Four years ago, I launched an occasional column about the travails of raising funds to support Mission Local. I killed it after a few months. Truth be told, soliciting money was traumatic enough — writing about it was like reliving the trauma without seeing any of the money.
Welcome to Upstart.2.0! The same, but different. These days Mission Local is a nonprofit (our fiscal sponsor is San Francisco Public Press), and my quarry are the philanthropists, the VCs, the foundations and, well, anyone with pockets deep enough to consider helping us meet the cost of running a small news site: approximately $200,000 a year.
Here’s the thing about a $200K budget: It’s so slight that it’s hard to be taken seriously. VC’s seem to believe someone will just write us a check for the full amount. Two venture capitalists – free with their advice if not their wallets – had the same reaction. Piece of cake, easily funded in a couple of meetings, they promised. One offered to set up said meetings; another rattled off a list of foundations.
The first VC ghosted me. The second VC’s list turned out to be foundations that don’t invest in journalism. So be it. Being ghosted was a sobering experience — so that’s what happens to my younger staffers on dating apps (Was he going to tell me next, “It’s not you, it’s me?). As for the foundation world, well, that’s fodder for many columns.
In the weeks to come, I’ll be writing columns, some 200 words apiece, about my quest for $200,000. Look for them here. And tell your rich uncle.