Philanthropy needs to act a bit more like real venture capital
Thanks, Dick. If I may, I would add one suggestion to this way of approaching failures: philanthropy, and perhaps the field itself, could do some meaningful (and honest) post-mortems so that there really is learning across the field (not just for the small group involved with any given organization), and also so that, maybe, the failings when seen more holistically, inspire new ways of thinking about business models, staffing models, etc.
An end-of-the-day post-script: another way that philanthropy (institutional) sometimes fails is in tying funding to growth and expansion. Why is growth and expansion and “scale” so important? Why is it not okay for a local or even a national digital news organization to build upon its foundation but not necessarily open multiple bureaus, or move into new locations if it does not have the ability to sustain that scale? Orchestras aren’t told to “scale.”
And Barbara is right.
Excellent points. There is a hidden problem in non-profit news, which is that if you run the data on funding, if one took away the philanthropy grants, I suspect most non-profits would fail.
The thesis is that "perpetual" repeat funding by philanthropy (foundations, not people) can't occur forever. The conclusion is that a pathway to sustainability still needs to be developed for non-profit news as the "future expected failure rate - when philanthropy stops for a given news organization" is likely well over 50% or even higher.
Would you mind outlining more of what you mean by failure? If you're measuring it in terms of audience, that makes sense to me. At the same time, I see news as being as much of a public good as something like K-12 education in that it deserves support, profit or no profit.