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Global Voices develops alternative revenue streams

Like all other media organizations in times of economic crisis, Global Voices has to be creative and innovative when it comes to thinking of ways to sustain our organization.

In 2008, after being administered for three years by the Berkman Center at Harvard University, we became an independent non-profit foundation incorporated in the Netherlands. For an organization with hundreds of members throughout the world, Global Voices manages to keep costs relatively low. We have no physical office, and most of the remarkable people who work so hard to produce the content you see in these pages do so on a voluntary basis. Still, much of our time and energy in the past year and a half has been focused on fundraising and figuring out ways to make the organization more independently sustainable.

We’re pleased to say that, in spite of the current economic crisis, we’re close to covering our budget for 2009, thanks to the support of the philanthropic organizations listed here. To ensure our long-term sustainability, however, we’re looking to strike a balance between philanthropic support, editorial commissions, partnerships, and content syndication, with a bit of advertising in the mix.

Here are some of the ideas we’ve been exploring:

Content Commissions and Underwriting

All our content is published under a Creative Commons license that allows both commercial and non-commercial websites to republish what they like. From time to time, however, an organization will commission us to cover a specific region or topic more in depth. In 2008, Reuters underwrote the cost of hiring editors to curate content on climate change and citizen video. And over the next six months, a new blog from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will be commissioning our editors to cross-post stories about women's health, young people and sexuality, population, development and climate change. Some donors or organizations with an interest in seeing more of a certain kind of coverage could also specifically support that content, with a clear understanding that they will have no say over the content itself. This kind of underwriting is a feature of many public media models. This type of income is likely to become a significant alternative source.

Advertising

Many websites use automated advertising services, but so far we’ve decided against going that route. Earnings from these ads would be fairly small relative to the amount of space we’d have to devote to them, and we’re concerned about some of the questionable content automated ads can serve. But this doesn’t mean we’re philosophically opposed to advertising. This week, we will be doing our first paid promotion for an online video competition organized by the website Put it On. We feel that promoting a citizen media competition that is open to anyone in the world is in line with our mission. We have also made a commitment that we shall always make it expressly clear when any of our relationships or content partnerships is paid or sponsored, and advertising will be clearly marked as such.

Consulting

There’s an tremendous amount of knowledge and talent in the Global Voices community, and there are opportunities for partnerships with other organizations which can bring financial benefit to both Global Voices and to individual community members. In September, 30 Global Voices bloggers will be paid an honorarium to mentor new bloggers from Europe and Africa participating in an online communication course with ActionAid Denmark. We’re delighted to be able to provide interesting opportunities for Global Voices volunteers and also to share the income across the organization, while using the experience to develop new training guidelines for future mentoring projects.

Online donations

We launched our online donations page at the end of last year with a quiet funding appeal followed by a slideshow featuring photos and artwork from members of our community, and we’re planning another in the near future. In an ideal world, we’d be able to survive only on donations from our readers, and while we know that’s unrealistic, we’re very grateful when friends show their support in that way. So if you like the way we're thinking and growing and care to send us a donation, do know that it will be greatly appreciated!

These are just a few of the ideas we’ve been exploring in order to generate additional revenue for Global Voices alongside our more traditional fundraising. If you’d like to explore any of these further with us, please contact me at georgiap at globalvoicesonline dot org.

We're hugely thankful and proud of all the people who invest their time and energy in this project and who, together, seem to be making it work.

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