Level up your next revenue campaign.
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Dear reader,

In this week’s newsletter, audience strategist Pearl Leung writes about seven strategies from the nonprofit sector that indie publishers can learn and apply to the next fundraising campaign. “While reader revenue is still a new model in the journalism industry, charities and nonprofits have had decades to test, refine, and perfect fundraising tactics,” she writes. “They don’t limit themselves to the digital sphere, instead going wherever necessary to meet philanthropic-minded individuals (or, people who just really care about their cause) where they are.” Read the rest of the story below for tried-and-true tactics to take away. 

Is there a topic about news entrepreneurship or independent publishing that you’d like to learn more about? Reply to this email and let us know what’s on your mind. We’re always looking for story ideas from our readers.

Thanks for reading, 


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Erica Ngao
Audience Strategist

7 fundraising tactics indie publishers can steal from non-news nonprofits 💸

By Pearl Leung

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.

While reader revenue is still a new model in the journalism industry, charities and nonprofits have had decades to test, refine, and perfect fundraising tactics. They don’t limit themselves to the digital sphere, instead going wherever necessary to meet philanthropic-minded individuals (or, people who just really care about their cause) where they are. Here are seven tried-and-true tactics you can steal for your next fundraising campaign.

1. Show what supporters helped you achieve

Many charities and nonprofit organizations produce an annual report, highlighting big wins funded with donor support. Indiegraf network publishers like Tone Madison produce impact reports that celebrate big investigations or well-attended community events. Other publishers include a financial transparency section that breaks down their sources of revenue and expenses just for their supporters, giving visibility into the growth of their newsroom to their biggest fans. 

If you don’t want to put together a report, you can still break down your quarterly or annual accomplishments into a standalone campaign email and ask readers for help to produce more crucial journalism.

2. Break down the costs of doing journalism

This one is a little harder, but we like how Indiegraf network publisher RANGE Media framed recurring financial support for their readers: “500 members pays for one full-time staff member.” You could also talk about the cost of filing a FOIA request, hosting a community event, or sending a journalist away from where they’re based to cover a developing story. 

The key is to link reader support to the stories your audience wants to read. Is the FOIA request necessary to key information that an institution is fighting to keep hidden, like environmental assessments of contaminated property in Peterborough? Did the community event help neighbors get to know each other or inform the way you serve your readers? Reader surveys can help you determine which fundraising goals may be the most compelling!

3. Ask your supporters to be your ambassadors

Have you ever seen a friend ask for donations on behalf of their favorite charity? Many nonprofits and charities rely on peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising to drive revenue leading up to a flagship event like a walk or run.

The easiest way to do this is to ask your readers to spread the word about your newsletter (or revenue campaign!). You can use free design tools like Canva to create customizable assets for your readers to share.

If you’d like to take this a step further, you could ask your readers to put your publication on their birthday or holiday wishlist. 

And when you have the capacity, you could create a referral program, rewarding your readers for bringing in new newsletter subscribers or donors. In its simplest form, this could look like a post-donation survey that asks new supporters the name of the friend or colleague that referred them, and having a team member track and follow up with top referrers. 

4. Try snail mail

Not everyone is online! Many charities will share testimonials from their beneficiaries through direct mail. If you’re a local newsroom, consider sending out postcards or mail to the neighborhoods you serve with a pitch for your newsletter. To determine your conversion rate, create a specific landing page to track the number of signups you get from the postcard. (While you can ask for financial support, your postcard recipients will likely be high up your audience funnel and less likely to support you right away.)

5. Make reader support go twice as far

Never underestimate the power of a matching fund! It shows that a generous community member or organization stands by your publication, and gives readers an opportunity to make their support go twice as far. 

Matches are also great opportunities to upsell! You could ask one-time supporters to upgrade to a recurring contribution; or recurring supporters to increase the amount they give each month. 

