A project of Democracy Fund

October 26, 2018

The Local Fix: Voter Guides, Corporate Giving, and Education Reporting


Welcome to the Local Fix. Each week we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. But first, we always begin with one good idea…

One Good Idea: A plethora of local and engagement projects in public media 

Today’s your lucky day because instead of one good idea, how about 200? Check out this extensive list of projects that local nonprofit and public media organizations have submitted to Current’s “Local That Works” contest over the past two years. Current made this useful list that is searchable by type of content and organization. Get inspired by projects as varied as a podcast party at Nashville Public Radio, a community training program at WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and an investigation into Alaska’s history as an oil state by Alaska Public Radio. (Bonus – for the newer #LocalFix-ians – did you know we keep a running directory of various good ideas and sources we’ve referenced in this newsletter?) 

Voter Guides Abound

How can voters make sense of a complicated election with local, statewide, and national implications? One solution: newsrooms around the country are attempting to provide voter specific polling locations, along with candidate guides. Newsrooms are utilizing everything from printable guides to email newsletters to a “human voter guide” (aka a reporter answering questions from readers). How are you helping guide your community in the lead up to election day? Send us your links and we’ll feature them in next week’s newsletter.

Leverage Employee Matching to Increase End of Year Giving

NewsMatch, the largest grassroots fundraising campaign for nonprofit news, kicks off next week, but there are many other ways to find matching dollars for your newsroom this fall. Many companies run employee giving programs – including media and technology companies like Disney and AT&T – which can be a great opportunity to rally support for nonprofit journalism. In many cases employers will match donations made through these programs.  However, it is not always clear or easy to navigate how to be included. Below we’ve pulled together some tips for newsrooms who want to tap into local and national giving programs. Here are four things to consider if you want to develop a strategy around encouraging individual donations through employee matching programs at businesses in your area. 

  1. Get Registered:  Many companies use third party platforms to manage their employee giving programs so you need to be registered and approved by these platforms. Get registered on platforms like BenevityCausecastYourCause where thousands of corporations have already set up their gift-matching programs. 
  2. Make a Clear Ask: Have a specific ask for local companies and employees. If they have a gift matching policy, ask them if there are opportunities to share the impact of your journalism with employees, or find creative ways to get your organization in front their staff. Make it easy for people by ensuring potential donors can find your address, Tax-ID number, legal organizational name and other basic information about your newsroom they will need. Make sure your donation page provides contact info for someone on your team who can help potential donors.
  3. Build it In: You may not know who has an employee giving program so be sure to remind your individual donors to ask about potential gift matching policies at their jobs.
  4. Read Up: Here are a few more articles on helping you take advantage of employee matching programs:

Collaborating with Education Reporting

Recently, ProPublica and Chalkbeat launched a series and database that, using civil rights data released by the U.S. Department of Education, examines where there is racial inequity at schools across the U.S. It includes 96,000 public and charter schools, and 17,000 districts that you can compare and contrast. It also links to several local news organizations that have used the data to cover their region. Chalkbeat shared some insights on what they learned from the collaboration – and how they used it to fulfill their mission to “tell the stories of educational inequity in the communities we cover and call home.” To get impact and to tell these stories of educational inequity, it often requires connecting the dots between local and national. Take for another example a 2012 project that brought together 15 newsrooms, including Education Week, the Education Writers Association, and The Hechinger Report, as well as federal data and a ton of local reporting. Education and information inequity are issues that are vital to communities, so are a great example of where a variety of newsrooms can come together to tell a bigger story. Do you have examples of this type of coverage, collaboration, or shared resources? Send them our way.

 Have a good weekend,
Josh, Teresa, and Gabe
@jcstearns@gteresa@gabemschneider

The Local Fix is a project of the Democracy Fund’s Public Square Program, which invests in innovations and institutions that are reinventing local media and expanding the public square. Disclosure: Some projects mentioned in this newsletter may be funded by Democracy Fund, you can find a full list of the organizations we support on our website