Exploring funder collaborations for nonprofit news at Knight Media Forum

Josh Stearns
Published in
5 min readMar 6, 2019
The NewsMatch panel at Knight Media Forum — Photo by Patrick Farrell

NewsMatch funders and partners recently gathered at the 2019 Knight Media Forum in Miami to connect with leaders in journalism, technology and philanthropy to explore ways to strengthen local news and our democracy. During the conference, NewsMatch hosted two breakout sessions focused on how its year-end giving campaign creates funder collaborations for nonprofit news.

The following recap of those sessions is based on slides developed by presenters and notes by Mary Grace Roske of the Seattle Foundation and Carol Goglia of the Communities Foundation of Texas. A special thanks to both for serving as scribes at the session. Reports from all Knight Media Forum sessions are available on Knight’s website.

The panelists included Karen Rundlet, Knight Foundation; Melissa Davis, Gates Family Foundation; John Bebow, Center for Michigan and Bridge Michigan; Sue Cross, Institute for Nonprofit News. Josh Stearns, Democracy Fund and Jason Alcorn, NewsMatch/American Journalism Project moderated the sessions.

What is NewsMatch?

NewsMatch is a national matching-gift campaign to grow fundraising capacity in nonprofit newsrooms and promote giving to journalism among U.S. donors. It is supported through an open collaborative fund at The Miami Foundation and offers a simple, turnkey platform for foundations and individual donors of all sizes to support quality news. In 2018, NewsMatch helped to raise $7.6 million for 154 nonprofit news organizations in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

How does it work?

NewsMatch matches donations to nonprofit newsrooms in 42 states around the country and provides in-depth training and resources for nonprofit news organization to become more intentional fundraisers. A comprehensive toolkit is created for all participants, and newsrooms get weekly briefings with sample images, templates and messaging to guide them through the end-of-year fundraising season. The toolkit is user-friendly and gives newsrooms without fundraising experience a campaign-in-a-box rooted in proven messages and strategies. At larger newsrooms, more-junior staff can get trained up quickly and successfully lead the fundraising campaign, gaining meaningful experience. NewsMatch additionally provides more than 500 hours of training and campaign support to nonprofit news organizations each year through webinars, coaching and trainings.

NewsMatch helps deliver the immediate goal of much needed funds, but the long-term aim is to grow the capacity of these organizations (most are under ten years old) to become strategic fundraisers. This includes the process of transforming reader transactions into reader engagement, which is critical to achieving this goal. Since 2016, the results of NewsMatch back up a key assumption about nonprofit news: The public will support news organizations that provide the coverage they want.

Collaboration across the philanthropic field

Collaboration is core to how NewsMatch operates at many levels of the program.

For foundations and other funders, participation in NewsMatch is an easy way to support nonprofit news organizations nationwide with one grant, or it can provide a path towards supporting coverage of topics they care about or expanding critical reporting in targeted regions. It exposes funders to potential new partners aligned with their issue areas and a new way to support their priority areas of investment.

Melissa Davis noted how on #GivingNewsDay, with support from the Gates Family Foundation, the Colorado Media Project matched grants of up to $1,500 each for seven local news outlets.

Importantly, NewsMatch is embraces learning. Data collected in post-match reports and an annual, independent evaluation helps funders and the project team better understand the needs of the field and the most effective ways to provide support. This year’s evaluation and learnings report will be available for funders and the public to read by April.

Next Steps for 2019:

NewsMatch is gearing up for the coming year with a focus on learning, supporting grantees and fundraising for the next campaign.


Panelists agreed that there is a significant growth opportunity for nonprofit news organizations seeking to raise funds from their communities and their readers. Whereas overall fundraising rose by only just over one percent in 2018, support for nonprofit news grew 11 percent in 2018. Even if you start small, the time to start is now!

Securing Matching Funds

The effectiveness of NewsMatch and other fundraising efforts lies in the ability to secure matching funds before the campaign is launched. With the opportunity to double or triple the power of your gift, readers are more likely to take action and make a donation. Contact community foundations and other local foundations to help find matching funds.

Want More Information?

Funders who are interested in learning more about NewsMatch or supporting the national matching campaign or local news organizations through the NewsMatch program can reach out me, Josh Stearns, now at jstearns@democracyfund.org for case studies, examples of news organization impact, and how to get involved. Be sure to follow NewsMatch on Facebook and Twitter for more updates.

Josh Stearns is the Director of the Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund. A journalist, community builder, and civic strategist, Josh joined the Democracy Fund from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, where he served as the Director of Journalism and Sustainability and worked to support and expand community-driven local news. Previously, Josh served as Press Freedom Director at Free Press. Follow him on Twitter at @jcstearns.



Josh Stearns

Senior Director, Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund. Journalism and democracy of, by and for the people. Formerly: @grdodge @freepress