Local Media Association launched the Lab for Journalism Funding in September 2020 with support from Google News Initiative. Sixteen local publishers from across the United States were selected from more than 50 newsrooms that applied.

With a curriculum developed by the development team at The Seattle Times, the lab gave the publishers overall strategy and one-on-one coaching to develop and execute proposals to fund journalism through philanthropy. By the completion of the lab on June 30, 2021, participating news organizations had collectively raised $4.5 million to support their journalism. 

At the conclusion of the lab, LMA published an extensive report detailing lessons from the lab to serve as a playbook for other local news organizations. Here are the key highlights:

  • Philanthropy has emerged as a viable way to fund essential local journalism, not as charity but as a way to sustain informed communities. Some local publishers have funded up to one-third of their news organizations via philanthropy.
  • Community listening is the foundation of any reporting initiative that seeks philanthropic support. A listening tour identifies the unmet needs of a community and the goals of community funders, enabling a newsroom to develop reporting strategies that address these common needs.
  • Philanthropic support comes in many forms. It includes grants from local community foundations and national journalism funders, as well as direct support from individual donors and crowdfunded micro-donation campaigns.
  • The lab identified five essential questions a strong funding project must answer: What is the problem to be solved? What is the community you will serve? How will you serve that community and address that problem through your journalism? What resources will you need? How will you measure impact?
  • Too often, news organizations assume the value of their journalism is widely understood. Impact reports are a powerful way for newsrooms to explain how their journalism benefits their community, and to document ways their reporting has had direct, positive impact and served a civic good.
  • For philanthropy to be a sustaining pillar of journalism funding, news organizations need to develop and implement processes to manage donor relationships. These can include personalized thank-you notes, a donor newsletter, donor events, and special access to newsmakers and news leaders.

Ready to learn more? Please complete and submit this form to receive a download link for the free 42-page Local Media Association report, Pathways to Philanthropy.