Refilling Our Well
In 2022, we are going to do things a little differently at Independence Public Media Foundation. Before I get to the details of that, I am hoping you will indulge me in sharing some things we’re proud of, which will also help you better understand where we are now as an organization.
In the past two and a half years, we have grown from 11 original grantee partners to about 100, with nearly $30 million invested so far in community-centered media and media making across the region. We are a team of four, growing to a team of six in 2022, and our board has doubled from six to 12 members, who volunteer a significant amount of their time and expertise to help build and guide this foundation.
In 2021, we launched a series of free workshops and coaching sessions for grantees on topics they prioritized for us, including communications, financial management, fundraising, staff wellbeing, and nonprofit governance, as well as some workshops specific to filmmaking. Our community zine, which we publish monthly (sign up here!), offered additional resources and encouragement on all of these topics and more, as well as highlighting grantee milestones and news.
Last summer, we published “Community Media Across the Greater Philadelphia Area: A Needs Assessment and a Call to Action,” original research conducted by Dr. Rosemary Clark-Parsons and her team. In summarizing her findings, Dr. Clark-Persons emphasized,
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated, access to news and information is vital to people’s personal, social, and economic well being. Rather than approaching media as a separate funding area, philanthropic organizations should include community media as relevant to addressing any high-priority need.”
We couldn’t agree more, which is why we support and collaborate with funding colleagues in the region on community media and storytelling strategies and projects. In 2021, for example, we collaborated with the HealthSpark Foundation and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund to award $2.3 million to 47 area organizations through our Community Voices open call. Since 2019, we have partnered with the Leeway Foundation, Bread & Roses Community Fund, Scattergood Foundation, Lenfest Institute, The Alliance for Health Equity (formerly the Brandywine Health Foundation), Fels Fund, Barra Foundation, the Foundation for Delaware County, Knight Foundation, and the Delaware Community Foundation. That list, which we know will continue to grow, gives us so much hope about the future of local news and information, and community-centered storytelling.
Other 2021 highlights include: a deep dive to learn about the region’s digital equity landscape, and awarding $1 million to 18 organizations for digital equity projects; launching a pilot project to explore grantee-centered impact assessment with Impact Architects; learning about mission-aligned investing throughout the year; and working hard on an updated website, to be shared in 2022.
And, because we center care in our relationships and actions, we have tried our best to be responsive, communicative, and accessible to our community of grantees, funding colleagues, and those seeking funds and information from us, while we all continue to navigate this devastating pandemic.
In the past two and a half years, we have learned a great deal about the media and digital equity landscape in Philadelphia, as well as the myriad needs of the start-up and small organizations led by people of color that we prioritize in our grantmaking. We continue to practice unlearning philanthropic processes and decisions that are harmful and extractive, and we are challenging ourselves to work harder and commit more deeply to equity and justice.
Like everyone else, though, we are tired.
Given the position of privilege and power we occupy, and the desperate need for the resources we control, it feels bad to admit that. But the truth is that in order for us to have deep clarity about what we hope to accomplish long-term, we need some space this year to reflect and learn, and to dream about and plan for the future.
So, these are our intentions for 2022:
The good news is that we plan to simplify and streamline our grantmaking this year by continuing to work with the grantee partners we have. The not-so-good news is that we will be minimizing bringing on new grantees this year, with the exception of our local film nominations program. Specifically, this means we will not be conducting our Community Voices open call or another round of the Digital Equity open call this year.
We recognize and acknowledge the tension between trying to center equity in our work and not being as accessible this year as we would like to be, particularly for organizations who have not received funding from us. This is a trade-off we feel we have to make this year.
That said, we do want to keep hearing from you about your projects and ideas. You can always send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will always respond.
Capacity Building Workshops + Coaching
Grantees can be assured that we will continue providing capacity building workshops and coaching throughout the year, with some new topics and partners added to the line-up. If space is available, we will offer these resources to community organizations who are not current grantees. Our aim is twofold: to help strengthen individual organizations in whatever ways they have identified needing support, and to strengthen connections between and among organizations working toward justice and change in the Philadelphia region.
An Updated Website
We went through a brand study process last year with our partners at Message Agency, grantees, and other community members, with the intention of overhauling the look and feel of our logo and website. We asked ourselves challenging questions about our identity and history as a public television station, our transition to a private foundation, and our aspirations for supporting transformative, community-led work. Many times, we didn’t yet have the answers to the questions we were asking, and we learned a lot about what we need to resolve before we can move forward with a whole new look and feel to our organization. As a result, we are working on an updated version of our website — a vast improvement, but not yet the complete overhaul we were aiming for. We will unveil that this year, while also taking more time to explore an identity that matches our values and aspirations.
Expanding Our Team
We’ll be adding new staff this year, and expanding our small but mighty team of four to a team of six. We will be looking for a finance director and a program associate, and we will be launching that search soon. If you think you know the perfect person for the role — maybe it’s you? — we hope you will help send candidates our way. We’ll post information to our website and job boards, so stay tuned.
Equity + Embracing Emergence
While it may not sound like we’re not slowing down in 2022, we truly are. Our priority this year is to focus on deep exploration and discussions about equity and justice: what we need to do to center them internally in our operations and governance, and externally in our relationships, funding, and vision for the future. In order to do that, we’re learning to sit with the discomfort of not planning out our year, embracing emergence, and allowing this journey to take us where it needs to go.
I know that when foundations talk about going into strategic planning mode (whether they’re using those terms explicitly or not), it strikes fear in the hearts of grantees that we will decide to go in a completely new direction, with a new vision and new partners, and walk away from our current grantees. I can tell you that’s not what this year is about for IPMF.
In fact, the intention is the opposite: we’re seeking to illuminate and clarify what we’re willing to deeply commit to long-term, in pursuit of equity and justice, as well as what resources, strategies and action are needed to fully support our commitments, so that we can effectively, with integrity and care, build power with communities by supporting community-led and community-owned media making in our region.
We look forward to sharing with you what we’re learning.