Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but nonprofit news sources like ProPublica, the Marshall Project, or NPR, have seen a huge boost in donations since Donald Trump won the presidential election.
For example, ProPublica received $750,000 in donations after the election—much more than all the money raised from small-dollar donors in 2015.
This is a good turn of events for these organizations, because relying on grants from a few big funders is not a sustainable model for these groups, or any nonprofits at all, for that matter. The sharp rise in small individual donations shows that the general public has figured out the importance of the role of nonprofit news sources in advancing the public interest.
What nonprofit news outlets need to do now is figure out how to use that money and keep it coming. ProPublica has started regular coverage of hate crimes and the growing influence of white supremacists. Center for Public Integrity CEO John Dunbar told Inside Philanthropy, “We’re spending a lot of time right now deciding exactly how we’re going to cover President-elect Trump. Without a doubt, these funds will help us in our investigations of the administration.”
Nonprofit news outlets would be very well served to invest some of the influx of donations in fundraising capacity so they will be able to raise and maintain the diversified donor base that will keep them functioning for many years to come.
And of course, there is a political aspect to all of this that will be hard to address. While outlets like NPR are technically nonpartisan, they’re certainly favored by progressives, which can create the perception of a conflict of interest or biased reporting.
Will nonprofit news outlets be able to overcome this perception of bias? Probably not, since the extreme right already brands centrist major media outlets as “liberal,” but the important thing is that these organizations keep doing their work. They can expect to receive a lot of flack from more conservative news outlets and talk show hosts, though.
“Our mission is not to overthrow Donald Trump,” says Carroll Bogert, the president of the Marshall Project. “Our mission is to make more people care about criminal justice, and we do that through journalism. And that’s a very important function of media in a democracy.”