The Rivard Report received a $100,000 grant after participating in a program for local news organizations hosted by Facebook and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Lenfest and the Facebook Journalism Project, an arm of the social media company that works with news organizations to develop products, tools, and training for journalists and newsrooms around the world, worked in partnership to create the Local News Membership Accelerator. Facebook chose 17 news organizations from across the country to participate in the three-month membership accelerator, aimed at helping them improve and build better membership programs. The Rivard Report joined publications such as MinnPost, Bridge Magazine, and Wisconsin Watch for the project.
During the past few months, three Rivard Report staffers traveled to Austin and Menlo Park, California, for three in-person training sessions where they discussed ways to grow membership in the future with coaches with strong journalistic backgrounds. Katy Silva, the Rivard Report’s advertising and marketing director, said she was able to learn from industry professionals who helped her re-evaluate the membership experience.
“We want to be operating in a more agile and flexible way to adjust to members’ needs to best serve them,” Silva said. “We don’t want to make assumptions about what users want. We will use analytics tools, testimonials, and surveys to ensure users have the best experience.
“Ultimately, we’re serving readers.”
Membership Coordinator Kassie Kelly said experts from publications such as Slate and Mother Jones shared ways to engage readers in a deeper way.
“We can use what we’ve learned to really start making a change and improve the program that we already have,” Kelly said. “We know it can be more aligned with our mission and what our members want. We’re excited to get started.
“Feedback is a gift,” she added.
The grant will support the Rivard Report’s efforts to retain and gain members. Jenna Mallette, Rivard Report chief operating officer, said a strong membership base is vital to producing quality journalism. Without readers’ financial support, the organization would not have reporters covering San Antonio, she said.
“Receiving this grant from Facebook affords us the opportunity to allocate additional resources toward accelerating our membership growth and deepening relationships with our members,” Mallette said. “Increasing our membership base is crucial to our long-term sustainability and growth as an organization.”
The topic of sustaining newsrooms is especially salient as layoffs affect news organizations around the country. Toward the end of January, the journalism industry lost 1,000 jobs from cuts at BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the U.S. But in the face of shrinking local news coverage, people are building more nonprofit newsrooms like the Rivard Report, wrote Sue Cross, CEO and executive director of the Institute of Nonprofit News.
Publisher and Editor Robert Rivard praised Rivard Report staff for their dedication and many years of reporting San Antonio news.
“As nonprofit local news sites multiply across the country, the Rivard Report is gaining recognition for its focus on civic engagement, its mission-driven journalism, and its diversified business plan,” Rivard said. “The Facebook investment in community journalism will help us continue to build membership, and complements the great support we get from San Antonio’s philanthropists and foundations.”
Richard T. Schlosberg III, a longtime publishing executive and the founding chairman of the Rivard Report’s board of directors, said the organization’s mission is to provide high-quality journalism and civic engagement to build a better city.
“The Facebook award to the Rivard Report is recognition that its nonprofit business model, journalism talent, core values, and leadership are among the top tier of local digital news organizations in the country,” Schlosberg said.
“We have been heartened by the wide-ranging support of the people and institutions of San Antonio, and we are thrilled that our team is now being recognized as among the best digital news organizations in the country.”