New Report Shows Growing Role of Philanthropy in Shaping the Media Landscape

Cheryl Loe
Communications Project Manager
The Foundation Center
(888) 356-0354 ext. 701

Anusha Alikhan
Director of Communications
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
(305) 908-2677

New York, NY -- November 12, 2013. Foundation support for media is growing at nearly four times the rate of domestic giving in other areas, with $1.86 billion invested between 2009-2011, according to a report released today. The report, Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States, is a collaboration among the Foundation Center, Media Impact Funders, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and provides the most comprehensive view to date of philanthropy's role in the media funding landscape.

Answering a demand for data in this area, the report provides a chronological view of media-related funding across organization types and areas of focus, providing a benchmark for further progress. The report is part of a larger project that includes an interactive data visualization tool and knowledge center that open up the findings for further analysis.

"Not only does this report show us the breadth of media funding by foundations," said Brenda Henry-Sanchez, director of research for special projects at the Foundation Center. "It also puts knowledge in the hands of funders and practitioners so that they are better equipped to identify gaps, set priorities for the future, and collaborate with others for even greater impact."

The report reveals that 1,012 foundations made 12,040 media-related grants totaling $1.86 billion from 2009-2011. Funding is examined across five areas -- journalism, news, and information; media access and policy; media applications and tools; media platforms; and telecommunications infrastructure -- uncovering insightful trends:

  • Foundations are increasingly focused on media funding: Media-related grantmaking grew at a higher rate than overall domestic grantmaking from 2009-2011 (21% increase vs. 5.8%, respectively).
  • Funders are reacting to the changing landscape of media in the digital age: New media investments (web-based and mobile) vastly outpaced that of traditional media (print, television, and radio), by a factor of four (116.5% vs. 29.4%).
  • Media-related funding is diverse: Four of the five major areas of media-related grantmaking experienced growth from 2009 to 2011. Media applications and tools led the way in growth (107.8%), while funding for telecommunications infrastructure experienced the only decrease (48.4%).
  • While funding for public broadcasting increased over time, it fell behind the increase in funding for media-related activities overall (17.6% vs. 21%, respectively).

The rise in media funding by foundations comes against the backdrop of drastic declines in revenue at traditional news outlets, declines that have raised questions about how communities will acquire the information that fuels civic life.

"We can now confirm that philanthropy is responding to the disruption of traditional media organizations in the digital age," said Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at Knight Foundation. "The data is a good start to understanding media grantmaking. It's just the sort of tracking we needed."

The data highlighted in Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States are from the Foundation Center's research grants set, which includes all grants of $10,000 or more awarded to organizations by more than 1,000 of the largest U.S. foundations, including the top 15 funders in most states.

The report, which can be downloaded for free from the Foundation Center's web site, is complemented by additional resources developed by the Foundation Center and made available on the Media Impact Funders site. A custom-built data visualization tool allows users to explore where in the U.S. media-related grants are going and to create charts filtered by dozens of different criteria. An accompanying "knowledge center" enriches this quantitative data with more than 140 reports, case studies, and white papers related to media initiatives.

"Together, this suite of knowledge tools provides the kind of nuanced perspective that is necessary for understanding current challenges and developing strategic solutions," said Vincent Stehle, executive director of Media Impact Funders. "As an organization dedicated to being a catalyst and convener for those working on media and technology issues, we are proud to deliver such tools to ignite social change."

This project was made possible by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation and was produced in collaboration with GuideStar and the Ford Foundation.

About the Foundation Center
Established in 1956, the Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. Through data, analysis, and training, it connects people who want to change the world to the resources they need to succeed. The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly, global grantmakers and their grants -- a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. Thousands of people visit the Center's web site each day and are served in its five regional library/learning centers and its network of more than 470 funding information centers located in public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions nationwide and around the world. For more information, please visit or call (212) 620-4230.

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 information, please visit

About Media Impact Funders
Media Impact Funders (formerly Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media) is a network of funders, working broadly on media and technology issues, in order to create social change. The organization serves as a learning resource for grantmakers interested in using media to further their missions; a catalyst for philanthropic partnership and networking; and a convener to advance media and technology focused philanthropy. Media Impact Funders is an affinity group, with members representing foundations, government agencies, donor affinity groups, philanthropic advisors, and individual donors. For more information, please visit