In all, more foundations surveyed said they are funding nonprofit journalism — both to nonprofit media and in collaborations with commercial media — than they were five years ago. That finding is consistent with what the Foundation Center, Knight Foundation and Media Impact Funders have found elsewhere.
In all, 43 percent of funders said the share of their overall giving going to media projects has increased in the past five years; just 6 percent said it had decreased and 30 percent said it had remained unchanged.
The number of grants, not just the overall amount of giving, has grown too. Forty one percent of funders said the number of media grants had grown during this time; just 8 percent said it had decreased; 29 percent said it was unchanged.
The nonprofit media outlets also report growth in foundation funding. About 4 in 10 said they have more foundations supporting them today than five years ago. Only about 1 in 10 said that said the number of foundations had declined.
As a share of revenue, the numbers suggest either that some of these grants may be getting smaller or that nonprofit media outlets are expanding the scope of their revenue sources beyond foundations. In all, a fifth of nonprofit media outlets (19 percent) said the overall balance of their revenue coming from foundations has grown, while a larger number (30 percent) said it has decreased. A third (33 percent) said it is flat.
But there is something of an uneven dependence between foundations and nonprofit media outlets. Media grants are a small part of what most of these foundations do. It is a very large part of the lifeblood of nonprofit media organizations.
About half of the foundations, for instance, said they gave 10 percent or less of their funding in grants to media in the last year. Only one foundation in the survey said it awarded more than 50 percent of its overall funding to media.
For the nonprofit media surveyed those numbers are reversed. While 20 percent say they rely on foundation support for 10 percent or less of their revenue, twice as many (39 percent) said they depend on foundations for the majority of their finances. (In public television and radio, local stations get just some of their funds from direct foundation support. On the television side, almost all programming requires substantial foundation support, and on the radio side that is true locally as well.)
And unlike commercial media organizations, which usually have scores of different advertisers, most nonprofit media outlets rely on only a few major donors. The majority, 66 percent, rely on fewer than 10 donors or foundations for most of their revenue.