The Fascinating Finds from the Foundation Center's Media Funding Survey

The Foundation Center, in collaboration with Media Impact Funders and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, released a study of media funding trends titled "Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States," and it offers some striking findings about how philanthropic giving is functioning in the current media landscape.

The most salient fact to come out of this study is that media-related support from foundations grew at close to four times the rate of overall domestic giving in other areas from 2009-2011. In that time period 1,012 different foundations made 12,040 media-related investments, totaling $1.86 billion. And as the report points out, if media-related grantmaking was treated as a single category it would have ranked seventh in domestic giving in 2011— placing it just behind the environment, but ahead of science, technology, religion, and the social sciences.

Of course, there is considerable overlap in some of these areas. "Media" is increasingly integrated with technology, moving beyond the traditional channels of television, radio, and print. As mentioned in the study, "The rapid evolution of the Internet and mobile technology has generated new media platforms and expanded the universe of information creators, producers, and distributors. Media information once flowed in one direction, but the expansion of the field has made the movement more diffuse."

And foundations are reacting to this changing landscape. New media investments, which includes web-based and mobile applications, reportedly outpaced those for traditional media (print, television, and radio), by a factor of four to one. This is a staggering development and signals that grantmakers are definitely taking note of the new digital revolution.

“We can now confirm that philanthropy is responding to the disruption of traditional media organizations in the digital age,” explained the Knight Foundation's senior adviser Eric Newton. “The data is a good start to understanding media grantmaking. It’s just the sort of tracking we needed.”

Other notable findings in the report include:

  • Under the five primary focus areas in media grantmaking that report looked at, four areas experienced increases, with "media application and tools" experiencing the highest level of growth and telecommunications infrastructure experiencing the only decrease.
  • While grant dollars awarded to media-related organizations in the Northeast and West increased in the 2009-2011 time period, grant dollars to organizations in the Midwest and South declined during that same time frame.
  • About 55 percent of all media grant dollars supported activities related to media platforms (e.g. television, radio, mobile, and print). Within this category, web-based media received the most grant dollars, while journalism, news, and information came in a distant second. Interactive games had the highest median grant amount, while audio had the lowest.
  • The share of grant dollars and activity related to media access and policy increased overall, with intellectual property issues experiencing the largest increase and school and public library media center activities experiencing the largest decrease.
  • Despite the rapid expansion of new media, funding for traditional media in fact continued to increase from 2009-2011, though this increase was dwarfed by the previously mentioned four to one margin for new media endeavors.

There's much to be parsed in this report and inquiring minds can download the full version for free here.