Our stakeholders are a colourful collection of local media partners, crucial financiers and loyal donors. How do we work with them, whose indispensable support makes our work possible? And let’s not forget: how do we communicate with all those stakeholders?
Free Press Unlimited’s most important stakeholders are the 66 local media partners in 31 countries, with which we work on access to reliable, independent and relevant information for everyone. We have great respect for their work and they appreciate our support. The fact that we work from the same vision and develop projects together, makes us unique in the eyes of our partners. Our commitment and follow-up are also much appreciated.
Overall, our partners are very pleased with the work of Free Press Unlimited, as can be seen from the partner satisfaction survey that we organised at the end 2018. At 72% the response was once again higher than the previous year (66%). The partners are most appreciative of the communication and relationship with Free Press Unlimited; the longer the relationship, the more satisfied the partner. Their feedback is extremely valuable to us: what can we do even more or better, what are their priorities?
In 2017, the partners were least satisfied with our support for their capacity development and training, but in the last year we succeeded in improving: in 2018 they said this was precisely one of our strengths. This year our monitoring and evaluation scored adequate, but worse than the other categories. So that is something we have to work hard on in the coming year. What we specifically need to continue with, according to our partners, is the successful policy influencing together with them and civil society organisations. Our activities for gender equality can also count on approval.
Gender equality is the topic on which the partners would prefer to gather and exchange knowledge (next to business models and fake news). In 2019, we will set up a pilot Community of Practice, of partners who want to learn more about gender equality with and from each other.
In 2018, we prepared the Global Partner Meeting which we are organising in February 2019. Almost all the No News Is Bad News partners are coming together in Prague to discuss the programme strategies and develop future plans. The meeting is also a network event: we want to encourage partners even more to collaborate and to set up regional initiatives.
It is with good reason that we call our private donors Friends. Because the 3,085 loyal Free Press Unlimited supporters, 125 more than last year, are friends of press freedom and the right to information. They donate not only money, but also their critical involvement and enthusiastic voice – for example, when it comes to the safety of journalists or the protection of sources (think of the Wiv). We are happy to give these Friends a place of honour at events such as Free Press Live.
In 2018, financial support also came from people who are not (yet) regular donors. In particular, a letter we sent with the De Groene Amsterdammer in September shook readers up and earned us more Friends. There was an image of a man shrouded in clothes from the bomb disposal services on the envelope, with the text ‘this man has one of the most dangerous professions in the world’. The letter made it quite clear that the man was a journalist. We received a total of € 70.483,70 in gifts, 38% more than last year.
Instead of expensive gifts from contacts at the end of the year, money for a good cause. That’s the VBVB ICT philosophy: every year the ICT company thanks its clients with a donation to three causes. In 2018, Free Press Unlimited was one of them and received € 1,000. VPRO employees could also exchange their Christmas parcel for a € 35 donation to Free Press Unlimited; 37 chose to do that. The Goede Doelen Loterijen (Dutch Charitable Lotteries) donated a large sum to our project Publeaks Netherlands: € 5,000. This was money that the organisation had won as first prize in the 2018 NAF Architecture Award (for ICT architecture). Talitha taught students about press freedom, but fell ill and now supports the access to information in another way: 20% of the proceeds of the handmade home jewellery that her company tali.rocks sells, goes to Free Press Unlimited. And Drukbedrijf.nl supports the work of Free Press Unlimited by sponsoring our printing. All of them fantastic initiatives with which we are really pleased.
Free Press Unlimited considers itself lucky with its dedicated donors who see the importance of our work, and also understand how complex this often is. They are happy to share their ideas with us: a valuable addition to our own expertise. For a number of years, our most loyal donor has been the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that is our strategic partner in the No News Is Bad News programme and that makes the new Legal Defense Fund possible.
We are also extremely pleased with the Swedish Sida, that supports the professionalisation of the Syrian media sector in exile. . The Swedish Postcode Lottery decided to make youth in Mexico, South Africa and Sweden more digitally resilient through our new programme Keeping it Real. This programme examines the digital media behaviour of 13-year-olds and based on that, collaborates with them on ideas that enable young people to use social media safely, and provided with reliable information.
In 2018, our staff succeeded in raising over € 14 million in funds for our projects. To that end, we submitted 48 proposals, of which 22 were honoured by the end of 2018: a success rate of over 56%, significantly higher than we scored at the end of 2017 (almost 40%). To further build on this success, we hired a new Manager Partnerships and Fundraising in September. She maintains contact with our donors and she and her team are committed to a steady growth in revenues for our work.
