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Richard Tofel

ProPublica President and Co-CEO Richard J. Tofel will officially depart the company on Sept. 8 to work on consulting and writing. In an article penned for Columbia Journalism Review, Tofel looks back on his time fundraising over $220 million for ProPublica, and gives advice for those looking to raise capital for their own non-profit news ventures. First, Tofel writes, a newsroom should start out with at least 18 months of funding, although two years of funding is better.

Tofel outlines three types of donors.

  1. Institutional foundations, which are obligated to give money away but may not take the risk of investing in a new non-profit, preferring to wait for proof of previous success.
  2. High net-worth individuals, who often have the greatest capacity to donate.
  3. Small donors, who, as demonstrated by the campaigns of Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, can have enormous power en masse.

Tofel also gives insight into four motivating factors for nonprofit news donors.

  1. Those worried about the future of the press from a business perspective,
  2. Those who are concerned about threats to democracy and see the press as key to preserving it.
  3. Donors who are interested in promoting journalism that addresses specific issues, such as criminal justice, education, health care, racial or gender equity, or environmental concerns.
  4. Donors who are concerned by the decline of local journalism and want to invest either in national funding of local journalism or in journalism for a particular local community.
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