For many news organizations, philanthropy has become an emerging and sustaining source of revenue. But many readers don’t understand the value journalism can have when effectively covering local governments. That’s why the local news site LebTown in Pennsylvania started a fundraising campaign called the Civic Impact Reporting Project. We asked Davis Shaver, the editor/publisher of LebTown, about the project.

What was your motivation to start fundraising for journalism?

LebTown already had a semi-successful membership program. As we do not have 501(c)(3) status, these contributions were not tax-deductible, but we were hearing from readers that there was interest in supporting us through charitable contributions. While we continue contemplating whether 501(c)(3) status is right for our organization, the Local Media Foundation’s fiscal sponsorship program has been a huge asset for us and our audience. We focused our campaign around “Civic Impact Reporting,” which we interpreted as coverage of local municipal meetings. Coverage that wouldn’t happen without us! Local Media Foundation provided a critical opportunity for us to capture the community’s desire to support our journalism.

What did your campaign entail? Did you have a gameplan?

Davis Shaver

Our initial campaign push was multifaceted. It included promotion on social media, our website, and our email newsletter. We used direct calls to action as well as testimonials from readers who had already donated. We did not have a formal game plan, but in retrospect we should have. I also will involve more members from the newsroom when we begin our next campaign effort.

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?

For our donors to this campaign, we saw a big overlap with existing members. However, we also saw some new individuals. With the exception of a few donors who contributed as “thanks” for stories about topics near and dear to their hearts, the majority of donors contributed out of a desire for us to provide public accountability journalism to the community. The “watchdog” element of our work resonated strongly with readers.

Tell us about the team that is focused on fundraising. Who is doing the work?

As publisher I am doing almost all of the work for fundraising, with help from donors in the form of testimonials. In the future I will involve more members of the newsroom in these efforts.