Here’s a tip: If you’re a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), you may be eligible for NewsMatch! Over the span of two months, newsrooms have the opportunity to unlock matching funds — but only when their readers make one-time or monthly contributions. At Indiegraf, our audience strategists support our NewsMatch publishers with campaign messaging, copywriting, and project management! 

6. Show up in your community

Nonprofits and charities have development or outreach teams with one purpose: to engage community members and steward donors. 

Indiegraf network publisher Sun Peaks Independent News holds public newsrooms and meet-and-greets, where readers can chat with their community reporter, discuss recent coverage, and suggest story ideas. Other publishers like Tone Madison hold Office Hours, which serve the same purpose.

If you don’t want to host your own event, try going door-to-door or participate at other local events! Face-to-face interactions can help build trust among your readers and reinforce the idea that you are there to serve the community. 

7. Steward your supporters

Go beyond a thank you email! Your supporters are your biggest fans. When you have the capacity, consider building out a membership program. Survey your audience to see which perks they’d appreciate the most, like a monthly behind-the-scenes email, discounts to events, or swag. They’ll feel extra special and even closer to your newsroom, increasing the chance that they’ll recommend you to their friends or make additional contributions.

From the Indiegraf network ☁️

⭐ As incidents of anti-transgender violence spike across the state, Ohio law enforcement agencies struggle to accurately track and document reports of anti-trans hate crimes. (The Buckeye Flame)

⭐ Fifteen years into the cratering of the local commercial newspaper business, a burgeoning civic media movement is developing. (The Objective)

⭐ ‘By no means are we done yet’: Agua Caliente tribe eyes the future after opening a new cultural museum that tells stories of its past. (The Palm Springs Post)

⭐ El negocio de la nostalgia: los programas de reunificación familiar. (Conecta Arizona)

⭐ Au pied des usines pétrochimiques, le difficile combat contre la pollution du plastique. (Pivot)

In this week’s news 📰

📖 The Inspirit Foundation recently published Funding Journalism: A Guide for Canadian Philanthropy in collaboration with the Local News Research Project at Toronto Metropolitan University and Philanthropic Foundations Canada. The guide contains practical information and tools for foundation staff and board members interested in funding journalism, including possible funding models to explore and a roadmap for engaging in this field as a funder. 

📻 The Black and Privileged in America Podcast interviewed Dana James, founder of Black Iowa News and the Black Iowa Newspaper, for the Nov. 13 episode, “Black Iowa News is Making a Difference.” During the episode, Dana and host Abena Sankofa discussed the growth of Black Iowa News, which has grown from its digital origins to becoming a quarterly statewide newspaper.

🔥 In partnership with IndigiNews and MakeWay, syilx storyteller Kelsie Kilawna is launching a resource for both newsrooms and Indigenous communities. The resource kit, #NarrativeBack, gives a community agency and power over how — and if — they want such stories to be told in the media. It consists of templates that communities can use if they want to reach out to media for coverage, and also features a guide for reporters on how to conduct themselves when covering a wildfire in an Indigenous community. The kit is free for all Indigenous communities to use. 

Tools and opportunities 🧰

🔍 The Fund for Investigative Journalism provides grants and other support for reporters to produce high-quality, unbiased, nonpartisan investigative stories that have an impact. Freelance journalists, staff reporters and media outlets are eligible for grants, and their investigations can be for print, online or broadcast stories, books, documentaries or podcasts. Apply by Jan. 29, 2024.

🔬 SciLine, a philanthropically supported, free service for journalists and scientists based at the nonprofit American Association for the Advancement of Science, is offering a one-hour, Zoom-based science “crash course” — designed specifically for editors. This free course, held on Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. ET, will teach basic principles about how science works, how to integrate it skillfully into your outlet’s journalism, and strategies for making sure the science is right during the editing process.

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Indiegraf provides independent publishers with tools, direct support and capital to grow their audience and drive multiple revenue streams — all in one place.

We’re on a mission to make news entrepreneurship a great career and life choice for journalists everywhere. Have your own outlet? Reach out, we can help!

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