Informed Communities - Gates Family Foundation

Informed Communities

Informed, engaged communities are vital to democracy and key to addressing a wide range of critical challenges facing our state. The absence of trusted, local news and civic information undermines democracy and prevents important issues and powerful institutions from receiving the scrutiny they require. As traditional sources of local news – particularly newspapers – have declined dramatically over two decades, in-depth coverage of vital civic issues statewide has lagged. Social media has filled this vacuum, fueling mis- and disinformation, discord and polarization promoted by algorithms to drive clicks and profits.
Gates Family Foundation is committed to supporting community-based newsrooms and promising new ventures in Colorado that are building a more diverse, fertile, and sustainable news and civic information ecosystem. We support public-service journalism and communications that serve historically ignored communities and provide platforms for underrepresented storytellers. We work to fill civic news gaps in our core focus areas by supporting organizations that report on urgent issues in education, natural resources, and community development.

Our Strategies for Informed Communities

Evolve and Strengthen the Civic News Ecosystem

While commercial models for sustaining local civic news have deteriorated, rapidly evolving tech tools and social platforms have democratized content creation and the public’s role in holding the powerful to account. Individual community members, nonprofits, corporations, and politicians are now leading many civic and cultural conversations through their individual and organizational channels. Much about this phenomenon is positive, but it also contributes to fragmentation, overwhelm, and disengagement in important civic conversations.

In Colorado, public media is expanding its role and digital startups are attempting to fill civic news gaps. But overall the field is still fragmented and fragile. Gates Family Foundation works in partnership with a coalition of funders through the Colorado Media Project to pool funds and support initiatives like the Colorado News Collaborative and the Colorado News Conservancy that take an ecosystem-level approach to build a healthier, more equitable, solutions-focused local news and information ecosystem for all Coloradans.

Our grants and resources in this focus area may support:

  • Ecosystem-level innovations in technology, newsroom collaboration, efficiencies, and distribution that enhance public service and sustainability of local civic newsrooms
  • Capacity-building initiatives such as #newsCOneeds that help civic newsrooms engage communities, increase responsiveness, diversify funding streams, increase revenue, and strengthen resiliency
  • High-impact ownership transitions or growth opportunities that prioritize community needs and advance ecosystem collaboration and sustainability
  • Efforts to engage more funders and civic leaders in understanding the issues and growing support for innovative strategies to evolve, strengthen and sustain local civic news

Address Gaps in Civic News Coverage

Coloradans rely on local journalists to monitor, uncover, and amplify important issues in a way that equips the public to hold the powerful to account, mobilize communities, advance causes, and enact strong policies. The best civic news also spotlights humanity among neighbors and builds a foundation for solutions.

For decades, Gates Family Foundation has supported public television, public radio, and nonprofit news outlets in filling important civic news gaps. We’ve supported new beats, new digital startups, and new training and fellowship programs to ensure the issues we care about most — public education, natural resources, and equitable community development — receive the coverage that they deserve.

Our grants and resources in this focus area may support:

  • Strong civic news organizations and/or reporting projects that increase public awareness and support for public education, sustainable natural resources, and equitable community development
  • Reporting fellowships and collaborations that build content knowledge, stronger coverage, and peer leadership among local journalists and storytellers in Gates’ core issue areas
  • Underwriting or advertising support to promote stories, research, events or messages from Gates or its grantees

A black man wearing headphones speaks into a radio broadcast microphone in a small radio station Foster Inclusive Civic News Leadership, Voices and Models

Trust in local news is higher than in national news, but for some trust never existed. In recent years, local newsrooms have come under increased public scrutiny as powerful institutions that have inflicted harm on communities and individuals of color. Journalists and others are examining the profession, and exploring ways to ensure that moving forward, local news is more inclusive, less reactive, and more grounded in the perspectives of community members who have the least power.

Gates Family Foundation supports newsrooms and projects that seek to reimagine civic news, with an emphasis on better service to communities of color, rural areas, and other underserved communities.

