Equitable partnerships, WiFi kits, how to find individual donors and more cool shit from #AMC2018
TL;DR: Detroit is awesome and so is the Allied Media Conference
I learned a bunch of cool, fun and useful things at the Allied Media Conference that local news orgs can (and should) use to help grow and strengthen local journalism in their communities. My trip was paid for by the Democracy Fund, which supports the Center for Cooperative Media. I was only able to attend a few of the more than 300 conference sessions and workshops, but I still managed to pick up some pretty interesting stuff in the process:
1. A draft guide to forming equitable news partnerships
By now, most people are aware that partnerships are an essential ingredient for doing great journalism. But all partnerships are not created equal — or equitable. Partnerships and collaborative relationships are certainly beneficial in their own rite, but many will inevitably fall apart if they aren’t built on a fair and equitable foundation.
That’s why the session titled, “How to develop equitable journalism partnerships” resonated so much with me.
The workshop introduced attendees to a code for equitable partnerships that is being drafted by a group of journalists and editors.
The draft contains guiding principles for news partnerships that are based on mutual respect, dignity, and sustainability. It also addresses issues of systemic and structural inequalities that permeate the news industry, especially when partners enter into agreements with substantial power differences.
2. Portable Network Kits and community WiFi networks
The session titled “Community Tech in Practice: Building Community Wifi Network” was one of my favorites by far, even if the applications for local and hyperlocal media may not seem as easily accessible or feasible at first glance. As any New York or New Jersey resident will tell you, the inability to communicate with other members of your community during natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene can be simultaneously frustrating and terrifying.
That’s why I was excited to attend this hands-on workshop that laid out the steps to create local, independent WiFi and communications networks at the community level — without having to rely on ISPs or telecom companies. Our instructors were Teresa Basilio Gaztambide of New America’s Resilient Communities program and Diana Nucera of the Detroit Community Technology Project.
Not only did we get to splice and craft our own dummy ethernet cables, we also got a step-by-step guide (complete with price estimates) on how to build a Portable Network Kit (PNK) using stuff you can buy at most hardware or home improvement stores.
3. Tapping individual donor visits to raise money
When thinking about the future of their organization, revenue is usually the first thing that comes to any publisher’s mind, no matter how big or small the publication is. Luckily, Mary Grace Wolf of the progressive People’s Action Institute put together a stellar session on the art of the individual donor visit.
In addition to giving attendees a rundown of the process for courting and building rapport with individual donors, Wolf explained the differences between the way wealthy and working-class donors tend to donate money.
There is also, of course, a difference between soliciting donations from foundations and asking individual donors to give money to your organization. The goal of individual donor visits, according to Wolf, should be to structure your visits around a specific ask. Similar logic and tactics can also be applied to small business visits and other small corporate donors.
Wolf says one of the main differences between individual donor visits and some of the more common individual donor tactics such as events, online pledge drives and cold calls is that individual donor visits are specifically geared toward eliciting a “thoughtful gift” instead of an “impulse gift.” While impulse gifts usually tend to be on the smaller side, thoughtful gifts often result in donations that are up to 10 times larger.
If you’re planning on conducting a few individual donor visits of your own, Wolf has provided a series of sample scripts and examples for you to use in preparation for your visit.
Finally, I have to give a shoutout to the organizers of AMC2018 and the people of Detroit in general for making my first time in the Motor City one of the premiere journalism-related experiences of my year so far. Detroit is an awesome city and I can’t wait to go back.
About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. The Center is supported with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and Democracy Fund. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.