This is Why Philadelphia’s Gun Crisis Reporting Project Couldn’t Make It

By Emily Gray Brosious | Jan. 14, 2015 | Featured photo by Murray Hadley, via Flickr CC

Jim MacMillan threw everything he’d learned from years as a working journalist into the Gun Crisis Reporting Project he founded to cover Philadelphia’s underreported gun violence and report on possible solutions, he told Nieman Lab in a recent interview.

And despite his best efforts to keep the wheels spinning, he announced November 4 that after two-and-a-half years of daily operation the site could no longer continue publishing on a daily basis.

MacMillan admits he basically misunderstood the financial realities for nonprofit journalism projects like the Gun Crisis Reporting Project and had not spent enough time focusing on the business side of the operation.

He isn’t alone on that front.

According to a 2013 Pew Research Center report, sixty-two percent of nonprofit news organizations struggle to find “time for business operations.” The study also found that most nonprofit news outlets spend between just 10 and 24 percent of work time on business matters.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that a journalist driven to cover one of the most pressing public health concerns in urban America today wouldn’t have much time to spend on fundraising.

“Every moment that I spent chasing money was a moment that I wasn’t chasing impact,” he told Nieman Lab. “So I don’t know. If I had to do it all over, I could’ve learned the fundraising game and built something that’s still standing, and had much less impact.”

In the end, MacMillan learned a few valuable financial truths he’ll keep in his tool bag for his next startup —  one with staying power, he hopes.

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