Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

How and why community and place-based foundations are becoming players in the news and information field

Feb. 14, 2012, 12:46 p.m., Posted by Mayur Patel

Community and place-based foundations are playing a growing role in addressing their community information needs. They see their funding of information and media as helping them make an impact on the issues they care about, tied to their philanthropic leadership and likely to increase in the future. These were the key findings from our recently completed State of Information and Media Funding Survey.

Of the 162 community and place-based foundation respondents, more than half report funding information and media-related projects in the past year, with a median contribution of just under $100k. Forty-nine percent of foundations supporting information and media have seen their funding in this area increase in the past three years, and 38% expect it to increase further over the next three years.

The survey also confirmed what we’ve been hearing in the field: that most foundations are funding information and media to make progress on issues that matter to them, in areas such as education, health, civic engagement and nonprofit capacity building.  As one foundation explained:

“We realize that public awareness, engagement, and mobilization are critical components to get civic leadership […] to take decisive action.”

Additionally, more than 60% of foundations that have funded in media believe their support provides them with a unique opportunity to play a leadership role in their community.

Beyond the money, foundations are also engaging in various non-grantmaking activities to support information and media in their communities, including convening community stakeholders to share knowledge to address a local information need, building the information and media capacity of their grantees, and creating public awareness campaigns.

The survey also had great feedback for us as Knight explores how to best support greater community and place-based foundation involvement in this area. When we asked foundations where they would most benefit from additional support, more than half reported wanting stories of successful information and media projects, as well as consultative help to identify community information needs and how to use the latest technologies in their communities.

This year’s 2012 Media Learning Seminar, is focused on these various issues: funders will talk about successful projects and what’s working, and thought leaders will share what’s happening now and what’s next in technology.  The event takes place Feb. 20-21, and will be livestreamed at www.knightfoundation.org/live. We hope you’ll join us for the conversation!

By Mayur Patel, vice president/strategy and assessment at Knight Foundation.