Our grants and resources in this focus area may support:

  • Efforts to build media leadership, entrepreneurship, civic news reporting, and storytelling skills among residents of color and from rural or other underserved communities
  • Projects that leverage higher education, students, faculty, libraries, trusted nonprofits and community leaders, and residents to meet civic news and information needs
  • Community polling, engagement, working groups etc. to drive strategy and evolution of local newsrooms or the ecosystem
  • A contribution to CMP’s Informed Communities Fund, to support projects that advance diversity, inclusion, and equity in local newsrooms and their coverage
  • Media ownership transitions, innovations or growth that significantly impact communities of color, rural or other underserved communities

 

How We Support Informed Communities

Strategic Grants

Foundation staff work closely with a diverse group of community development partners to initiate and support projects that advance the strategic priorities and goals listed above. See our strategic partners in informed communities here. If you think your project or organization might be a fit for our Informed Communities program, we encourage you to contact a team member below.

Capital Grants

Two times a year, we accept applications for our capital grants program. Informed Communities projects that qualify include capital infrastructure projects that support local newsrooms, or renovation of buildings that enhance a community’s ability to convene important civic conversations. See a list of our recent capital grants for informed communities here.

Impact Investments

We put the Foundation’s endowment dollars to work through mission-aligned investments to support informed communities. Examples include a low-interest loan to help The Colorado Sun expand its membership and service to reach more communities statewide, and a loan guarantee to help keep 24 Colorado Community Media local news properties in local hands.

Informed Communities Team

Gates’ staff members bring an array of experiences and talents to work with our partners and communities.

Informed Communities News & Insights

Congratulations to the 2022 Gates Family Foundation Harvard Fellows

Congratulations to the 2022 Gates Family Foundation Harvard Fellows

Eight civic leaders from across Colorado have been selected to attend a three-week program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Learn More

Public Officials: Apply by March 8 for a Gates Fellowship to Attend Harvard this Summer

Public Officials: Apply by March 8 for a Gates Fellowship to Attend Harvard this Summer

The JFK School's Senior Executives in State and Local Government program is an intensive three-week summer program to build new skills, strategies and peer relationships for tackling the many complex challenges facing our state. Learn More

Equitable Community Development Requires Bold Vision and Community-Driven Action

Equitable Community Development Requires Bold Vision and Community-Driven Action

Gates Family Foundation set out to understand the impact of our past five years as a strategic funder working in Community Development. We knew we had to hear from you -- our partners, the people doing and supporting the work to build community. Learn More

Informed Communities Grants and Investments

Roughly 5% of the Foundation’s annual grant making budget is allocated to the Informed Communities program, to support the strategic priorities listed above.

Year Grantee Amount Type Strategic Priority Area Served
2021 BuCu West $20,000

Strategic Grant

Community Development

Denver

2021 Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Educational and Charitable Foundation $90,000

Strategic Grant

Community Development

* Statewide

2021 Radian $25,000

Strategic Grant

Community Development

Denver

2021 History Colorado $20,000

Capital Grant

Community Development

Denver

2021 Avesta Capital LLC $100,000

Capital Grant

Community Development

* Statewide

2021 Denver Public Market $50,000

Strategic Grant

Community Development

Denver

2021 Focus Points Family Resource Center $20,000

Capital Grant

Community Development

Denver

2021 Lifespan Local $75,000

Capital Grant

Community Development

Denver

2021 Montbello Organizing Committee $200,000

Program-Related Investment

Community Development

Denver

2021 El Laboratorio $20,000

Strategic Grant

Community Development

Denver

2021 Urban Land Conservancy $150,000

Capital Grant

Community Development

Denver

2021 First Southwest Community Fund $500,000

Program-Related Investment

Community Development

* Statewide

2021 Community Resource Center $25,000

Capital Grant

Community Development

* Statewide

2021 Telluride Foundation $200,000

Program-Related Investment

Community Development

Montrose

2021 Dearfield Fund for Black Wealth $1,000,000

Program-Related Investment

Community Development

Denver

2021 Avesta Capital LLC $50,000

Strategic Grant

Community Development

* Statewide

2021 indieDwell $250,000

Program-Related Investment

Community Development

Pueblo

2021 First Southwest Community Fund $5,000

Strategic Grant

Community Development

* Statewide

2021 Fax Partnership (The) $60,000

Strategic Grant

Community Development

Denver

2021 Buff Venture Fund $1,000,000

Mission-Related Investment

Community Development

* Statewide