Non-Profit Newspapers: Overview
News nonprofits have grown in the last 10 years as traditional newspapers are in decline. Currently, the majority of funding for news nonprofits comes from foundations. Print circulation for newspapers was down in 2018, while digital circulation, at least for the 50 largest newspapers in the United States, increased. Therefore, for the purposes of this research, the focus is on both digital and print newspapers.
- The Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) was established in 2009 and has a mission to educate and support nonprofit media outlets. The Institute has 209 members, all of which are registered media non-profits who are committed to transparency.
- The INN Index 2018 found that 90% of the funding for nonprofit news organizations comes from philanthropic sources, with about 50% coming from foundations and about 33% from individual donations, including dues.
- Most of the news nonprofits surveyed indicated that they have partnerships with online outlets, public radio, and newspapers. The goal of these partnerships is to utilize the resources that are often available at larger outlets.
- The INN survey also found that local news nonprofits, as opposed to news nonprofits overall, received 48% of funding from foundations, 39% from individual giving, 8% from ads, 3% from events, and the remaining 2% from other sources.
- In June 2018, a working paper on the state of funding in the nonprofit news industry stated that "the great majority of news nonprofits remain highly dependent on foundation funding for their revenue, and even those few that have meaningfully diversified their revenue streams continue to receive substantial proportions of their financing from foundations."
- Examples of foundations that fund news nonprofits are the Democracy Fund, Knight Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.
- Although there were nonprofit news organizations prior to 1900, the majority of the growth in the industry has been in the last 10 years. The typical nonprofit news organization (based on INN members) is eight years old. This is believed to be at least partially a result of the decline of for-profit newspapers, as those companies lost advertising revenue.
- From 2000 to 2014, print advertising revenue for newspapers declined from $67 billion to $20 billion. This resulted in a decline of coverage by newspapers and led to many news nonprofits launching to cover the gaps in coverage, particularly in the areas of investigative journalism, government, and politics.
- Reporting indicates that while several of the nonprofits thrived, many of them struggled. One of the main reasons for this is lack of funding. Research shows that the largest media nonprofits take in most of the available donations, while the smaller outlets get very little.
- An analysis of the donations received by 60 news nonprofits found that the three largest organizations took in about 40% of all donations. The 20 organizations that were least funded in the analysis, only received 2% of the donations.
- Examples of local/state nonprofit newspapers include the Texas Tribune, MinnPost, the Voice of San Diego, Flint Beat, 48 Hills, Honolulu Civil Beat, and Denverite.
- According to the Texas Tribune's 2017 Form 990, they had $7.012 million in revenue. Of this total, $6.493 was from contributions and grants, and $0.543 million was from program services.
- According to the MinnPost's 2017 Form 990, they had $1.635 million in revenue. Of this total, $1.025 million was from contributions and grants, and $0.433 million was from program services.
- According to the Voice of San Diego's 2017 Form 990, they had $1.970 million in revenue. Of this total, $1.558 million was from contributions and grants, and $0.413 million was from program services.
- The Form 990 for Flint Beat could not be found.
- The sample data from the above three news nonprofits seem to support the previous reporting that most funding comes from foundations.