Guardian banks on philanthropy to support the future of quality journalism

Guardian banks on philanthropy to support the future of quality journalism

The Guardian has launched a nonprofit in the US as it looks to prove the philanthropic nature of journalism - and the need for organisations to fund this - at a time when quality news is in danger.

Theguardian.org has been set up by the Scott Trust, the owner of Guardian Media Group (GMG). Funds raised through the nonprofit will support projects that “advance public discourse and citizen participation” around issues such as climate change, human rights, global development and inequality, the publisher said.

While the crux of the organisation is supporting independent journalism, the publisher said it will also work to advance freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and explore opportunities for partnerships across academia, think tanks, non-profits, and other organizations.

It has raised more than $1m in grants in its first months of operation. These include grants from the Skoll Foundation for a solutions-oriented series on climate change in America; Humanity United for coverage on modern day slavery; and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to support coverage on early childhood development.

It currently has 12 partnerships supporting journalism and in the last 12 months has added $6m in multi-year funding commitments. The Guardian’s longest-standing philanthropic partners include funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the Global Development site; Ford Foundation support for reporting on women’s rights and inequality; and Rockefeller Foundation support for the Guardian’s Cities site, which focuses on building resilient cities.

The nonprofit is tax-exempt meaning it can devote a larger proportion of its funding into actually driving its journalism, while increasing its chances of pulling in donations because donors can deduct the payments from their own taxes.

The nonprofit is run by Rachel White, president of theguardian.org, who is also the Guardian’s global EVP of philanthropic and strategic partnerships. It is overseen by an independent board, chaired by John Paton, founder and former chief executive of Digital First Media and a member of the GMG board of directors, as well as two independent members, Asha Curran and Lenny Mendonca.

The Guardian is one of many publishers looking to source revenue outside of subscriptions and advertising – both of which are challenged – to sustain the future of quality journalism.

In the most recent ABCs for July, the Guardian paper saw its print circulation shrink by 10% year-on-year to 149,420. This represents a nearly 60% drop in print readership in 10 years, with its July circulation in 2007 at 362,309.

Meanwhile its advertising revenues have been “falling fast”, in its own words, as media budgets increasingly shift to the digital giants, Facebook and Google.

To counter such losses, the Guardian launched a membership scheme in 2014 as it looked to the goodwill of its readers to fund its journalism. It’s a strategy that appears to be paying off: in July this year it reported a 360% increase in its paying members which now equal 230,000. The membership coupled with the publishing group’s 185,000 subscribers means the total number of paying readers to the Guardian now sits at more than 400,000. It aims to reach 1 million subscribers by April 2019.

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