Guides for donors & funders

Most recently published or updated guides for media development donors & funders are featured first.

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European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

"PRESSProtect provides information about support funds for emergency situations as well as resources to prevent threats. It focuses on living expenses, psychosocial support and medical aid, support for digital and physical safety, relocation, legal support and support in exile."

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

"The international principles and standards for development co-operation set by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) come in different forms. While a few become official, legally binding OECD instruments, most of them are only indicative, yet very influential guidance documents as they represent the political will of Adherents. This series brings them together." The most recent principles and standards were released on June 18, 2021.

American Press Institute

"Philanthropy increasingly provides important support for nonprofit journalism. Funders have varying reasons for supporting journalism and media. Some support journalism as a field unto itself, and a public good. Others see journalism and media as integral to their focus on democracy and civic engagement and participation. And still others may be primarily motivated by the content itself – the reporting, the storytelling – as a way to raise awareness of particular issues and topics.

The following principles were developed by and for funders and are offered as a guide to both help funders and grantees arrive a clear understanding of their respective roles; and to protect the independence, integrity and impact of this work."

European Commission

"Freedom of expression is a fundamental right safeguarded by international law, including the European Convention on Human Rights, and forms an integral part of the functioning of a pluralistic democracy. It belongs to the values on which the European Union is founded (as referred to in Article 2, the Treaty on European Union).The respect of these values and commitment to promote them is the main criteria to assess the aspirations of a country to become a member of the Union (Article 49, ibid.). Thereafter freedom of expression is an intrinsic part of the Copenhagen political criteria for accession to the European Union.

It should be underlined that while being a fundamental human right, freedom of expression and media is often precondition for implementation of other rights and freedoms. Deprived of a free media, citizens are denied the right to balanced, factual and reliable information, without exposure to bias and propaganda that in turn is undermining democracy and the effectiveness of institutions. The pluralistic content in the media landscape serves to reveal the multifaceted nature of society and promotes dialogue and tolerance. Critical scrutiny by media of the political processes guarantees their transparency and ensures that governments adhere to predictable policies – free from the interests of narrow pressure groups. Al in all this improves the governance in the given accession country, and thus creates confidence in future Member States."


Media development seeks to support and promote a pluralistic, editorially independent and financially sustainable media sector. An independent media sector buttresses key governance goals such as voice, accountability, and transparency -- not through dissemination of messages about these issues, but through its very existence.This handbook is the result of a multi-year effort, the first stage of which 'Public Sentinel: News Media and Governance Reform'. That book explored key issues surrounding the media and governance, including: the ideal role of the media system in strengthening democratic governance, the conditions under which media systems fulfill their objectives, and the policy interventions most effective at helping the news media live up to its democratic potential.The second stage of this effort, presented here, is meant to bridge the gap between theory and practice. A survey reveals that very few governance advisors understand the concept of media development and how such programs could play a key role in advancing good governance.Ultimately, this handbook is designed for those who may be interested in media development programs, but are unclear about the whys, hows, and whens. It will introduce the fundamentals of media development, provide ways to conceptualize and analyze the sector, and help guide programming based on political economy analysis as well as individual country context. It also includes ideas on monitoring and evaluation of media development programs, plus links to further resources.


The Media Development Indicators were developed through a broad international consultation launched by the IPDC Intergovernmental Council at its 25th session in 2006. A detailed mapping of the main existing initiatives to define indicators of media development was carried out, in order to analyze their respective methodologies as well as their value and relevance to the priorities of the IPDC.

On the basis of this mapping, a set of indicators aimed at covering all aspects of media development was elaborated and finalized after a two-year consultation process. The indicators were endorsed by the Council at its subsequent session in 2008 as an “important diagnostic tool for all stakeholders to assess media development in a given country and to thereby determine the areas in which assistance is most needed”. The Council adopted a Decision inviting the IPDC Bureau and other stakeholders working in the area of media development to take the Media Development Indicators into account when determining, in tandem with national authorities, communication development strategies within the overall context of national development.

Since 2008, the MDIs have been widely acknowledged by major actors in the media development field, including UNDP, the World Bank, the Council of Europe (see Resolution 1636(link is external), 2008), the International Federation of Journalists, International Media Support, the Media Foundation for West Africa and the Doha Centre for Media Freedom.


