Diversified funding jumpstarts nonprofit Texas Tribune

By Collin Lessing, JVA Marketing/Communications Coordinator

As a Texas native and media hound, I’ve been keeping my eye on a new online nonprofit newspaper called The Texas Tribune (Tribune). Last year, I heard that the Tribune founder, John Thornton, and his team needed to raise more than $3 million to launch the nonpartisan, public media organization.

With the economy on the ropes and an increasingly competitive funding environment, I couldn’t help but wonder how the Tribune would fare.

According to Editor and Publisher, an online journal that tracks the newspaper industry, the Tribune raised almost $4 million, exceeding its goal by almost a half-million dollars.

The Tribune accomplished this fundraising feat by creating a diversified funding base that included 68 corporate sponsors, most at the $2,500 commitment level, and 1,500 individual donors who made contributions ranging from $50 to $5,000. The Tribune also incorporated an earned income strategy by selling content to other news outlets. Earned income may not have contributed as much to the Tribune’s launch, but it will make the organization’s funding more diversified and ultimately more sustainable.

JVA Consulting and the National Center for Social Entrepreneurs are helping nonprofits and faith-based organizations across Colorado incorporate earned income strategies and social enterprises into their diversified fundraising strategy. “With the right social enterprise strategies in place, grassroots nonprofits can not only survive but thrive in this uncertain economy,” said Jennifer Johnson, JVA’s capacity building manager.

Along with earned income revenue, the Texas Tribune’s fundraising strategy demonstrates the value of the individual donor. Even in these tough economic times, individuals keep on giving. Giving USA, which has tracked philanthropic giving and trends since 1967, reported that giving in current dollars has increased in every year except for one since its recording began. (The exception, 1987, reflected a change in tax law that resulted in shifted timing of donations in that year.) Moreover, even in years with a recession, total giving increased an average of 6.2 percent, as compared with 8.4 percent in nonrecession years. While we can’t predict the future, the good news is that history tells us  people step up in tough times.

Want to learn how to ask people for money for your organization? Save the date April 8th, when JVA experts present the workshop, How to Engage Donors, Ask for Money and Secure a Sustainable Future. Go to www.jvaconsulting.com/training for more info.

For more information on JVA’s work with National Center for Social Entrepreneurs to help nonprofits build social enterprises, go to www.jvaconsulting.com or call Jennifer Johnson at 303.477.4896.

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