November 30, 2011

Center reaches $75,000 fundraising goal

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism today announced the successful completion of a two-year effort to raise $75,000 from new revenue sources.

By reaching that level, the Center receives a matching grant from the Challenge Fund for Journalism – a consortium of the Ford, McCormick, and Ethics and Excellence in Journalism foundations.

The Center, a nonprofit and nonpartisan news organization, was among 13 nonprofit journalism organizations working in youth media, ethnic media, and investigative reporting to receive a total of $875,819 in challenge grants in early 2010.

Piloted in 2004, the grant program was introduced amid extraordinary and difficult changes in the news media profession.

Not only have journalism organizations seen a significant decline in financial support from corporate and philanthropic sources, but also a severe contraction in the industry as a whole. The program was intended to help organizations build their capacity, to expand and diversify their financial base of support.

Andy Hall, the Center’s executive director, thanked individual donors, foundations, the Center’s staff and board members, corporate donors and other nonprofit news organizations for helping the Center achieve its goal.

Perhaps the greatest value of the grant is that it encouraged the Center, with help from consultants at New York City-based TCC Group,  to change its business operations, Hall said. While increasing its technological capacity, the Center expanded its board of directors by two members to increase its money-raising clout. The Center also retained a fundraising consultant and is creating a new staff position — public engagement director — to raise the quality and profile of its journalism and enhance its ability to generate revenue.

Prior to receiving the grant, the Center had received five streams of revenue — foundations, individual contributors, board contributors, corporate funds and major donors. Now, the Center relies upon eight streams, having expanded the five existing forms while adding earned income (received in exchange for producing investigative reports), sponsorships and events.

Hall noted that earned income accounted for more than 60 percent of the funds raised to meet the goal — a sign of the value that others attach to the Center’s award-winning work. Providers of that income include the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity; nonprofit MapLight, which is a partner in the Center’s Money and Politics Project supported by the Open Society Institute; and WBEZ Public Media in Chicago.

As a matter of policy, the Center discloses all of its supporters to protect the integrity of its journalism.

Information on how to support the Center is available here.

Since its launch in 2009, the Center has produced more than 45 major reports and two dozen columns focusing upon government integrity, with a special emphasis upon the role of money in politics and policymaking, and quality of life issues including the environment, education and health. Its reports have been used by more than 150 news organizations worldwide and have reached an estimated audience of more than 18 million people.

The Center collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where it is housed.

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