2016 marked the start of our new Strategic Partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of our Syria programme with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). To top it all off, 2016 ended with the announcement by Nationale Postcode Loterij that it would substantially increase its structural funding for our work.
The latter event in particular is clearly reflected in our operating surplus for 2016. The funding increase was only announced late in the year, and Free Press Unlimited enters this income on the balance for the year in which the associated lottery tickets were sold. As a result, 2016 ended with an exceptionally high positive balance: totalling over € 760,000. We have added this surplus to our continuity reserve, which presently stands at close to € 2.3 million euro. This addition couldn’t have been timelier, since due to the recent growth of our organisation, Free Press Unlimited’s operating costs have increased to € 3 million per year. Our policy is to ensure that the continuity reserve covers 70 to 150 percent of our annual operating costs. The addition in the present financial year once again puts the continuity reserve at 75% of our operating costs, which is well within the established margin.
In addition to strengthening our continuity in 2016, we are pleased to say that over the past year, we also successfully rounded off a number of large-scale, long-term projects without having to record any losses or uncovered costs. For example, in June of 2016, we saw the final acceptance and approval of our report on the StoryMaker project, which started in 2012 and represented a total programme investment of € 2.2 million. And this list also includes the i-Stream project with Internews (USD 1.1 million), our project in Somalia, which was supported by the EU (with a budget of over € 1.1 million) and a project in Syria with a budget of € 3.0 million, which could also count on financial contributions from Sida.
We are able to continue our activities in Somalia with funding allocated within the new Strategic Partnership, and Sida has once again pledged its support to our projects in Syria. Through these and other programmes, we work to make a lasting difference in the areas that we are active in. We are still examining our options to follow up the aforementioned StoryMaker project.
We are not only extremely grateful to Nationale Postcode Loterij for their decision to increase their structural support to Free Press Unlimited. We also sincerely thank them for their contributions to three specific projects: ‘The Future is Now’ (a programme within which we set up news bulletins for children all over the world), Nepal Save the Date (in partnership with dance4life) and the Postcode Loterij Fund for Journalists. In 2016, we once again received an extra contribution for the latter project. This project contribution has allowed us to expand the funding programme, so that journalists can now apply for up to € 16,500 in funding for in-depth investigative reports that could not have been realised without the fund’s support.
And finally, 2016 was the year in which we really starting building the new Russian-language news platform Russian-Language News Exchange. After the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs pledged its support to this project in late 2015 – in the shape of a contribution of € 1.3 million – the European organisation European Endowment for Democracy joined as a donor in 2016. The European Union has also contributed € 1 million to the project. This means that we have presently achieved our target: the greater part of the project is presently covered in financial terms. Naturally, we will work to ensure that the Russian-Language News Exchange can continue its activities in the years ahead.
And of course, the same applies to all our activities in which we work to promote independent journalism and to achieve our mission: provide people all over the world with access to independent information. We are extremely grateful to our private and institutional donors for supporting us in this endeavour, because… People deserve to know!