It has become increasingly clear that, in the current climate, freelance journalists, start-ups and established media organisations shouldn't rely on just one revenue stream.
Traditionally, the initial step in the process of applying for a grant, whether as an individual, a team or an organisation, consists of filling out an online form with basic information about your project.
But what follows after, and is the form what determines whether or not you will receive funding? How do you talk about the perceived impact of your project and how it stands out from others?
"I see that many journalists sometimes struggle with the impact part of an application," Nienke Venema, director of the Democracy and Media Foundation in The Netherlands, told Journalism.co.uk in a recent podcast. The foundation was set up in 1941 and supports projects related to freedom, equality, activism, research, as well as journalism and media innovation.
"They also struggle with the raison d'être," she added, "so why has this project been chosen?"
Here are some do's and don'ts from Venema for journalists looking to get their project funded:
Demonstrate conviction in your work when you talk about impact
Impact is hard to define and quantify even on a daily basis, not just when you are seeking funding, but it's particularly important to convey to a foundation why you think your story is important.
Some funders will expect journalists to provide details about a more tangible outcome, such as the number of people reached, the number of page views or even the number of questions the project has raised in Parliament when it comes to an investigative piece, Venema said. But often, being passionate enough about your pitch is more important than providing estimated numbers.
"What we are looking for is a conviction that the proposed topic needs to be researched, and that the outcome is that the general public or a smaller niche public will be informed about something they need to know more about.
"For us, that's impact already. And if you can then add to that which platforms you'll use to engage your audience and which message you will use to engage them, rather than just have them as readers, that's a great addition."
Show that you have thought about your audience and the problem you are aiming to solve
Online applications will ask journalists to provide details about how their organisation works and whether or not they have received support from that foundation before. These questions are there for the funder to "see who you are within a field of other journalists and organisations who are doing similar work," Venema explained.
"Who is going to be your audience, why are they going to be your readers, why is your report going to be published on these platforms and why are your readers going to go there? These are things you think about before you start an application."
Depending on the foundation, there may be a second stage, where the funder meets prospective grantees in person to give them a chance to talk more about their project, but this does not mean you should treat the form superficially.
Venema said that journalists, particularly established ones, often feel like filling out a form "doesn't do them any justice", so they just add in links to previous work, which doesn't work. "Do fill out the form and do try to explain why your idea is worth funding."
The 'problem statement' part of the form is important, she added, as that is where you explain what issues your reporting is aiming to contribute to and what evidence is there to support that issue.
"Some issues are so obvious you can just put a link in, but you have to understand that the people who are reviewing your application are not experts in the area you are reporting on.
"So you have to explain to them why this is relevant, and what your project will to do contribute to the solution of that problem.
Use your own language and don't write what you think funders want to hear
Foundations do have a limited amount of money they can provide and they will often be more willing to fund projects that fit their mission statement. However, journalists should "stay true" to their idea and avoid pitching projects that have previously received funding, as that is not a guarantee they will be successful.
"It's hard, because you're strung for money and you need a grant to be able to continue your work.
"But looking too closely at what a foundation has in their criteria and trying to write towards that, rather than just pitching your own idea, is not good. Foundations do see that, so pitch something because you really believe in it, not because you think the funder will."
Keep in touch and try to build a relationship with the foundation
Once journalists receive the funding, they may have to regularly update the foundation on how the project is going. But even if this is not a required step, it might still be a good idea to do so and try to build a relationship based on trust.
This can be tricky, Venema said, because by nature, journalists will be skeptical of money, while foundations tend to want to control things, since they are financially supporting a particular project.
Foundations can often provide additional help, especially to start-ups or individuals, for example by putting them in touch with relevant people who could contribute to their project, as well as offering legal advice or technical support.
"It's best to be kept in the loop, as a foundation, because you take a big leap together so it's nice to know how it's going.
"You should always be 100 per cent clear about editorial independence. As long as, as a funder, you don't get in the way of that at all, ever, and you put it in writing, all the rest can be of added value to both funders and grantees."
Free daily newsletter
- Survey warns of endemic financial and political pressure across European newsrooms
- No filter: The importance of light when you're taking photos with your smartphone
- What journalists can do to hold algorithms to account
- Engaged Journalism Accelerator launches with €600,000 grant programme
- Tip: Bookmark these tools for collaborating on investigative projects