How can funders can get started making media grants? Build on what they're already doing

technology / Article

February 15, 2011 by Marika Lynch


This is the second in a series of excerpts from our new booklet "Journalism and Media Grant Making." Based on the experiences of foundations that are making media grants, it's a primer for foundations that want to get started.

Five Things You Need to Know: 2. You can build on what you’re already doing

News and information efforts can bolster initiatives that foundations are already investing in, rather than becoming a new program area.

The California Endowment, for example, is focused on health, particularly how neighborhood environments affect health in underserved communities. The endowment funds news and information projects that deal with health issues, including grants that allowed:

  • A local newspaper to hire a reporter to exclusively cover community health ($50,000 to $100,000 per year).
  • An emerging nonprofit news organization to increase its focus on community health ($75,000).
  • A community access cable outlet to work with youth to cover community health issues ($50,000).
  • Public radio to report on health issues and make its health coverage more prominent ($300,000).

The result? The issue in which the endowment is heavily invested gets a higher profile as well as greater reach and potential impact.

“Our foundation has a place-based strategy focused on community health, with a strong emphasis on youth engagement. Our media grant making supports this strategy by funding local projects in our targeted communities aimed at increasing the quantity and quality of news coverage about community health issues. For example, in Sacramento, we support a Neighborhood News Bureau project created by Access Sacramento, the local community access cable foundation. Through this project, news bureaus have been set up at two nonprofit organizations, where youth report on community health news and train community members in how to create their own media. Access Sacramento’s partnerships with local mainstream media organizations, including the daily newspaper, provide a channel through which these new stories and voices can reach a wider audience.” – Mary Lou Fulton, Program Officer, The California Endowment

Similarly, the Cleveland Foundation has invested heavily in creating a youth support network, MyCom (short for My Commitment, My Community). The missing ingredient? The voices of young people in the mainstream. So the foundation is creating MyMedia, a $146,000 program that will train youths in media and make their work available to local news organizations.

“One of the distinctive aspects of MyCom is youth engagement, and we truly believe that youth voice is an essential, but often missing, element in our community dialogue. For that reason, we wanted to create a program that specifically addressed this void and allowed our youth to have a voice in the issues that matter most in their lives. The MyMedia program was created under the MyCom umbrella to give youth the tools to participate more fully in our community’s dialogue while building their credibility as knowledgeable resources for local media.”

– Ronald Richard, President and CEO, Cleveland Foundation

Tomorrow: 3. You can start without a lot of money


Five things you need to know

1. This is everyone's issue

Stay tuned for more ideas. The full booklet will be available as a pdf on this site next week and in print in April at the annual conference of the Council on Foundations. The booklet is sponsored by the Knight Foundation and the William Penn Foundation.

Has your foundation invested in news and information efforts? Do you have questions about media grant making? Please tell us about them in the comments.


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Idea #3 for media grant making - You can start without a lot of money

technology / Article