Philanthropy and underwriting: Introduction

Revenue Playbook

Course Content

Philanthropy loves solutions journalism. At SJN, we’ve heard from funders that supporting solutions journalism is complementary to giving money to organizations working to address issues in specific social sectors, such as caregiving, mental health or education.

Grantmakers generally praise the role solutions journalism can play in informing society about initiatives that transform lives for the better, by shining a light on something that is already happening in a community or something that could happen, because it is going on elsewhere.

“I think solutions journalism is appealing to basically every funder that I've worked with,” said Lindsay Green-Barber, founder of Impact Architects, who works with foundations that support journalism. The approach holds particular appeal, she said, to “those who are coming from a programmatic lens or a local community-building lens.” (Disclosure: SJN has previously contracted with Green-Barber.)

However, at this stage, national funders with experience supporting the industry are on board with solutions journalism, whereas most local and regional funders are still getting used to the idea of supporting journalism of any sort. For most funders, this reporting approach needs to be explained.

Put broadly, there are two categories of funders — those that see journalism as core to civic function, and want to strengthen that function; and those that see solutions journalism as important in advancing awareness or understanding of a specific issue they're focused on. News organizations need to be conscious of the very different dynamics of each group. For philanthropic funders interested in catalyzing social change around certain issues, solutions reporting is particularly well suited to being a means of delivering impact. In both cases, though, goals for response-focused coverage can include increasing awareness, changing public discourse and civic engagement and holding people in power to account, among others (see Impact section for more).

Learning about potential funders’ priorities and existing projects will help you initiate a conversation with them about your work and its value.