Financial independence is a prerequisite for impartial news coverage. That is why Free Press Unlimited continued to broaden its financial basis in 2016. After having already hired a second fundraising specialist who focuses on international private funds and major donors in October 2015, in March 2016, we added a fundraiser for private donors (our Friends).
Although in the beginning, building a relationship with new funds and donors requires sizeable investments, we can already report a number of positive results. Our success rate among international private funds has proven relatively high for a first year of fundraising: 26 percent of the 23 proposals submitted to these parties were approved for funding. These new funds mainly supported our programmes in Sudan and the whistle-blower platform Publeaks, although we also received a number of un-earmarked funds. The latter category remains very important for Free Press Unlimited, since we are unable to predict the course of some of our activities.
Around one-third of our programmes and projects over the next five years are possible thanks to the support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, within our Strategic Partnership ‘No News is Bad News’. In November, the Swedish organisation Sida decided to provide our programme in Syria with funding support for a term of five years. And in 2016, another highly valued donor, the Dutch Postcode Lottery, once again pledged its support to our work for another five years, increasing their structural contribution.
We are delighted with this kind of long-term funding: it is of vital importance for the success of Free Press Unlimited’s mission. After all, it takes more than a few years to set up a durable independent information service and build public trust in the local media. Particularly in conflict area, this can easily take as much as a generation. We often try to ‘make ends meet’ by linking the different funding streams – individual project budgets – together to cover a long-term investment. However, in many cases, this process is quite difficult, and it furthermore takes a lot of time and energy. This is another reason why the confidence that these major donors have shown in us and our partners is of such tremendous value.