The Dutch Postcode Lottery
The Dutch Postcode Lottery has supported the work of Free Press Unlimited for more than twenty years. We and our media partners are immensely grateful to the 2.9 million Postcode Lottery participants.
In addition to the annual contribution of € 900,000, in 2018 the Postcode Lottery supported the 3-year international research project, Money Trail, that we submitted jointly with Oxfam Novib. Journalists in Asia, Africa and Europe are learning how to do (cross boundary) research into financial misconduct that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. Within this project, Free Press Unlimited is responsible for the training in digital safety.
Postcode Lottery Fund for Journalists
In December 2018, the Postcode Lottery Fund for Journalists celebrated its tenth anniversary: a unique source of funds for special foreign reports by Dutch journalists, that are managed by Free Press Unlimited. Foreign reports are expensive, that is why there have been a lot of cuts by editing staff, but thanks to the fund, journalists can still realise their dream. Journalist Lennart Hofman, who has gone on several trips with support from the fund, is convinced: ‘Without the fund, I would not be a journalist.’
In 2018, with support from the fund, journalistic gems were made, like the youth documentary, Bachir in Wonderland, about a young refugee in the Sahara. Or the scandal exposed by Olivier van Beemen about the Heineken promotion girls in Africa, who were systematically sexually abused. And without the fund, the series about Mohamad, a Syrian boy who has a rare condition that causes him to look like an old man, would never have been written. In the past year, the (often freelance) journalists published a total of 66 unique stories in media such NRC, Follow the Money, OneWorld, De Groene Amsterdammer and on NPO3.
Thanks to the fund, journalists will again be able to make unique reports in the coming year. In 2018 we received a total of 45 requests, 15 of which we approved. Very little money is available for in-depth investigative journalism abroad; since 2016, the Postcode Lottery Fund has been providing a remedy here too. Two journalists received up to € 16,500 for their investigative journalistic plans abroad and thirteen others can implement their report proposals (of maximum € 5,000).
The photo on the letter we sent with the De Groene Amsterdammer in September, tells a story: how dangerous it is to be a journalist in many places in the world. And how ridiculous it is, when you realise that it is precisely journalists who provide us with crucial information and therefore strengthen our democracy. Our communications team now knows better than before how to gather these types of story and tell them in an appealing way.
The storytelling training we gave to programme staff last year is now paying off. In 2018, we published our stories in the second edition of the No News Is Bad News newspaper and on a dedicated page on our website. In addition, we took on a copywriter who can write good stories in English. And because a picture often speaks a thousand words, a number of colleagues took a photography workshop and we asked (local) photographers to put our projects into pictures. This is how we involve a partially new audience in the important work that our partners do.
Which target groups we approach in what way, depends on our relationship with them and on their information need. We always keep it as personal as possible: a handwritten card, a personal letter or an invitation. We also adapt our mailings to the different groups of recipients, so that they only receive really relevant post from us.
Social media are the most important channels with which we involve people with Free Press Unlimited. We have designed our website in such a way that people can quickly find what they are looking for, but also stay on the website longer and do more there. We have succeeded in this set up, as is reflected in the figures for 2018: the average time people spend on freepressunlimited.org has risen again and the bounce rate (people who leave again immediately) dropped further. Moreover, the number of actions increased, like searches and downloads.
The number of followers on Twitter grew by over 1,780 to 8,680. We also made more friends on Facebook in 2018: we now have 18,760. Our LinkedIn network expanded by about 250 people to 1,255 and on Instagram the counter is at 447. The Free Press Unlimited YouTube videos were viewed almost 2,000 times more often than in 2017: 11,780 times.
Contact with our supporters
This is how we stay in contact with our (potential) supporters:
- We distribute 1,000 copies of the English newspaper, No News Is Bad News, during Free Press Live, for example.
- After publishing the collection of Publeaks stories in Dutch, in 2018 we published an English language version. It includes stories that came about thanks to whistleblower platforms in the Netherlands and Mexico. We are distributing the 500 copies to national and international contacts.
- A factsheet with statistics about the work of Free Press Unlimited gives people an impression of our organisation and results at a glance.
- In May and December we sent our Friends and potential Friends a letter in which we brought them up to date on our work.
- We send a monthly Dutch e-mail newsletter with over 1,320 subscribers and an English e-mail newsletter to 650 subscribers. The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires subscribers to actively confirm the subscription and that led to a significant drop in the number of subscriptions.