How do journalists find the funding required for investigative stories if they don’t have the backing of an editorial office?
This is the big question Hostwriter CEO Tabea Grzeszyk addressed on the Bosch Alumni Network’s Fundraising Webinar Series. In the “Fundraising for Journalists” webinar on 11 September 2018, Tabea was interviewed by journalist Antje Stiebitz and shared what she has found to be some important tips for journalists in need of financial support.
Tabea started off by saying that due to budget cuts, media outlets often don’t cover travel expenses for freelancers anymore. “Usually, the problem is not finding the stories, but increasingly finding the cash to do it.” She notes that there’s been a trend towards more philanthropic funding in journalism. In Europe, it’s not a lack of funds out there, but the issue is figuring out how to get them.
The following websites are good sources of information about grants and fellowships available for journalists:
- Netzwerk Recherche – https://netzwerkrecherche.org/wegweiser/
- Journalism Funders Forum report, “Philanthropic Journalism Funding in Germany”
Based on her own experience applying for funding, Tabea said she finds it a common misunderstanding to think that it’s only about you having a great story idea that needs to be told. She stresses that fundraising is a relationship business! It’s a relationship between you and the funder. From a fundraising perspective, the quality of the story idea is important, but aspects like trust and credibility might be more important.”
Tabea offered the following tips for how journalists can develop relationships with funders:
- Be on the funders’ radars
- Make yourself heard & visible. Share your expertise. Engage with colleagues. Go to conferences. Follow and engage with them on social media.
- Keep potential donors posted about your projects (without spamming them).
- If you don’t succeed the first time, try again! Be persistent, it shows that you have confidence in your story idea and your ability to carry it through.
- Gain trust
- Get advice from former grantees. Get to know them. If you know someone the funder already trusts, you’re more likely to be trusted.
- Establish personal contacts with potential funders (at conferences, on social media, etc.)
- Let people get to know you before you start asking for money.
- Invest time
- Based on her experience, Tabea jokes that “Every minute you spend networking with funders saves you at least ten minutes writing your next application.”
- Funders have cycles. Get to know those. Understand the length of the process between applying for funding and receiving the funding.
In terms of seeking funding for the stories they want to work on, she recommends a shift in mindset. It’s not only about the story. Fundraising is a two-way street. Journalists need to get out from behind their laptops screens. Networking is necessary to get on funders’ radars and gain their trust. She feels it’s worth the time invested.