A discussion on how journalists can entice donors to fund their investigations

Investigative journalism is expensive and journalists may spend months working on a story, travelling around the world to speak to crucial sources and gathering information.

A panel made up of media executives and fundraisers unpacked the ways for journalists and their organisations can build relationships an acquire the funding necessary to complete their investigations.

The panel was composed of American principal fundraiser of the Gallagher Group LLC Bridget Gallagher, Danish managing editor of the Journalism Fund Brigitte Alfter, Tanzanian executive director of Tanzania Media Foundation (TMF) Ernest Sungura and American COO for Reuters News Reg Chua, who was the moderator.

Gallagher stressed that investigative journalists should develop three habits all investigative journalists that are crucial for fundraising.

Gallagher said the first step to getting funds is to have a clear working plan and research various donors.

“You have to understand what your potential donor might be looking for and how your organisation and project may be affected. I encourage you to be creative and look at fundraising databases and news clips to learn about the country donors and create a work plan,” she said.

Next Gallagher said that once the journalist has figured out an extensive and specific work plan they can then pitch their project to suitable donors.

“This is the stage you reach out to them and plead your case for support, telling them who you are, what do we do, why is it worth it and what are you trying to achieve. Those are some of the key questions you have to answer in your presentation,” said Gallagher.

Lastly, Gallagher said that it is important to have a strong relationship and must invest time in cultivating the relationship with the donor.

She said, “This is the most important habit I encourage you to develop. What a good healthy donor program entails is strong relationships. It takes time and patience. It’s simple process but it takes time and effort. It’s like customer service for the donor”

Alfter said it is crucial that fundraisers educate donors about what the end goal is when funding journalist’s investigations. They do this by establishing the terms of engagement beforehand, understanding that the journalist will maintain their editorial independence.

“Transparency is a very good tool when interacting with donors, we make sure that there are no strings attached and make the donor public. That is why we have a contract,” said Alfter.

Sungura agreed with Alfter’s views and said there is value in supporting individual journalist’s projects.

He said there is more value in funding freelance journalists because they ore freedom to pursue stories that media organisations may not be able to or may not want to.

Sungura said TMF has a rural dispatch grant that sends investigative journalists to rural areas to cover stories that are underreported.

“We send the journalists to rural areas where the media outlets cannot support or fund to work in a remote area. It works because it touches the ordinary people’s lives and their daily lives normally, just by commissioning a journalist for such projects,” said Sungura.