Two Black-owned newspapers raise thousands with Facebook fundraisers to support local COVID-19 reporting


By Emilie Lutostanski • Local News Resource Center

Through the COVID-19 Local News Fund, hundreds of publishers have garnered more than $1.5 million in donations — including $30,434 received so far via fundraiser pages on Facebook.

Two local news publishers — The Charlotte Post and Seattle Medium — have each garnered thousands of dollars in reader contributions via Facebook Fundraisers by partnering with Local Media Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable trust affiliated with Local Media Association.

Via the COVID-19 Local News Fund, participating news organizations use the same tool nonprofits harness to solicit donations for the specific purpose of educating the public about the local impacts of coronavirus. And the results from the two top-performing fundraisers — both Black-owned newspapers — have been significant in a short amount of time.

“Facebook fundraisers are easy for supporters to use, but that’s just one reason publishers are already having success with their COVID-19 Local News Fund efforts on Facebook,” said Emilie Lutostanski, director of the Local News Resource Center at LMA. “When publishers combine this tool with authentic messaging and outreach to personal networks, it is very compelling to followers who otherwise maybe haven’t thought to support local news.”

Key lessons from these publishers using Facebook Fundraisers to garner reader support:

  • Use personal messaging that is unique and direct
  • Appeal to personal networks within the staff and executive leadership
  • Be authentic and create closeness with the audience
  • Create time deadlines to reach goals
  • Use tools like Facebook that make it easy to contribute

Learn more about how The Charlotte Post and The Seattle Medium leveraged their personal networks to gain momentum on their fundraising campaign.

The Charlotte Post

Minority-owned and operated, The Charlotte Post Publishing Company, Inc. serves as a dominant news source for educating, empowering and enlightening African-American communities throughout our multi County Coverage Area in North Carolina and upstate South Carolina.

In just a couple of weeks, The Charlotte Post has raised more than $7,600 in reader contributions on Facebook. Publisher Gerald Johnson said they developed a plan after an initially slow start to the campaign. He repurposed the famous Beatles song “Help” into a customized plea to Charlotte Post readers, and he shared the message on his personal Facebook page with his thousands of followers.

“I realized that I needed help with this, so I actually took that song and wrote our story around it,” Johnson said.

They experimented with different messaging based on this initial story, but found the more the request was simplified, the results proved less successful.

The lesson learned, he said, is that personalized invitations to donate aren’t enough without strong, compelling messaging.

“Now we’re running out of friends, and we don’t know what to do next,” Johnson said. “This worked quite well for us in a short period of time.”

Charlotte Post FB campaign

Ashley Mahoney, Charlotte Post multimedia journalist, credited the publication’s longtime community standing for the strong reader engagement so far.

“It really just translates from that connection we have with our readers,” Mahoney said.

Live video also played into The Charlotte Post’s engagement strategy, with the publication pivoting more toward IGTV’s streaming service because its readers are more engaged on Instagram, she said.

On a call with LMF and publishers participating in the fund, Silvana Ordoñez of Facebook’s local news partnership team said Instagram is a meaningful way to engage audiences for support because IGTV and Instagram Stories allows publishers to leave links driving people back to the fundraiser. And the best part is the content doesn’t need to be polished.

“Actually, it’s better if it’s not that polished,” she said. “The closer that you can be with your audience, the better your audience will respond.”

The Seattle Medium

Despite being locked down since March because of quarantine measures, The Seattle Medium has so far raised $12,240 on Facebook through reader support to the COVID-19 Local News Fund.

Publisher Chris Bennett said staff used their personal Facebook pages to help get the request in front of users. Bennett credits short, personal posts that were quick and to the point for helping drive support on social channels.

That helped the publication punch past its $10,000 original goal, and now $15,000 raised is the next milestone. Bennett said it has been important to create milestones tied to timely deadlines or goals to help instill a stronger sense of urgency for driving donations.

The Seattle Medium newspaper is the largest African American owned and operated newspaper in the Pacific Northwest.

The Seattle Medium FB campaign

Dorrine Mendoza of Facebook’s local news partnership team credits The Seattle Medium for reminding readers how the publication supports that community.

“This is your community. These are the people you care about. These are the people you serve. These are the people you want to be around for in the long term,” she said. “So how can you help them… feel a part of this?”

For more information on the COVID-19 Local News Fund and joining as a partner to participate, see our FAQ.