Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 Local News Fund program


 

Who is eligible to participate in this program? Do you have to be a member of Local Media Association?

This program is open to any independent and/or family-owned local news organization in the United States that meets program qualifications. You do not have to be a member of Local Media Association to participate!

How much work is involved?

Publishers will need to provide a fundraising message, logo and similar materials unique to each news organization that wants to participate. We’ll also need a signed W-9 form, and payment contact information to get the money to you. All participating news outlets are also required to report back on how they used the payments to report on COVID-19 issues. Local Media Association will create a custom fundraising page for each news organization that can be promoted by publishers via link and embed. 

We’ll handle almost all of the work in getting your fundraising page launched. After that, it’s up to you how much thought and work go into promoting the campaign. The more you put into making sure that it reaches people, and with the right message, the better results you’ll have. 

How much does it cost?

It costs nothing to participate in this program or have your fundraising campaign launched. The fundraising platform we are using, Givebutter, charges for credit card processing (2.9% of donation amount plus 30 cents) and its own service fee (2% of donation amount) — however, Givebutter provides donors the option of covering these fees so the intended donation amount is not reduced. Local Media Foundation will take a 7% fiscal sponsor fee from the donations received, net of Givebutter fees.

The fiscal sponsor fee will be used to cover Local Media Foundation’s costs in setting up and maintaining the campaigns, processing payments, disbursing funds, and handling reports to the IRS.

What are the optional fee payments on the fundraising page? Do I have to include them on my page?

You’ll notice two optional fee payments on your fundraising page. One allows donors to cover the credit card processing fee and Givebutter service fee, so that you get 100% of their donation. This option is selected by default, and most donors leave it selected in our experience.

The other is an optional contribution (described as a “tip”) to the Givebutter platform. It’s set at 10% by default, but a donor can change it to 0%. Unfortunately, we can’t control this part of the platform. Givebutter says that it would have to raise its required processing fees if the “tip jar” weren’t included.

Can a publisher have separate fundraising pages for multiple news organizations or publications?

Absolutely. We can set up custom fundraising pages for each local news organization that you represent.

What kind of criticism or pushback can news organizations expect from people in their communities, and how do we respond to it?

“Why should I donate to a for-profit business?” might be the easiest question to handle. At the heart of this effort is educating the community about your business model, the challenges you’re facing, and the public service mission at the heart of local journalism.

But also expect responses such as “Why should I give to your organization, because you are biased against [Donald Trump|Democrats|fill in the blank]?” or “Why should I give to your organization when you can’t deliver my newspaper properly (or don’t cover my town like you used to)?” 

Listen, engage, use these interactions as a way to solve that delivery problem, or to point out that getting life-or-death information about COVID-19 is a nonpartisan goal. Don’t get too discouraged or sidetracked by detractors. This is a play for gaining support from a small percentage of your biggest supporters, not trying to convince everyone.  

No one is donating! What’s wrong? How does a publisher get momentum started?

See our tips for messaging and getting the word out. Go through an exercise in profiling the type of people you think would be most likely to give, and how best to reach them. Reach out to Local Media Association, and we’re happy to walk through your strategy with you.

A local donor or foundation is interested in matching the donations received through this campaign. How can a publisher arrange that?

Matching campaigns are one of the most effective ways to kickstart a fundraising campaign like this. We are happy to assist in arranging this if you have the relationship. 

Can this program accommodate large tax-deductible donations from major donors or foundations?

Yes, absolutely. And if they don’t want to contribute through the online platform, and/or need more information or documentation from Local Media Foundation, we can coordinate with them. 

How quickly/how often will publishers get the money that’s donated to support their work through this fund?

At this time, the plan is for Local Media Foundation to distribute funds and campaign reports monthly. Please contact us to discuss unusual circumstances that might require something different. 

Do I have to use this program or something similar to be able to accept donations as a for-profit company?

For-profit companies can accept donations without a program like this, but they will not be tax-deductible for the donors. Having a fiscal sponsor that donations to be tax-deductible encourages giving from people who itemize charitable giving on their taxes. It also conveys a mission-driven approach that encourages giving in general.

How long will this campaign run?

Like the COVID-19 outbreak itself, we don’t know how long this crisis will persist, and will work with you on when to wrap up. There will be an end date to these campaigns at some point, but we will play that by ear.

How can publishers develop a relationship with these one-time donors, to target for subscriptions or future donations?

Unfortunately, privacy rules do not allow us to pass names and email addresses of donors on to publishers, beyond how they may choose to identify themselves on the public-facing campaign page. We encourage you to include a call to action, such as a newsletter sign-up, in the automated thank-you emails that we’ll set up, so that you can stay in touch with them. We can also send an email on your behalf to all donors once the campaign is over. That could be used to invite them, for example, to provide a name and address to you to receive a thank you gift, or it could include an invitation to a reception or some other event thanking them.

Can publishers use this platform for future fundraising efforts, not related to COVID-19 coverage?

We moved quickly to roll this program out in response to the COVID-19 crisis, but Local Media Association has been working on bigger plans to facilitate tax-deductible donations and philanthropic funding of for-profit local news organizations, including the expected launch later this spring of NewsFuel, a platform that will match news organizations up with grant funding opportunities. Stay tuned regarding opportunities to incorporate philanthropic funding as part of your long-term revenue mix.

What are the qualifications for a news organization to participate?

The Fund is intended to help support local news organizations providing critical COVID-19 coverage and information in their communities. Here’s what’s required of participants:

  • Must be an independent and/or family-owned local news organization in the United States.
  • Must be a bona fide local news organization (or group of them) in each location for which a Fund campaign page is set up. Here’s what we mean:
    • Must be engaged in original news reporting, in particular providing timely, accurate, impartial local news and public service information on the COVID-19 crisis.
    • Must not be predominantly focused on advocacy or opinion content (regardless of point of view) or any other form of non-news content. 

Local Media Foundation/Local Media Association will determine solely whether a news organization is qualified for a Fund campaign. Before accepting a news organization into the program, and at any time after acceptance into the program, we may ask for links to or other proof of qualifying local news coverage.

Any time we feel a participating organization does not meet the qualifications or is in any way misusing the program, we may suspend that organization’s campaign(s). If that happens, we would send any remaining proceeds due to the organization at the next regular payment interval. But we would not accept any new donations on its behalf, nor promote its Fund campaign by any means.

Do you have questions about getting started?

Send us an email: covidfund@nulllocalmedia.org