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Chapter 1: Why Fund Media

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There is little doubt that media—film, television, radio and the Internet—are the central communication tools of our time. An average American adult views nearly sixty films a year, listens to the radio sixty hours per month, spends roughly ten hours a week on the Web, and watches television more than four hours a day. Combined that comes to about four full months a year.

Yet despite the degree to which media shapes our daily lives, culture, politics and society, most foundations do not fund it. Why? After all, the business of disseminating ideas is essential to the philanthropic community, and every foundation has communication goals.

Foundations offer plenty of reasons. Some are based on widespread misconceptions. Others are real challenges that give rise to the limits and exclusions foundations place on media funding. Our goal is to dispel the myths, examine the obstacles, offer a few solutions, and share some successes.

In the pages that follow, we present seven case studies. These stories are told from dual perspectives—that of the mediamaker and that of foundations which supported their projects. It was our intention to get inside the media-funding process. In Chapter 1, we also address the most common reasons foundations give for not funding media. These are roadblocks that have become entrenched over decades, but they can be overcome, if you know how.

Working together, producers, nonprofit organizations, presenters and funders are unleashing the power of media. They are realizing its potential as a tool for community mobilization and grassroots organizing. It is our belief that for every foundation there are media productions that can further its organizational goals. We hope this information helps grantmakers and grantseekers find those matches.

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