Revenue for nonprofit news sites

A survey of 57 attendees of Block by Block 2010 found that grants represent the top source of revenue for publishers at this conference. Smaller revenue sources include local advertising, individual donations and advertising networks.

Rusty Coats’ “Revenue for Nonprofit News Sites” was a roundtable discussion about some best practices for nonprofit news organizations. Among the key points:

  • The biggest users and the biggest contributors will be two different groups. Use your fundraising time accordingly. “Marketing to the people who are using your site may not be the best way to get membership dollars,” Coats said.
  • National foundations supporting journalism organizations have taken on the language of business: sustainability, revenue. Remember this when approaching these national foundations.
  • Journalists don’t make the best board members. “I think of a board as a team,” Brant Houston said, suggesting a strong board should draw on diverse strengths. In addition, all board members should contribute financially to the organization. Added Coats: “As a nonprofit startup, your board needs to be investors and grey matter — intellectual.”
  • Growing advertising revenue can be critical for some nonprofits. But make sure advertising revenue does not exceed 30 percent of your total revenue — a potential violation of rules governing nonprofits. The rules prevent nonprofits from being able to undercut for-profits on advertising rates. “If advertising revenue is more than one-third of your total revenue, you’re playing a bit with fire,” Coats said.
  • Among third-party services suggested for nonprofits:, Mad Mimi, MailChimp, eTapestry, Square and Crowdrise.


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