Three main problems of media organisation which are grant-funded

Outriders Studio’s programme Media Garage kicked off with its first session held in Warsaw mid-July this year. Leaders of the selected organisations came to spend three days with us. As you know from the previous blog post, we are working with Moldova.org, ShoTam, TheUkrainians and Diez. Each of them has different potential and their own goals and ambitions.

But as every small/medium media organisation which (for now) are primarily driven by grants, they have problems this model brings. And Media Garage aims to help to address them.

So instead of talking about the next great ideas, we spend our first whole session talking about… problems.

You need to have a space to come up with your “next big thing”.

In a model where your runway is 3–6 months, and your business model relies on your creativity plus some luck with donors — how do we stay creative?

We tackled this issue from a couple of angles:

But most of all we asked the first of our mentors — Anna Kuliberda, to talk about a burn out. What is it?. How to spot it? What to do about? It was a great presentation, and Anna will stay with us helping newsrooms to come up with ways they can embed BO prevention into their workflows. I am very happy proud of it — as Anna is championing knowledge about self-care among NGOs and we want to bring her into media space too.

Have a strategy (which you care about)

Many non-profit organisations’ strategies are created for grant proposals and trashed the moment one submits another one. Unless you can copy and paste some parts.Then — of course — awesome, some time saved.

The strategy is also misunderstood with the leader(s)/founder(s) role to take the organisation forward and not that much required by the team. That creates a terrible spot in which the founder can continue to fight for survival in her/his head, thinking this process could be a strategy whereas the team is more focused on short term tasks.

It’s all wrong. But I fully understand how much pressure there is on startups and young organisations. They sometimes have higher demands from donors then well-funded legacy media when it comes to bias, gender balance, quality, impact, and so on.

That brings us to the first point -– there are processes through which you can help find creative ideas. And there are workshops which allow you to formulate your strategy and then transfer it to the team and your community.

(Not) Coming up with products

A wanna-have model which everybody tries to achieve these days somehow is subscription or membership. Understandable as having a vibrant donating/paying community is the best for any form of journalism. But to achieve it on a bigger scale, organisations must think what service they deliver and what problem they solve. Sounds easy but frankly, it’s the hardest thing to achieve by journalists I have seen. To move from “but it’s good journalism… people should pay” to “this is a service we provide and the value for our readers is XYZ” — for many will be impossible. But some will achieve that transfer.

A very good mid-road is to start creating products — books, reports, events, exclusive stories, projects — as they are smaller and allow to go through the process of win or failure. It gives you the understanding whether it was well suited for community. That knowledge can then be transferred into an overall strategy.

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At first, I wanted to write a only a couple of sentences about our first session, but this way of putting my head around various topics we discussed will be much more beneficial for others. I could continue writing about pros and cons, mostly cons of a grant-funded model for some time — and I will.

It’s a good start, and I have a lot to share with you.

Our next session will happen in the first week of September — stay TUNED! 🙂