NC Local for May 19: Making impossible funding possible

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from May 19, including how key players from North Carolina (“the state of collaboration”) will show up at the Collaborative Journalism Summit from the Center for Cooperative Media, updates on state and federal legislation affecting the NC press, and a boatload of kudos and wards for NC journalism. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday. 

By Eric Frederick, NC Local newsletter editor

Read Local/ Support Local pitchIf you’re on a newsroom’s email list, you may have seen an invitation to support strong local journalism with a donation — like the one shown here, from Executive Editor Robyn Tomlin of The News & Observer. 

This one mentions an organization called Journalism Funding Partners — and the link will take you to a donation page that describes The N&O’s spring 2021 community giving campaign, organized by JFP.

Such community campaigns are the latest initiative by JFP, a 501(c)(3) launched to support local journalism by bridging the gap between funders and newsrooms in three key ways:

  • Enabling major gifts from large funders that might otherwise be impossible.
  • Enabling broad campaigns of donations from individuals, including those who want to make only deductible gifts.
  • Guiding and training newsrooms in effective fundraising.

Its board members include chair Orage Quarles III, former publisher of The N&O; Sharif Durhams, managing editor of The N&O and The Herald-Sun; and Anders Gyllenhaal, a former N&O executive editor and former news VP at McClatchy. Sean Malone, first president and CEO of Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy in Raleigh, is its interim executive director.

Malone calls JFP an “elegant solution to a pretty meaningful need.”

Here’s the challenge: Many foundations that want to support journalism require that all grants be made to nonprofits — so they can’t give directly to for-profit newsrooms. And many individuals also give only to nonprofits, so they can deduct the gifts from taxes.

JFP, being a nonprofit itself, functions as a fiscal sponsor and fiduciary in its role as a bridge between funders and newsrooms, enabling gifts that otherwise might not happen. 

“The needs in local journalism are clear,” Malone told me. “But on the other side, there’s a real need among philanthropists, whether those are individuals or community foundations or family foundations — because they are usually unable, and sometimes unwilling, to make those grants directly, either for tax reasons or bylaw reasons, or sometimes because they simply want an organization like JFP to play that intermediary role and bring a level of credibility and oversight … to really ensure we’re doing something that is going to increase the depth and diversity of local journalism in that community.” 

As a fiscal sponsor, Malone said, “we are taking on a level of fiduciary responsibility. We are saying we are going to ensure that this organization — which may be nonprofit, may be for profit — is going to use the funds the way the donor wanted them to, and for something that is of community benefit and fits into our 501(c)(3) nonprofit mission.” 

Most of the donations managed by JFP came from family and community foundations in its first year, but about a month ago it launched a series of community giving efforts, including the campaign at The N&O.

 “Newspapers can reach out to people on their mailing list (or on social media) and say, hey, we would like to add additional COVID coverage, or additional racial equity coverage, or additional health coverage” and ask for a donation to Journalism Funding Partners that then goes toward that effort, with JFP’s oversight, Malone said. 

In addition, JFP has worked with The N&O and One Earth Fund to secure a reporter dedicated to environmental coverage. It’s also the fiscal sponsor for an internship program that supports emerging journalists of color, said Adam Waxman, McClatchy’s regional journalism development director.

Malone said JFP had raised and is managing more than $1.5 million and called that the “tiniest tip of the iceberg.” 

    ➵ You can learn more about Journalism Funding Partners and how to get involved at its website or by sending an email.