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Funders urged to improve media investment

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Investment in nonprofit media is relatively small but growing, and needs closer attention from grantmakers, which themselves fail to track or make that investment easily accessible or build media into the way they work, a new report says.

Public and private grantmakers in 2008 invested an estimated $3 billion in nonprofit media, including media content, infrastructure and policy, a total that may have grown to $10 billion in 2009, says the report, released by Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media, and prepared by Intelligent Television.

Despite the growing social and economic role of media, however, funding for nonprofit media lacks a clearinghouse, a comprehensive database funding funding opportunities, an established “taxonomy” for media grantmakers, grantees and their grants, broadly accepted terminology, and a system of classifying how funders “determine their entry points and ultimate goals for social enrichment,” says the report, Funding Media, Strengthening Democracy: Grantmaking for the 21st Century.

“Media grantmaking remains a long way from establishing a place where media grants can be searched for and found by grantors and grantees alike as quickly and as easily as products can be found on eBay and Amazon,” the report says.

For media grantmakers, whose funds represent only about 1 percent of investment by commercial and non-commercial sources in all media, the report says, “leverage, necessarily, is key.”

The report recommends that the grantmaking field “take advantage of media and technology to build a more comprehensive framework for media grantmaking and for measuring its impact.”

The report makes 10 recommendations to improve funding for nonprofit media, including taking steps to strengthen networked collaboration among funders and grantees alike, to create a comprehensive network for information sharing, to measure the impact of media grantmaking, and for funders to recognize the media reinforces their missions.

“Acknowledging media as a critical component to all grantmaking is the first step,” Alyce Myatt, executive director of Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media, says in a statement.

“Autonomy and anonymity have been the norm within the grantmaking community, but what’s needed, to make the dollars count, is transparency and collaboration,” she says. “This requires nothing less than a major cultural shift in philanthropy.”

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