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Nonprofit media are optimistic but fragile

Pew report finds most of the enterprises are a lot smaller than MinnPost, and more reliant on foundations.

The Pew Research Center issued a report Monday saying that the nonprofit media world, while growing and confident, is composed primarily of small players that are struggling to diversify their revenues beyond foundation grants. 

Pew identified 172 nonprofit sites that have launched since 1987. Compared with the 92 other sites that responded to Pew’s questionnaire, MinnPost is doing very well. Most of the sites had fewer than five employees; we have 18. Most had budgets under $500,000; ours is over $1.5 million. Half rely on foundations for more than 75% of their revenue; for MinnPost, it’s about 15%.

But we share with the other sites the experience that bringing in enough revenue to support the journalism is a constant struggle — that the nonprofit media world is financially fragile.

MinnPost’s primary source of revenue — about 55% last year — is individual donations, ranging from major funders who give $5,000 a year or more,  to sustaining members who donate $5  a month or more. MinnPost gets more than 350,000 unique visitors a month, and has about 70,000 regular readers. Yet only about 4,000 people have ever donated, and about 1,200 are sustainers.

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That’s why we’re excited by the early response to our spring membership drive. On Monday, we added 14 new sustaining members and 11 one-time donors. If you enjoy and value what you read here, and agree that journalists should be paid for their important work, please join the ranks of sustaining members now