The full document is available here.

In developing guidelines for media development interventions it is important to understand how the media supports democracy, human rights and sustainable development. Without a diverse and plural media environment that provides widespread access to information and debate, democratic politics cannot flourish and government cannot be held to account for its actions by the wider population. By acting as a platform for exchanging information the media plays an important role in ensuring the transparency of a society. And of course media helps ensure accountability of public administration by highlighting the actions of public officials and correcting the natural asymmetries of information between governed and governing. In this way media devel- opment programmes can support development objectives. For some years there have been concerns that aid programmes will only be effective and serve the interests of the poor if they are fully transparent and accounta- ble – an independent pluralistic media can help ensure this.

Media environments capable of supporting democracy can be thought of as the corner sections of a triangle.

  • the legal and regulatory environment;

  • professional capacity (both managerial, technical and journalistic);

  • a sound and sustainable base.

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

The guidance provides an overall understanding of the media sector and its reference framework, as well as needs assessments for various media types, information on SDC’s approach to media assistance, and a range of media interventions. It also offers guidance on how to assess and mitigate risks and how to monitor and evaluate media work.

The guidance aims to give SDC staff and members of the DDLG network an updated view on media development. The guidance provides an overall understanding of the media sector and its reference framework, as well as needs assessments for various media types, information on SDC’s approach to media assistance, and a range of media interventions. It also offers guidance on how to assess and mitigate risks and how to monitor and evaluate media work.

Media Impact Funders - KATIE DONNELLY

This report provides an examination of the current state of the field of media impact assessment, which Media Impact Funders (MIF) has been tracking for seven years. It also draws on insights from a few leading experts engaged in media impact assessment.


"This report argues that complexity is no excuse for inaction. Solutions to this crisis will require that political agency rise to the daunting level of the challenge, and that the structures of international cooperation—forged as the global response to World War II—are now put into motion to safeguard the foundations of independent media."


This report is designed to give funders a succinct and accessible introduction to the practice of funding investigative journalism around the world, via major contemporary debates, trends and challenges in the field. It is part of a series from DW Akademie looking at practices, challenges and futures of investigative journalism around the world.

The paper is intended as a stepping stone, or a springboard, for those who know little about investigative journalism, but who would like to know more. It is not a defense, a mapping or a history of the field, either globally or regionally; nor is it a description of or guide to how to conduct investigations or an examination of investigative techniques. These are widely available in other areas and (to some extent) in other languages already.

Rooted in 17 in-depth expert interviews and wide-ranging desk research, this report sets out big-picture challenges and opportunities facing the investigative journalism field both in general, and in specific regions of the world. It provides donors with an overview of the main ways this often precarious field is financed in newsrooms and units large and small. Finally it provides high-level practical advice – from experienced donors and the investigative journalism field – to help new, prospective or curious donors to the field to find out how to get started, and what is important to do, and not to do.

Media Impact Funders - MICHELLE MCLELLAN

Five Things You Need to Know

  1. The work foundations care about is at risk

  2. Journalism must forge new connections

  3. Sustainable business models are crucial

  4. Trust in journalism is under threat

  5. Editorial independence and transparency matter

Five Ways to Get Started

  1. Identify grantmaking and investment strategies

  2. Support innovations in reporting

  3. Reinforce partnerships that expand the business models and engagement

  4. Invest in community data

  5. Learn more about media grantmaking

Media Impact Funders plan to update this resource in 2021.

This booklet is a starter guide for foundations interested in exploring how to make impactful journalism and community-information grants. It shares the experiences of dozens of foundations that have recently funded news and information projects. It also introduces the work of peer foundations that support journalism. (Hummanitarian Journalism)

Ariadne Network of European Funders for Social Change and Human Rights - SAMEER PADANIA

This resource aims to help funders (especially those "new to or curious about journalism and media grantmaking") boost their understanding of the critical issues, debates and approaches in funding journalism and media.

