News organisations need potentially up to five different revenue streams in order to protect their businesses.
Philanthropic and foundation grants can provide one such source. But accessing the money requires filling out applications and that is where many journalists get stuck, says Nienke Venema, director of the Democracy and Media Foundation in The Netherlands, on the Journalism.co.uk podcast. She provides some lessons on how to secure funding for your journalism project.
Make the case for your story
Foundations want to support journalism which is likely to have "impact". The best advice is to show off the track record of your journalism.
Provide hard data like page views or engagement metrics of relevant reporting. If it has sparked legislative or Parliamentary debate, include links to that material. Bonus point if this is connected to the project you are seeking funding for.
"What we are looking for is a conviction that the proposed topic needs to be researched."
Prove your journalism is worth funding
The bottom line is that foundations want to know that the journalism they fund will reach an engaged audience. But just remember the people reviewing your applications may not be experts in the area you are talking about.
You will first probably need to provide background details about the organisation you represent and any previous support from that foundation.
Expect to justify who your intended audience will be and how you will report your findings to them. Forms will likely have a 'problem statement', where you will need to explain what issues your reporting is aiming to shine a light on and any supporting evidence.
Some foundations also have a second stage, where the funder meets prospective grantees in person to give them a chance to talk more about their project. Do not treat the application any less seriously, though.
Pitch for yourself, not the funders
Foundations do not have unlimited funds. So they will tend to veer towards projects that align with their mission statement. As a result, it can be tempting to pitch stories for the funders, thinking it would have a better chance of success.
Venema says journalists should be pursue their own stories above all else. It might be that foundations will be inspired by a more unusual project proposal.
"Pitch something because you really believe in it, not because you think the funder will."
Foundations want your story to do well
Once journalists receive the funding, they usually have to provide regularly updates on the project's traction. This is a good idea whether or not this is mandatory, as it builds a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.
Foundations want your project to thrive, and will provide extra help, especially for start-ups or individuals. That could be making relevant editorial or business connections, or 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."
Note: This story is an updated version of an article originally published on 19 June 2017 by Mădălina Ciobanu
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