For many news organizations, philanthropy has become an emerging and sustaining source of revenue. But how does a news organization start that work of asking their community for donations? In this Q&A we talk with Carol Robidoux, the editor/publisher of Manchester Ink Link, about the Manchester Ink Link’s Manchester Rising Reporting Fund. Robidoux used videos and messaging and the fundraising platform Givebutter to raise funds.
What was your motivation to start fundraising for journalism?
We needed to increase our revenue for reporting, and also find a way to generate more human interest stories that provided our readers with a narrative that exists, but is often underreported because it doesn’t fit in with the “if it bleeds it leads” narrative. Having the opportunity to mount a short-term fundraiser and appeal to our readers for support turned out to be a successful plan, as the outpouring was unexpected. We didn’t get our campaign launched until about a month after it officially started and our readers came through. The need to have various revenue streams is important to any news organization’s success, and this has been a positive.
What did your Givebutter campaign entail? Did you have a gameplan?
The plan was for me to promote the campaign regularly in our morning eNews, which goes out to more than 3,000 daily subscribers and has a 40%+/- open rate. This is the core of our loyal readership, and the daily “asks” were framed in various ways, from examples of our reporting to heartfelt appeals. We also did some Facebook posts highlighting our Manchester Rising logo, and produced a promotional video which was posted on our website and shared in our eNews [newsletter] and on Facebook. The video tells my story and why Manchester Rising means so much to me and to our community.
What was the process that led you to the funders who ultimately supported your project? What was it about the project that appealed to them the most?
We had only one “major donor,” a private citizen who wished to remain anonymous. Aside from that, the contributions were small but mighty. I think that speaks to the trust we’ve built with our readership over eight years, and the integrity with which we connect with our community. The comments on our fundraising page tell that story.
Tell us about the team that is focused on fundraising. Who is doing the work?
It is, for the most part, me, the publisher. I have a small staff (myself and Andrew Sylvia, who is my municipal reporter). I do have a small volunteer team, but the push for support was up to me.
If you are interested in raising funds for local journalism projects through tax-deductible donations from your community, consider applying for the 2022 Local News Fund.