Chapter 7

When individuals behind a donation are unknown, how news organizations proceed

One issue that has emerged in recent years regarding transparency is so-called donor-advised funds — financial vehicles that manage charitable donations made by individuals, families or organizations and under law do not have to disclose the identify of those contributors. The funds have become controversial because they can be a way for people or foundations to finance media without being individually identified.

About 20 percent of foundations surveyed said they assist media projects with donor-advised funds. Of those, half said they disclose the source of those funds. One private foundation said it discloses the source “if targeted to the media project; not if general operating funds.” The source of donor funds is revealed by a community foundation surveyed, “unless the fund is designated anonymous.”

Yes No
Does your foundation ever support media projects with donor-advised funds?

19% 60%
Does your nonprofit media ever receive contributions from donor-advised funds? 47% 28%

Data Source: Surveys conducted 2015. Questions: Foundations- Do you fund media projects using donor-advised funds? Nonprofit Media-Have you ever received contributions from donor-advised funds, which are charitable organizations administered by third parties to manage the charitable contribution of an organization, family or individuals?

American Press Institute

On the nonprofit media organization side, however, the numbers are slightly different and less transparent. Nearly half of the nonprofit news organizations surveyed said they get funding from donor advised funds. Of the organizations that do, 4 in 10 said they disclose both the fund and the source of the contributions. A third said they reveal only the name of the donor advised fund.