MinnPost and Voice of San Diego (VOSD), two pioneering not-for-profit online news organizations, are joining forces to develop tools and tactics to dramatically increase membership.
Thanks to a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the organizations will engage in a two-stage process over the next two-plus years: First, to develop systems and adopt best practices that manage member information and facilitate significant membership growth. And second, to test out and then adopt new products, services and experiences for members that will make thousands more readers want to be members rather than non-paying readers. Each organization will receive $600,000 over the next two years.
Support from Knight Foundation is part of its Local Media Initiative that aims to help nonprofit news organizations establish long-term sustainability. The initiative comprises various other investments in the space, including $5 million in grants to over 25 local online news organizations that have demonstrated potential for growth and the INNovation Fund, which promotes newsroom innovation.
The work in the first stage should help counterparts across the country integrate donation processors with customer data software, email systems and their website. For example, if you become a member of MinnPost or Voice of San Diego, it should be easy to alert you when it’s time to renew and give you simple ways to donate again, and you should be able to manage your membership right from the website.
While VOSD and MinnPost are supported by multiple revenue streams including major gifts, foundation grants, corporate sponsorships and advertising, both organizations believe members are the key to long-term sustainability. Since VOSD’s launch in 2005 and MinnPost’s in 2007, both nonprofits have built a community of members that generate revenue directly and also develop into major donors, sponsors and community partners.
“Members today donate mainly to support the cause, which is great,” said Joel Kramer, CEO and Editor of MinnPost. “But we’re excited about working together with Knight’s support to develop new products, services and experiences, including customized ones, that will make thousands of people decide that being a member of MinnPost or Voice of San Diego is not just a philanthropic decision, but something that benefits them directly. We want to make membership irresistible.”
“Our membership is a community that provides volunteers, accountability and revenue to the organization,” Scott Lewis, CEO of Voice of San Diego said. “In the long-term, we believe we’ll need a membership of many thousands of people and managing them requires technology that we are fortunate to now be able to implement.”
“This investment is intended to help organizations that have shown promise develop new innovations, while adding to the momentum they have already built towards further growth and sustainability,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president of journalism and media innovation.
VOSD and MinnPost hope to triple membership by the end of 2016, and they plan to provide a comprehensive guide and recommendations to other nonprofit news organizations who want to follow their lead.
For more information on this joint project, contact Kaeti Hinck at MinnPost (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mary Walter-Brown at Voice of San Diego (email@example.com).
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.