Along with the changing media landscape, foundations are increasingly supporting media-related efforts in multiple disciplines — with a bigger push into digital platforms.

According to a new report by the Foundation Center, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation, $1.86 billion was awarded in media-related grants from 2009 to 2011.

funders and recipients grants

In fact, media funding increased 21 percent from 2009 to 2011. In these years, Newseum and the University of Southern California were the top two recipients, receiving a total of $239.5 million between the two. Additionally, the increase in foundation support for new media — such as web-based and mobile media — was four times greater than the growth in support for traditional media — such as print, television and radio.


About 55 percent of all media grant dollars supported activities related to media platforms. Within this category, web-based media received the most grant dollars at 16.4 percent with more than $305 million. Journalism, news and information came in second, taking 28.3% of all media grant dollars, followed by total media access and policy. From 2009 to 2011, public broadcasting funding also increased from $100 million to $118 million.

In a post on the Knight Blog, Steven Waldman raised questions about how the foundations are approaching the media space. He says that growth is good while also pointing out that old media players still dominate. Indeed, none of the top 10 recipients of traditional foundations were digital-native startups. Waldman also claims that foundations are now approaching the changing landscape of media, realizing that the whole needs to be bigger, not re-segmented into smaller parts.

An interactive visualization tool with charts and additional data is available at

From this, one major takeaway is the encouragement from foundations via grantmaking for new media formats. Not only are foundations realizing the importance of media, but investments in media are increasingly becoming a bigger part of the whole.

Denise Lu is an editorial intern at PBS Mediashift. A journalist focusing on culture, tech and online media, she has contributed for Mashable, Pretty Much Amazing, and other publications. Denise is currently a senior at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She will be joining the design team at the Washington Post in January as part of her journalism residency.