awareness of nonprofit journalism and its need for public support

We are obviously excited that NewsMatch helped make 2017 a record-breaking year for giving to nonprofit news. However, the real success of NewsMatch hinges on its capacity to change the landscape of nonprofit news over the long haul, and the evaluation found evidence that NewsMatch is doing that too. Nonprofit news organizations given access to professional fundraising materials used those materials enthusiastically and said they would increase their investment in fundraising in the future. Journalism funders increased their commitment to the broad field of state and local journalism, not just the few news organizations that have received the vast majority of philanthropic support.

This evaluation has helped us learn a great deal about how to strengthen the program and we hope it is useful for others. As we move forward, we are committed to learning from this evaluation and strengthening NewsMatch’s ability to support a bright future of journalism in America.


Lauren Strayer, Democracy Fund

Andrew Sherry, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Sean Harder, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

About Democracy Fund:

The Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation established by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to help ensure that our political system can withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Since 2011, Democracy Fund has invested more than $60 million in support of effective governance, modern elections, and a vibrant public square. For more, visit democracyfund.org.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation:

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

About the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation:

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy, as well as the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information is available at macfound.org.

About the Institute for Nonprofit News:

The Institute for Nonprofit News is an incubator and support network for nonprofit newsrooms, strengthening the sources of independent, public service information and investigative journalism for thousands of communities across the U.S. INN is the only organization in the U.S. specifically focused on supporting the emerging nonprofit news sector. For more, visit INN.org.

About the News Revenue Hub:

The News Revenue Hub helps news organizations build the trust and financial support of their audiences by providing customized technology tools and proven strategies to create and sustain successful digital membership programs. For more, visit fundjournalism.org.

About The Miami Foundation:

Since 1967, The Miami Foundation has used civic leadership, community investment and philanthropy to improve the quality of life for everyone who calls Greater Miami home. We partner with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 1,000 personalized, philanthropic Funds. Thanks to them, we have awarded over $250 million in grants and currently manage more than $300 million in assets to build a better Miami. As the Foundation marks our 50th anniversary, we are celebrating great Miamians who have championed what matters to them, encouraging all residents to share their Miami stories and unite around the causes they care about. For more, visit miamifoundation.org