Session 9: Developing a pool of donors: Funding in the information arena
Facilitator: Emmett Carson, CEO, Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Scribe: Angelle C. Fouther, Senior Communications Officer, The Denver Foundation
Emmett started by sharing his observation that there are two major strategies to developing a pool of donors for information projects:
Strategy 1: You have the idea of the thing you want to fund, and you append the media component on top of it. You get buy-in based on the core issue that they are drawn to, and you embed the media component.
Strategy 2: The innovation itself is what you are using to excite people. There may be a topic that is not getting enough attention. To engage people, you draw them in with a texting campaign, for instance, offering a free ticket to a concert. The tool is what is compelling.
Emmett asks: Which strategy works best?
Emmett clarified his definition of donors: Anyone who has money and I want it. . corporations, donor advisors, foundations, individuals . . .
Participant challenges, questions and strategies:
• Fraser Nelson, Community Foundation of Utah –Knight instrumental in funding a youth media group. Corporate donations were not available. It’s all about marketing these days. Credit union offered $7,000 for the project through marketing budget, but wanted to see 100 youth open savings accounts. Are we willing to perhaps click through for Subway, or a fashion ad, or open an account as a means to the end of promoting serious issues?
• Corporations seek alignment with their brand. Joe Treaster – University of Miami – Knight Chair – MiamiPlanet.org. Noticed students’ quality of writing was not great. Idea: Put students on stage and get them engaged in an issue that is important to them. Focus: environmental cause. How to fund? Gift from Toyota to start. The brand of Toyota – environmentally friendly – tied to the mission and the young target audience – students.
• Mark Anthony Thomas, City Limits, Investigative Reporting, Brooklyn, NY – Must make argument that you can reach a different demographic.
• Message for grantseeking organizations: It is hard when you can Google for free and get info, whether “good” or “bad.” Why would you pay for it? Have to look at Public TV/Radio type donors. You have to figure out how to get access to them. Get public media underwriter list and develop relationships. Do this in conjunction with community foundations.
• David Cohn, Spot.us. Fundraising for Public Insight Journalists. We are too quick to ask for money. Take smaller steps to commitment/engagement. There is a small population of people who will give to journalism just for journalism’s sake. Most will give when they have an affiliation. NPR is different – a brand. Position the relationships to slowly build into a pool of donors.
• Embedded tools. Margot Rawlins – Envision Bay Area – Regional Development. They utilize keypad interactivity at meetings. Environmental impact was the issue, technology used as engagement tool. Several other participants stated they utilized surveys.
• Jessica Kemp – Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation–Building communications capacity is a challenge. When we seek funding, we don’t have the infrastructure to support the project. Emmett: interesting tension – every CEO would like unrestricted funds/operating support. Once it is attained, communications is not top priority though. It winds up being programs or another area.
• Blyth Campbell, Alaska Community Foundation – In a global world, you have to appeal beyond your borders to build a critical mass. A lot of local pain on hunger, homelessness. But not on journalism.
• Clotilde Dedecker – The old saying is true, if you want money, ask for advice. Have a problem, engage others in solving it. Then they are engaged in the “how’ of getting it done. The communications function becomes part and parcel of the platform.
• How to convene if you are not a community foundation? Partner with a community foundation. Find someone who can open the door for you with cf. Networking, networking, networking.
• David Cohn – Missing component – the discipline of cultivating these relationships. Is there a platform to show prospects metrics of their engagement with you so when we come to ask, it doesn’t come out of nowhere. Emmett – some people get disturbed if you track them too closely. Understand the people you are serving. You could potentially drive people away.
• Blyth Caldwell – “Conversations about Causes that Matter” – invite donor advisers, experts on each topic. Serves as a touch point.
• Funders should collaborate, so that fundseekers don’t have to reinvent themselves to fit into each funders’ criteria.
• Many outlets in developing countries. Work with corporations at the front. Can’t do the NPR model. They can’t afford to give. Mark Thomas – Equalize voices of underserved readers – invite them to submit columns, etc.
• Utah – Journalists are getting older. Introduce younger journalists to older ones. Asking older to put a fund together to support younger. Planned Giving. Laura Frank – Colorado – bringing multiple foundations to put together a trust for journalists.
• Ellen Pope – Maine Community Foundation. Kickstarter. Online fundraising is a good tool. St. Paul – communities sponsoring a series of Kickstarter programs. Powerful tool.
• Journalism/communications as a tool to build community. New Jersey – Sustainable Jersey – effort to help people on an informal basis build community – gain points toward certification on different issues – education, environment. With certification – eligible for grant money.
• Andrew Haeg – Public Insight Network – Most compelling way to get folks engaged is to ask a question. Build first rung of engagement. Go up from there.
• Do utilize mass cultivation, Emmett states– once a year ask readers/viewers for contributions – corporation match, United Way contributions . . . build a base over time. Get people used to saying I have to give something if I get something of value from this.
• Emmett – In terms of changing the world, acknowledge that nonprofit journalism plays a role in that. But there is a lot of competition. How do you create a unique brand identity for a donor? Why us against all the other asks? Funders can evaluate.