Media central to philanthropic strategies, report says

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Over five years, U.S.-based foundations more than doubled their support of media applications and tools to nearly $99 million, according to a report released Tuesday by Media Impact Funders.

That’s just one trend outlined in the report, which boasts an updated interactive mapping tool that shows where U.S. philanthropies support media around the world.

Between 2009 and 2013, U.S. funders gave more than $5.5 billion in media grants to more than 10,000 organizations, the report said. During that time, media applications and tools saw a nearly 54 percent increase in funding, from about $46 million in 2009 to about $99 million in 2013, the last year a complete data set is available. Some funders provided data from 2014 and 2015, but MIF focussed its analysis on the five-year period with the most comprehensive data.

Other subject areas to see increases are media content and platforms (32 percent); media access and policy (13 percent) and journalism, news and information (14 percent).

Funding to journalism has decreased since a high point of $223 million in 2011 to $189 million in 2013, the report said. However, in 2011, large grants went to the Newseum ($30 million) and the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California ($50 million).

Funding to telecommunications and infrastructure decreased by about 23 percent, according to the report.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the top media funder in terms of the dollar value of grants. Between 2009 and 2013, it provided more than $513 million through 350 grants, followed by the Ford Foundation, which provided less than half as much, with nearly $229 million distributed through 944 grants.

Media Impact Funders takes a broad definition of “media” to include mobile banking platforms, strategic communications, documentary film and more.

“Media is one of the most powerful tools for social change, and philanthropy is using media to address pressing global challenges in remarkable and diverse ways,” Vince Stehle, MIF executive director, said in a news release. “… This new map shows how central media has become to a broad network of philanthropic strategies across all funding areas.”

But the tool is only as smart as the information it has. Media Impact Funders is encouraging organizations to look at the data on their institutions, compare it with their own, and send feedback.

The report follows up on MIF’s 2013 report and map that tracked foundation grants to U.S. media between 2009 and 2011. For its latest study, MIF defined media grantmaking more broadly and looked at funds awarded internationally.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation, which also provides financial support to Current, funded the upgrade to MIF’s media mapping tool.