What is the Local News Fund?

The 2023 Local News Fund is a program administered by Local Media Foundation (LMF), a 501(c)(3) charitable trust affiliated with Local Media Association. In this program, LMF will work with independent and family-owned local news organizations on campaigns to solicit tax-deductible donations from their communities. Each news organization will identify one or more critical local issues and, using proceeds from the Local News Fund campaign, execute a journalism project or increased coverage on those issues.

Which platform will be used for the fundraising campaigns?

Once again, this year’s campaigns will use the Givebutter platform to accept, process and acknowledge online donations.

We will also set up a special mailing address to receive and process check donations.

What kinds of organizations are allowed to participate?

This program is open to any local news organization in the United States that is:

  • Independent or family-owned
  • A bona fide local news organization, or group of them, in each location for which we set up a Fund campaign. That means:
    • You must be engaged in regular, original news reporting.
    • You must not be mostly focused on advocacy or opinion content (regardless of point of view) or any other form of non-news content. 

Organizations do not have to be Local Media Association members to participate.

Campaign proceeds must be used for a local journalism project or coverage topic.

What are potential coverage topics?

Potential coverage topics include:

  • Climate (ex., local impacts, misinformation, solutions)
  • COVID-19 (ex., vaccine information, economic impact, education impact)
  • Education
  • Healthcare (ex., disparities, COVID-19, mental health services)
  • Investigative reporting
  • Social justice (ex., race, criminal justice, housing segregation, homelessness, poverty, immigration)

How can we use the funds raised in our campaign?

Donations for the 2023 Local News Fund are made to Local Media Foundation, not directly to participating news organizations, even though each participant’s campaign will include its brands and descriptions along with the LMF brand. Because LMF is a 501(c)(3) charitable trust, contributions made to support our programs are tax deductible for the donors to the full extent of the law.

LMF expects to provide proceeds of each participant’s campaign, net of any fees, to that participant to support its stated purpose, which will be detailed in its agreement with LMF. To preserve the tax-deductible status of donations as well as LMF’s tax status as a charitable trust, we all have to follow strict rules about how the money can be used. Those will also be detailed in the participant agreement, but here’s the gist of it:

You can’t use Local News Fund proceeds for anything other than your stated project purpose. If your campaign raises more money than you can use for the stated purpose, it’s up to LMF to decide whether and how to spend the remainder. Funds can’t be used to subsidize continuing operations; current payrolls; any journalism efforts an organization would provide anyway; political opinions or support for candidates for public office.

You need to keep complete and accurate records of how proceeds are used. At the end of the program, you’ll submit a financial report to LMF describing how proceeds were used. 

What resources will be provided?

The LMA/LMF team will provide helpful resources for promoting each participant’s campaign and toolkits to assist with planning a Giving Tuesday campaign. Giving Tuesday is November 28, 2023.

How much does it cost?

Participants don’t pay LMF directly to be part of the Local News Fund. But Givebutter keeps a portion of online donations to cover credit card processing and platform costs, and LMF keeps a percentage to cover its administrative costs. The rest of the campaign proceeds will be made available to support each news organization’s stated purpose.

Givebutter and credit card fees

Givebutter charges for credit card processing (2.9% of donation amount plus 30 cents) and its own service fee (3% of donation amount); however, Givebutter provides donors the option of covering these fees so the intended donation amount is not reduced.

LMF administrative fee

Local Media Foundation will take a 7% administrative fee from the donations received, net of Givebutter and credit card fees. The LMF fee covers our costs to set up and maintain the campaigns, process payments, disburse funds, and report to the IRS.

How do we apply to participate? 

Applications will open in August and will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Approved news organizations will need to execute a participant agreement with LMF and submit a participant information form that provides more specific details about your campaign. Once all requested materials have been submitted, LMF will make its best effort to launch a participant’s campaign within three-five business days.

Each organization must submit a report at the end of the program showing how the funds were used toward its stated purpose.

While there is not an application deadline, we encourage you to apply by October 1 to receive the maximum benefits of the program. 

Will LMF fundraise for us?

Not exactly. LMA/LMF will promote the 2023 Local News Fund program overall via our website, newsletters and social media. And we will write case studies and success stories highlighting the work of participants to promote the campaigns that benefit their specific projects. These reports are likely to be seen by our audiences of news industry executives as well as institutional funders. But we expect dozens of news organizations to participate, and we can’t really have a “hometown favorite” — so we won’t solicit contributions to any one of the campaigns in the Local News Fund over another.

Will LMF help us market and promote our campaign?

Yes. In addition to our general publicity for the 2023 Local News Fund, participants can expect to receive customizable starter kits that will include email and social media templates. In addition, the LMA/LMF team will host numerous virtual “office hours” to share success stories and offer fundraising tips.

We have multiple news outlets. Can we have separate campaigns for each?

Yes. We can set up a campaign for each local news organization you represent. You can apply on behalf of all of them using a single application form, but if approved, you will need to provide campaign details for each individually.

A donor or foundation is interested in matching donations received through our campaign. Can we do that?

Yes. A matching campaign is one of the most effective ways to kickstart a fundraising program like this. We are happy to assist in arranging it.

Can the program handle large, tax-deductible donations from major donors or foundations?

Yes, and if your donors do not want to contribute through the online platform, and/or need more information or documentation from Local Media Foundation, we can coordinate with them. 

Can donors contribute by check?

Yes. We will provide instructions for check donations in the campaign pages when each campaign is set up.

As donations come in, how often will my organization receive funds from the campaign?

For donations received in a given month, barring technical problems, LMF will distribute the net proceeds and campaign reports within 20 business days after that month ends. 

My company is for-profit. Is a program like this the only way we can accept donations for journalism projects?

For-profit companies can accept donations without a program like this, but they will not be tax-deductible for the donors. Having a fiscal sponsor (that’s the role of LMF in this program) enables donations to be tax-deductible, and may encourage giving from people who itemize charitable donations on their taxes. It also conveys a mission-driven approach that encourages giving in general.

When does the campaign start and end?

The first campaigns for the 2023 Local News Fund will roll out in early September and will run through December 31, 2023. 

How can we develop a relationship with donors, to contact them for future donations or subscriptions?

Privacy rules do not allow us to pass names and email addresses of donors on to publishers unless the donors opt in specifically to give permission. We have a way in Givebutter to ask the appropriate opt-in questions, and can share the email addresses of those donors who opt in and the specific permissions that they grant. Participants who request and receive these lists will have to use them within the terms of the participant agreement, and may not redistribute the contact information to third parties.

We also encourage you to include a call to action, such as a newsletter sign-up, in the explanatory text for your campaign and the automated thank-you emails that we’ll set up. We can also send an email on your behalf to all donors to your campaign, after it is over. That email could be used to invite them, for example, to provide contact information to you to receive a thank you gift, or it could include an invitation to a thank-you event.

If I have more questions, whom do I ask?

If you have any other questions about the 2023 Local News Fund, please contact Terese Kartholl, director of journalism funding initiatives.