Media co-operative The Bristol Cable has launched a membership campaign to get more financial support from readers, and to move away from grant and philanthropic funding.

The not-for-profit news organisation wants to increase member revenue by 50 per cent. This would mean raising £60k total in annual membership revenue; £30k by end of 2023, and a further £30k by September 2024.

A £30k target can be achieved simply by convincing half of its 2,500 existing members to pay just £2 more a month. But the organisation is also hoping to pick up some new paying supporters in its #BackTheCable campaign.

The campaign will emphasise the impact of its work on local communities and how memberships make that possible. It will bundle new perks into its existing membership offer and introduce a 'choose your amount' tier for those who can afford to give more.

The Bristol Cable is known for its co-operatively owned model. Paying the minimum £1 a month means members have voting rights in its AGM (Annual General Meetings), giving them a say on strategic direction. They also get the member newsletter, social events and WhatsApp content alerts for signing up.

"That tiny individual change makes a huge difference. I hope people hear that message - and given they’re already backing us - will then act upon it," says The Cable's strategy lead Eliz Mizon.

"I think there is a future where we have 10,000 members and are completely sustained by subscriptions. I have no idea when that would be, but I really do see that as a possibility."

Around a third of its revenue (36 per cent) comes from members. But in reality, that £117k of real money does not pay a team of 10 journalists. £60k in increased membership revenue would at least pay for two, though.

The more it can grow membership revenue, the less it has to rely on grant funding and philanthropists to break even.

As of right now, grants and philanthropy represent nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of income. But between inflation, changing priorities of funders, eligibility criteria, project focus and ring-fenced funding, this revenue stream has become too unpredictable.

In recent years, these cash injections have varied a lot: Lankelly Chase (£18k, February 2023), Power To Change (£40k, January 2023), the European Journalism Centre (€130k, July 2022), Lankelly Chase (£23.35k, August 2021), the Reva & David Logan Foundation ($100k, December 2020), Nesta Future News Fund (£41k, February 2020), Luminate ($450k, January 2020).

"We don't want to be chasing grant funding all the time and worrying that funders will not fund us again, therefore leaving a funding hole," continues Mizon. "We just want to get on with our journalism."

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