Matching Campaign Helped Bring in $245,000 for New Mexico Newsrooms

Mark Glaser
New Mexico Local News Fund
6 min readFeb 8, 2024

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Record fundraising for 20 newsrooms participating in the campaign last December

The Silver City Daily Press and Deming Headlight used News Revenue Engine to launch their very first online fundraising campaign

You can teach an old dog new tricks. At least, that’s what we found out in our recent Matching Campaign last December, when many for-profit newspapers made the leap to ask their audiences to support them directly. Most of these commercial enterprises don’t think of themselves as charities and aren’t used to asking for donations. But the reality is that all these newsrooms — nonprofit or for-profit — are providing a public service to communities, a public good that is worthy of support.

For the third year, we offered newsrooms a chance to raise money through donations, subscriptions or memberships from Giving Tuesday (November 28) through December 31. For every dollar they raised, we would match them up to $5,000 per newsroom. That allowed them to make pitches to their audience with the enticement of getting their contributions doubled, or even tripled if the publisher was participating in the national NewsMatch campaign.

This year, we also partnered with News Revenue Hub to help out some of our smaller newsrooms with special webinars and one-on-one support. This helped folks like KCCC Radio in Carlsbad, and the Deming Headlight and Silver City Daily Press launch special donation pages powered by News Revenue Engine.

Here’s an overview of the results from the Matching Campaign in 2023 compared to 2022:

  • 20 newsrooms participated vs. 16 in the previous year.
  • The newsrooms raised more than $245,000 in aggregate, including our matching funds, compared to $225,000 the year before.
  • 11 participating newsrooms are for-profits, compared to 8 last year. Many of these folks ran their very first fundraisers.
  • Our maximum match per newsroom was $5,000, which held steady from the previous year.

What really stood out with this recent campaign was the enthusiasm and energy of the publishers that participated, with 14 out of 20 exceeding the maximum match amount. And with the help of News Revenue Hub, we were able to bring some new publishers along for the ride.

Here are some key takeaways from the latest Matching Campaign:

  1. Get your ducks in a row ahead of time.

Before the launch of the campaign, we ran a webinar for all the participating publishers, and provided all kinds of resources for them: social media and web graphics; a timeline for sending out emails; sample pitch copy; and more. While some folks used these resources more than others, the main message was to plan ahead so you could succeed during the campaign.

One publisher told me, “working much more in advance on this campaign would have been much better…I wish we’d planned and scheduled everything out.” Many platforms such as MailChimp allow people to write out email pitches in advance and schedule them to send later. This kind of foresight can help get pitches lined up while doing other work during the campaign to fine-tune messaging.

“The News Revenue Hub helped me with bringing a larger call to action on the website and really helped with organizing all the pieces of this campaign,” said Johnny Chandler of KCCC Radio, a first-time participant. “The Hub helped make our campaign more cohesive. I was able to bring in more money online than in person this year as a result of their tips.”

2. Ask early and often — online.

As Johnny notes above, online giving is the key to many of the campaigns. Building a strong email list for a free newsletter helps create a valuable vehicle for email pitches during the campaign. So how often should publishers make those email pitches? As the Hub folks would say, “If you feel like you are asking too much, ask some more!” While it seems like a lot of emails to the person sending them, the recipients don’t read every email so it’s often new to them.

Even some radio stations found that online giving is preferable to “pledge drives” as on public media. Radio KTAL, a community radio station in Las Cruces, skipped the pledge drive and instead pointed people to its website, raising 80% of its total online.

“We schedule a week-long on-air campaign early in December, so it does not interfere with actual Christmas activities or shopping,” said Nan Rubin, executive producer at KTAL. “We encourage our listeners to become subscribers, making monthly donations. We have increased our subscriber base with many people who donate $5 or $10 a month. Our next challenge will be to try and increase that to $15 a month!”

At Gila Mimbres Community Radio / KURU in Silver City, general manager Marcus Hanson notes that on-air DJs can really help spread the word during fundraisers. “We have the added benefit of being a live, 24-hour entity. With this, we were able to coach our on-air hosts and DJs to pitch throughout the month.”

3. Let your supporters make the pitch.

Publishers can easily tire of making the pitch to their audience over and over again. Sometimes it helps to hand the microphone to trusted audience members who can make the pitch for you. The Santa Fe Reporter has become masterful at doing this each fundraising campaign, and this time had pitches that came from the organizer of the Zozobra Festival and one from Sarah Noss, the executive director of the Santa Fe Conservation Trust.

“Rely on others from your community who will explain the value of the organization rather than all of the messaging coming directly from the newsroom,” said Julie Ann Grimm, publisher of the Santa Fe Reporter.

Here’s part of the compelling email appeal from Noss: “So, if you care about Santa Fe, the entire spectrum of it, you have to care about the Reporter and its well-being. It’s the one gift you can make that keeps on giving, week after week, that builds community and brings accountability to our increasingly complicated world.”

4. In-person pitches help provide a human connection.

Reading someone’s byline, or hearing someone on the air is one thing. Actually meeting them in person to discuss issues in the community is another thing entirely. Many small news outlets in New Mexico maintain a store-front presence so that folks in the community can stop by to discuss the news, shoot the breeze — or drop off a check for a donation or ad buy.

Both Radio KTAL in Las Cruces and KURU in Silver City have made a point of having “open house” gatherings in their studios so that the public can get to meet DJs, staff and even board members. Marcus at KURU points out that it helps to be located on the main drag in Silver City’s historic downtown. Nan at KTAL says that open house parties have helped generate a number of donations on the spot.

“We kick off the week of the fundraising campaign with a holiday open house, featuring potluck dishes and live music,” Nan said. “It has become one of our most popular community events. Listeners are thrilled to stop by and see the radio station and meet some of their favorite on-air hosts… Most surprising, people bring their checks to the open house and we have raised significant funds on that day alone based on people bringing in their donations!”

Questa Del Rio News included thank-yous on their website to everyone who donated $20 or more to their fundraising campaign

5. Don’t forget to thank donors.

Of course, the fundraising campaign is not over when it’s over. Many publishers have received a first-time donation from someone in their community and they don’t want it to be the last one from them. It’s really the start of a relationship, and it’s important to “steward” that relationship over time. That begins with a personal thank-you note sent out to donors.

“We send handwritten thank-you notes to everyone who contributed, even those who gave us only $5,” says Chris Baker, publisher at Taos News. “This gesture can go a long way in building relationships and promoting goodwill.”

Questa Del Rio News, a monthly newspaper serving the Enchanted Circle in Northern New Mexico, took that a step further by turning their donation page into a huge thank-you card, listing everyone who donated $20 or more.

It was great to see so many new local newsrooms participating in our Matching Campaign, especially smaller publishers who hadn’t run fundraising campaigns in the past. We hope that this will be a springboard for them to run more outreach campaigns in their communities to get direct support for the long run.

Mark Glaser is the Director of Business and Program Development for the New Mexico Local News Fund. He also supports the Knight Foundation with communications work and was the founder and executive director of MediaShift.org. You can reach him at mark@nmlocalnews.org

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