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April 5, 2023, 2:42 p.m.
Business Models

Local NewsMatch funders outpaced national donors for the first time in 2022

Across 303 participating newsrooms, NewsMatch brought in $38 million in individual donations. The largest 50 newsrooms brought in $24 million of the $38 million total.

For many nonprofit newsrooms, NewsMatch is the most important fundraising campaign on the calendar. The results from the latest campaign — which ran from November 1, 2022 through the end of the year — are in, and they skew local.

NewsMatch is the annual end-of-year fundraising campaign that uses gift-matching to encourage donations to nonprofit newsrooms. In 2022, the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN)-backed program secured $4.6 million in matching funds from national, regional, and interest-based funders.

The 303 participating newsrooms — all members of INN — then turned around and leveraged those commitments into $5.5 million in matching funds from small businesses, local philanthropists, and community foundations in their area.

Courtney Lewis, chief of growth programs for INN, has managed NewsMatch since 2020. She called this year’s tilt toward local funders “a more sustainable funding solution” for journalism.

NewsMatch has used growth in individual giving as a central marker of success, but Lewis implemented “a strategic shift” in 2020 toward thinking about the end-of-year program as an opening for newsrooms to form relationships with more local and issue-based funders. The program now provides training and financial incentives to nudge newsrooms toward securing local matches.

Since 2016, NewsMatch campaigns have helped to raise more than $270 million for nonprofit newsrooms that belong to INN. The vast majority of INN members participate in NewsMatch — about 300 of roughly 400 total members. Those who opt out tend to be more established nonprofit newsrooms — those “beyond the startup phase” and blessed with larger budgets, Lewis said.

Smaller and newer outlets “rely on NewsMatch for more than just matching gifts they can leverage for support from their communities,” Lewis said, including training, advice, and other resources.

Across the 303 participating newsrooms, NewsMatch brought in $38 million in individual donations from more than 231,000 unique donors in 2022. The largest 50 newsrooms brought in $24 million of the $38 million total, Lewis said, and the median amount raised from individuals across all newsroom was roughly $36,000.

While philanthropic investment rose this year, the amount raised from individuals dipped in 2022. In 2020, NewsMatch recorded more than a million donations from nearly 434,000 unique donors. Two years later, those numbers have dropped to 344,000 donations from 231,000 donors. How concerned should nonprofit newsrooms be about some of these downward trends?

Lewis noted that the NewsMatch results line up with giving trends across the entire nonprofit sector. In 2022, the total number of charitable donors declined 7.1% from the year before even as total revenue increased, according to data from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project.

“The bulk of the decreases were among the 50 participating newsrooms with the largest budgets, but we continue to see growth among smaller newsrooms,” Lewis told me. “For newsrooms with operating budgets under $2 million, the total amount raised and average amount raised per newsroom were up over last year.”

I asked Lewis where she sees room for improvement in NewsMatch. What is looking like fertile ground to INN’s chief of growth programs? She pointed to funders and foundations that may not have previously funded journalism before.

“This year, the Joyce Foundation contributed to a regional NewsMatch partner fund because bringing quality news to these communities aligns with the foundation’s philanthropic priority: advancing racial equity and economic mobility in the Great Lakes region,” Lewis said. (The Joyce Foundation gave $50,000 in matching funds to 10 newsrooms in 2022, including the Detroit-based Outlier Media.) “I anticipate we’ll see more placed-based and issue funders recognizing that providing news as a public service complements their mission.”

Photos of journalists from Public Square Amplified, WABE, CT Mirror, and High Country News provided by INN.

POSTED     April 5, 2023, 2:42 p.m.
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