From July 2007 to June 2008 the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation awarded nearly $4.5 million in grants to non-profit journalism organizations.
In the past three years, the Okalahoma-based foundation has handed out grants to more than 100 journalism groups.
With that kind of track record, people listen when they talk about the right way to ask for money. This week at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Las Vegas, Sue Hale, a media consultant for the foundation, passed out "The do’s and don’ts of fundraising.”
Here they are:
• Research the rules listed on the foundation’s website.
• Contact successful grantees and ask for advice.
• Know what you want to accomplish and have a plan in place for sustainability, marketing and collaboration.
• Apply for IRS nonprofit status and secure a fiscal agent with nonprofit status while you wait.
• Start recruiting a board of directors or advisory board.
• Decide what role you will play. Each nonprofit needs an executive director, as well as people to produce content.
• E-mail the contact person at the foundation to introduce yourself. Ask if there any rules listed on the wesbite, regarding letters of inquiry or grants. Establishing a relationship with someone at the foundation will prove valuable.
• Listen to what they tell you. Some foundations may not fund the type of content or programs you will produce.
• Avoid exclusivity with any media outlet. Most foundations prefer a variety of distribution partners.
• Become a member of INN (Investigative News Network).
Meera Pal/Investigative Reporting Workshop
Sue Hale of the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism.
• Don’t send a letter of inquiry if you have not done you homework.
• If you are asked to submit a grant application, don’t write a grant that doesn’t match the project you outlined in your letter of inquiry.
• Don’t list board members if you don’t have their approval to be used as a reference.
• Don’t propose a project that does not fit in any of the categories listed on the foundation website, unless you have talked to foundation staff or a consultant.
• Don’t assume the foundation will fund high school programs just because you see a grant listed for a high school program. EEJF only funds high school programs in Oklahoma and California that started before the board changed its strategic plan.
• If you are turned down for a grant, find out why, if possible. It could be a matter of funds available in a funding cycle. It could be the foundation thinks you’re not far enough along in your planning process. (Note: Arguing with the foundation representative after the decision is made will not help.)
• Don’t put up a website that says “under construction.”
• Don’t give up. If you have a good idea, you will succeed.
Among the sage pieces of advice from the fundraising-experienced panel: cultivate relationships.