Despite stating that this ‘is not designed to be a comprehensive manual setting out best practices on grant making in the media space’, this report offers an extremely clear and practical overview of the ways in which foundations can support journalism responsibly. It includes sections on the rationale for funding journalism, advice from experienced donors and specific areas of opportunity and threat. (Hummanitarian Journalism)

Harvard University Shorenstein Centre and Media Impact Funders - DWIGHT KNELL, NINA SACHDEV, JESSICA CLARK

Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center collaborated with Media Impact Funders to produce Funding Journalism, Finding Innovation Guide, a resource, which serves to highlight innovative funding methods in journalism.

This guide shows only a small sampling of how funders and publishers are working together to financially sustain the fourth estate, they hope that it nonetheless serves as a starting point for your own work by providing solid examples of groundbreaking funding efforts—ones that are both pioneering and effective. If you’re a grantee, you may also want to use this document to think about how your work might appeal to potential funders.

American Press Institute

In 2017, API produced two sets of broad guidelines of best practices, one for funders and another for nonprofit newsrooms, based on consultations with funders, nonprofit media executives and researchers. The focus of these often-cited guidelines is primarily on establishing best practices for ensuring editorial independence. (Hummanitarian Journalism)

Centre for International Media Assistance - ANYA SCHIFFRIN

Chapter in "Same Beds, Different Dreams” by Anya Schiffrin p25-31

The new world of donor funding of media content addresses a serious need for in-depth coverage of subjects that affect society. At a time when media faces financial pressures in many parts of the world, donors have stepped in to create a public good, and grantees are grateful. However, as mentioned, we found that grantees and donors alike feel it may be time to come up with some codes of conduct aimed at promoting transparency and safeguarding newsroom independence.

The chapter gives suggestion and provides case studies on

General funding, not earmarks:

"Many media grantees would prefer to get unrestricted funds rather than support earmarked for coverage for certain topics."

Creating a wall between funding and editorial: "similar in some ways to the wall between advertising and editorial in legacy newspapers."

Donors outsourcing decision making about grants: "if foundations gave grantee management responsibilities over to a semi-independent body, perhaps a steering committee made up of professionals from the industry, they could put some distance between the programmatic side of the foundation and the media funding side of the foundation."

Intermediary groups: "Other funders give grants to intermediary organizations that then allocate them to journalists. Some of these intermediary organizations exist with the explicit purpose of providing a buffer between donors and grantees."

Peer Review Committees: "Some of the groups that do grant making to journalists make sure they have groups of journalists (not donors) deciding who gets the money."

Disclosure & transparency: "Not only are there no universal codes of conduct or standards but there are not even universally agreed-upon principles. One might imagine that media outlets and their funders would agree on disclosure of funding sources and transparency of funding but even this subject—which one would think of as low-hanging fruit—turns out to be surprisingly controversial. Practices vary widely. The majority of donors we spoke to said their organization decides on whether or not their grantees should disclose, and some said they discuss it with their grantees. A smaller group said they leave the question up to the grantees."

Making it easier to apply for grants:

  • "grantees want information about what funding is available and how to apply. Opacity works to the disadvantage of organizations in developing countries that do not have the same resources and access as journalists in more prosperous countries."

  • "Others felt that the application process is so complicated that it discriminates against outsiders."

  • "They also hated the unpredictability and sense that one’s ability to get funding to carry out their journalism work is subject to a nonprofit’s stability and strategy."

European Commission

Download the guidelines here.

The guidelines cover:

  • Freedom of expression and media

  • The EU's enlargement agenda for media freedom and media integrity, which includes; the enabling environment for free expression and media; media outlets assuming responsibility for improved internal governance and production; increasing capacity and representativeness of journalist professional organisations.

  • Measuring results and impact

  • A draft results framework

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Download the policy paper here.

Domestic Accountability and Support to Media: From the Why to the How in Effective Cooperation Paper prepared for OECD DAC GovNet Meeting January 28, 2014

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)

Download the guidelines here.

The guidelines covers:

  • Media that serves democracy, human rights and development: legal and regulatory environment, professional capacity, sustainability.

  • Media Development: Authoritarian states: Countries with democracy and human rights deficit, conflict and post-conflict situations, fragile democracies in the early stages of democratisation, stagnating democratisation processes, new democracies in the process of consolidation

  • Media Development Indicators: regulation and legal framework, possible, professional capacity, economic sustainability.

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