Hechinger Report Crowdfunding Immigrant Education Coverage

The folks at the Hechinger Report are exploring crowdfunding as a new way of engaging with readers and raising revenue. Using a site called Beacon, they’re raising funds from readers for a project called Inside The Classroom: The Immigrant Experience.

Only about 3 percent of American children under 18 were born in a foreign country, but “this small, but important portion of public school students face special challenges as they attempt to make their way through theK-12 system and on to higher education.”

The funding that they hope to raise will “put our reporters inside American classrooms and on American campuses, where we’ll explore inequality, diversity and innovation with a focus on immigrant students.”

In-school reporting is something that the Hechinger folks have focused on, and it’s emphasized in the pitch and the accompanying (very cute) video.

According to Keren Goldshlager, Beacon’s core focus is “enabling readers to fund journalism they’re excited about directly.” Past projects have included ones with the Texas Tribune, Texas Observer, Center for Public Integrity, InvestigateWest and The Lens (in New Orleans).

A big part of the idea is to create focus and momentum behind a specific campaign rather than asking for ongoing support. 

According to Goldshlager, Hechinger is the first education-focused publication Beacon has worked with — but not the first education-focused campaign. Freelancer Jennifer Berkshire crowdfunded a New Orleans story from this past summer in Salon.

In fact, according to her Beacon page, she’s produced 10 stories with the help of 136 supporters who’ve contributed $9,100.

According to the folks at Hechinger, they became aware of Beacon at a recent journalism conference and developed a fundraising goal Sarah Garland describes as “ambitious but – we hope – achievable.”

For foundation-funded outlets like Hechinger, campaigns like this are a way to create a direct relationship with readers. “We know we have a growing loyal audience that cares a lot about what we’re doing,” according to Garland, “and we saw this campaign as another way they can show their support for the time and resource intense on-the-ground journalism we produce.” 

Adds Lillian Mongeau, who spearheaded the effort for Hechinger, “a majority of the respondent to our summer audience survey had said they would consider making or would definitely make a donation to Hechinger if asked.”

It’s also a way to ensure that the funding base — already quite varied — is as broad as possible, and to generate as much editorial independence as possible. 

As of Monday afternoon, the Hechinger campaign was 40% funded — $14,124 raised so far (including the match). The deadline for reaching the goal is November 25th. 

Related posts: The Alternative To Foundation-Funded Education JournalismEdWeek Sets Standard With Detailed Disclosure.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.