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Beyond the Paywall: How a welfare scandal investigation led to record donations

Happy New Year! We’re back after the holidays with end-of-year data, a brand-new case study, and some exciting job openings in our client newsrooms.

As we do first thing every January, we’ve been eagerly digging into last year’s fundraising data to spot trends and best practices. We’ll present our full analysis in this year’s State of the Hub address in February, but I want to share a few juicy takeaways.

Newsrooms that used both the Hub’s consulting services and our contribution management software raised a total of $21,412,223 from their audiences in 2022. News Revenue Engine-only users, those newsrooms using our new (free) self-service software solution, raised $583,241 – and that’s just since the SaaS product became available in September! 

In terms of year-end campaign performance, Hub clients increased revenue under $1,000 by 12% compared to last November and December. Our national newsrooms saw a bump of 8% and regional newsrooms jumped 24% over last year. Local newsrooms saw a 4% decrease in year-end donations.

Across the Hub, newsrooms raised an average $68,424 in November and December 2022 for donations under $5K. That said, overall revenue under $5K fell 6% from 2021, a typical trend for larger dollar donations during economic downturns.

Interestingly, 2022 revenue was still up an average of 44% from the same period in 2020 – which was a banner fundraising year for many nonprofits.

As we kick off 2023, our consulting team is hard at work helping clients set goals, build roadmaps, and plan campaigns so they can build on their success. If we can help a newsroom you care about, let us know.

Mary Walter-Brown
Founder and CEO

‘A full-funnel approach’: How Mississippi Today’s welfare scandal investigation led to record donations

In March 2022, Mississippi Today’s audience development director Lauchlin Fields sat down with her colleagues, reporter Anna Wolfe and editor Adam Ganucheau. Wolfe’s investigative series was scheduled to publish in a few weeks. Fields and her team were already preparing to make the most of it.

Wolfe’s series, “The Backchannel,” was published in five parts, between April 3-18, 2022. Each part of the series examined former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s misuse of at least $77 million in federal welfare funds meant to assist the state’s poorest residents.

The Mississippi Today staff knew this would be a big story — Wolfe uncovered dramatic, never-before-seen texts between Bryant and notable names like football legend Brett Favre — so they planned what Fields called “a full-funnel approach,” aimed at converting casual visitors to loyal readers and, eventually, paying members.

That preparation paid off. In April 2022, Mississippi Today raised $11,500 more than they did in April 2021. The following month, after running a campaign highlighting the coverage and receiving national media attention, the nonprofit news organization raised $18,960 more than in May 2021.

Here’s how they did it.

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