Funders say what they need/want/wish for
Several of the biggest funders of non-profit journalism ran a session at the Online News Association last week on what they look for in grantees and where they think the industry is going. [Full disclosure that several of them are funders of the Center.]
Snippets I found interesting and thought shareable with this audience include:
- “Presumptive renewal is not a good thing” said Ford Foundation program officer Barbara Raab. She talked strongly of grantees who assume they will get renewed and therefore either don’t pitch well or don’t understand why a foundation might have shifted its area of interest away from them – through no fault of the grantees. She urged grantees to “plan for the possibility that there is not going to be a renewal”.
- Some Foundations are starting to support for-profit news organizations, Gates Foundation and The Guardian developing country coverage for example. Lauren Pabst from the MacArthur Foundation said they wouldn’t fund a for-profit group but they would introduce a funded non-profit or project to a for-profit for a collaboration. Jennifer Preston of the Knight Foundation noted that Knight had funded a mobile content lab at The Guardian on the basis that the UK publisher had "demonstrated incredible capability and capacity for innovation and for change” and would share the findings from the mobile newsroom lab with the rest of the industry.
- Tom Glaisyer of the Democracy Fund talked about the trust grantors and grantees place in each other and the way that can become a partnership where DF recognizes: “If you get in the door it means you have a good idea. We have far more good ideas than we can possibly fund.” Then they need a frank and open conversation. "No one is ever the perfect grantee,” he said, so be open about your problems and hopes and performance of projects.
- Molly de Aguiar from the Dodge Foundation echoed that: “We can’t help you if you don’t know what the challenges are. I really appreciate and value it.”
- All of the panel shook their heads in horror at the idea they ever asked for influence or approval over journalism produced by their non-profit grantees. Barbara Raab urged grantees to be clear about those boundaries and not jeopardize their integrity: “You have much more to risk than the foundation has.”