This collection of examples and tools is designed to help your organization start a media project in your community


Assessing Information Needs

This toolkit helps you assess the strengths and weakness of the news and media network in your community.

The Knight Foundation Information Tooklit contains five sections:

Plan your project and assemble the resources you need to address local opportunities and challenges.

Kick off your project with a workshop to define your community, discuss the issues your community is facing, and gain buy-in from community members.

Gather insights about the availability and delivery of information in your community using a Checklist and a Scavenger Hunt.

Analyze your results using a Community Information Scorecard, a simple visual reporting tool.

Move from insight to action using with a template and a strategic workshop that helps you plot your next steps.

Building Partnerships

You don’t have to go it alone when planning a media project for your community. Identify possible partners and create a framework for success.

Consider the following:

Pursue partnerships to repurpose and expand existing information tools and other resources. Don’t duplicate efforts that are already underway.

A clear understanding of the roles and goals of each partner will lessen the likelihood of problems down the road.

Not every partnership requires a contract, but formal documents provide necessary structure when a partner’s participation is essential to the mission or partners are sharing money or other resources.

Sustaining Nonprofit News

Knight Foundation’s study “Finding a Foothold: How Nonprofit News Ventures Seek Sustainability” provides examples of different ways news outlets are pursuing long-term viability using the nonprofit model.

Here are the key takeaways:

Regularly gather insights on who your audience is and what they care about. Use that feedback to refine membership programs and events, tailor user experiences and pitch sponsors.

Pursue strategies for reducing your reliance on foundation funding and increasing income through events, sponsorships and donations from community members. Such revenue sources offer greater independence in reporting and more flexibility in how capital can be invested.

Share your content with others through syndication or other means to reach a larger audience. In exchange you should gain intelligence on who your content is reaching, prominently market your brand or earn fees from syndication.

Keep up with how and where your audience consumes information—and how those habits are changing.


Leading Communities

Foundations of all sizes in all areas of the country regularly assume leadership roles to improve the lives of people in the communities they serve.

Here are some examples:

Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
The foundation used a media project as a building tool for the Western New York environmental movement. It has facilitated collaboration among 150 nonprofit organizations and other community members.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation
The foundation partnered with nonprofit and government agencies to create YouChoose Bay Area. The initiative helps residents and leaders make decisions about building development and population growth that will shape the long-term health of the Bay Area.

Community Foundation of New Jersey
The largest newspaper in New Jersey downsized in 2009, raising concerns about the availability of information on state policy matters. The foundation made a small loan to a team of journalists in 2009 to start NJ Spotlight, an online investigative news service focused on state policy issues.

Making Grants

Community and place-based foundations expect their interest in funding news and information projects to increase. Many were initially perplexed by the shift in the media landscape. Now, experience provides inspiration and helpful lessons for others interested in entering the field.

Five things you need to know

1. This is everyone’s issue.
2. You can build on what you’re already doing.
3. You can start without a lot of money.
4. Good journalism requires independence.
5. Digital media must be targeted to produce impact.

Five ways to get started

1. Map your community’s news ecosystem.
2. Run a contest to find new voices.
3. Grow your own digital expertise.
4. Partner with an existing news organization.
5. Help create a public interest news organization.

Having Impact

Foundations can help improve education, public safety, the environment and other areas only if people understand the issues and are engaged. Through the Knight Community Information Challenge, dozens of foundations have invested in such initiatives as local reporting and digital literacy to help communities thrive.

Here are some of the key lessons:

Measure community needs and how people use information first. In south Wood County, Wis., the Incourage Community Foundation set aside plans to create an online news site after discovering that more than a third of low-income families did not use the Internet. The foundation shifted to facilitating community discussions and building digital literacy.

Identify audience needs to find a niche. After a market analysis, NJ Spotlight, supported by the Community Foundation of New Jersey, decided to target state policymakers rather than a general audience.

Use digital training and cellphones to reach people with limited Internet access. The Incourage Community Foundation experimented with text-message and telephone alerts to distribute news about job training services to people with limited computer skills.

Specialists can provide helpful insights. The Incourage Community Foundation created strong relationships with the MIT Center for Civic Media and IT specialists at local schools and universities to help guide its media and technology funding.

Look beyond philanthropy to help sustain your work. NJ Spotlight now gets a third of its income from events, advertising and content-sharing agreements.

Evaluating Your Work

This guide synthesizes Knight Foundation’s insights from evaluating Knight Community Information Challenge and journalism projects over two years. It includes assessment tools, tips and examples to help you evaluate your work and refine your approach, including:

Website Analytics

Use data on website traffic to understand your project’s reach, audience penetration and level of engagement.

Social Media Analysis

Use social media to understand the reach of your project and audience sentiment with simple tools, such as Facebook Insights, which tracks followers, likes, messages and fans.


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