Thursday, June 7, 2007

Who Says Journalists Won't Give?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It just takes a little extra prodding – but they will. Take the Society for Environmental Journalists, for example. On the SEJ website a recent posting notes that the group has raised more than $130,000 in donations from individuals. Turns out, SEJ is a member of the Challenge Fund for Journalism (CFJ), a unique partnership in which selected journalism nonprofits are offered technical assistance to help them ‘grow’ their individual donor base – with a tempting matching grant acting as the carrot.

SEJ, for example, was challenged to raise more than $103,000 as part of its 21st Century Fund endowment. Donations had to be made by people who’d never given to SEJ before or were giving more than they had previously – by May 31, 2007 – to count toward the challenge grant. If SEJ made it, according to the agreement, CFJ would match these donations with a $51,500 grant. Cha-ching.

Learning to nurture individual donors has been difficult for journalism groups historically. To help j-groups along, the Ford and Knight foundations established the CFJ in 2002. The fund – since joined by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation – is administered by the TCC Group, formerly The Conservation Company. At its recent May board meeting MTF’s Journalism Program became a supporter of this important initiative to help build the sector’s financial independence. We're looking forward to helping to add to the list of groups that have become stronger as a result of this partnership.

2 Responses to “Who Says Journalists Won't Give?”

Tim Wheeler said...
9:14 PM, June 07, 2007

Thanks, Mark, for noticing our success. I can tell you the Challenge Fund for Journalism has transformed SEJ's leadership. We'd created an endowment about six years ago and talked about raising $3 million or so, enough to throw off significant interest income and cover the organization's core budget.

But as you correctly point out, journalists don't feel comfortable asking for money. We'd developed policies and plans for fund-raising, but had never raised more than a few thousand a year from individual givers. We kept talking about going after donations in a big way, but hadn't pulled the trigger.

The chance to get $51,500 from CFJ prompted us to get off our chairs and start asking in earnest. It still took some months to get rolling, but surprising as it was to some of us, our members and friends responded, big time!

We proved what we'd always hoped -- that environmental journalism matters to many, and SEJ plays a central role in the community of journalists who cover such issues.

Practically speaking, what seemed to stimulate the donations were sizable short-term challenge gifts from board members -- from $1,000 up to $10,000 -- and testimonials from givers large and small about why SEJ matters to them. We heard from members new and old, former members, scientists who'd spoken at our conferences and friends or relatives of board members who appreciated their dedication to the cause of better environmental reporting.

The money we raised in the past year easily surpassed what we'd raised in all the years before. It's still a far cry from the $3 million we ultimately believe we need, but we're on the way, at last. And it wouldn't have happened now without the support of CFJ and its partners. Thanks for the opportunity -- and the challenge -- to prove we have a great story to tell!

Tim Wheeler
President, Society of Environmental Journalists

SFO Green said...
3:20 PM, June 18, 2007

I came across a great contest for non-profit business professionals at They
are holding a contest to reward business leaders for starting or running
socially responsible companies. This seems to be a growing trend!

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