Omidyar Network: Grants for Journalism

OVERVIEW: The Omidyar Network is the brainchild of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. It is not a traditional foundation, but what they've decided to refer to as a "philanthropic investment firm" that models its funding on market-based approaches and makes investments in socially conscious for-profit companies as well as grants to nonprofit organizations.

IP TAKE: The Omidyar Network is unique in their approach to funding in that they take a "market-based" approach to their grantmaking. However, they do not accept unsolicited proposals, so funding from them requires some serious networking if you're up for the challenge.

PROFILE: There are five initiative areas the Omidyar Network makes their investments in:

  • Consumer Internet & Mobile - "Enabling people to connect with others, make more informed decisions, access products and services efficiently, express themselves, and take action on what matters to them."
  • Education - "We support entrepreneurial models that bring high-quality, affordable schooling, pre-primary education, and vocational training to areas where such education and employment opportunities are scarce."
  • Financial Inclusion - "Omidyar Network’s work on financial inclusion includes people living in emerging markets, as well as the more than half of American families who live paycheck-to-paycheck and are currently underserved by the U.S. financial services market."
  • Governance & Citizen Engagement - "Support independent journalism and citizen-based efforts to monitor and report on government actions."
  • Property Rights - "Fostering economic security, identity, and wealth creation by helping people establish, formalize, and leverage property rights."

In each of these areas, the Omidyar Network has a portfolio of companies and organizations they have investments in, from places like the Media Development Investment Fund and GlobalGiving, to Refugees United and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since they do not accept any unsolicited proposals, becoming part of the Omidyar Network requires some creative networking, but the rewards can be very worth while.

    The Omidyar Network takes market-based approaches to their funding, with the potential for "large-scale, catalytic impact," investing in companies and organizations that "have the potential to embody innovation, scale, and sustainability or help bring them about within their industry." To that end, they provide in-depth expertise in each of their investment areas and bring a wealth of knowledge and direct experience to bear on each operation they invest in. They also offer strategy, management, operations, human resources, legal matters, and marketing support, and help build networks of businesses and philanthropic contacts outside of the firm in order to encourage the exchange of ideas, general knowledge, and best practices.

    The most obvious area for journalists to pursue support is in Governance and Citizen Engagement, though the Omidyar Network hasn't been known to back individual journalists. Your best bet is if you're a journalism start-up or small organization that routinely covers this subject. For example, in 2014 Omidyar Network committed $350,000 to Insight TWI: The World Investigates, an investigative journalism production team that equips journalist throughout the world with equipment, techniques and access to international broadcasters. It should be noted that Pierre Omidyar's own news venture and its holding company, First Look Media, will not be connected to the Omidyar Network in any way.

    The initial investments of the Omidyar Network makes are at least $1 million or more, so they have a solid interest in seeing the business or organization succeed in what they're doing. To date the Network has invested over $976 million since it was founded in 2004. Of that money, $468 million has gone toward for-profit investments and $508 million to nonprofit grants.

    More and more grantmaking institutions are seeing the wisdom of this type of market-based and outcome-based funding. The benefit to the recipient is that they get consultation and expertise from the institution putting up the funds and there's a real interest in making these investments and grants function properly and do what they're supposed to do rather than just throwing a chunk of money at an organization and hoping things work out.

    To best way to find who is connected to which area of investment, peruse the entire Network's team here. Good luck and happy hunting.


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