An inside look at the Poynter Institute’s contributors

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The Poynter Institute — the journalism and media school which owns the Tampa Bay Times – made news this week after reporting that it lost $1.75 million in 2012.

Because that figure is an improvement over the $3.82 million that Poynter lost in 2011, some wondered how the nonprofit organization slashed its year-over-year loss by more than half. It did so by, as media critic Jim Romenesko phrased it, shaking its tin cup hard … to the tune of $2,925,332.

So where did that money come from? No one sinister, mind you. However, this blog has obtained Poynter’s Schedule of Contributors, which has not been made publicly available nor is it posted by Guidestar.org, the best-known Form 990 depository.

Poynter’s single largest contributor is, by far, the Knight Foundation at $1.75 mil. That Knight is supportive of Poynter is not surprising, but the degree to which it is is eye-opening. A 2012 profile of the Poynter Institute’s finances suggested that it received donations of just a “few hundred thousand dollars from the Ford Foundation, the Knight Foundation and others.” One-and-three-quarters million dollars is way north of a “few hundred thousand dollars.”

The McKormick Foundation is the second most generous donor to Poynter with $355,000 donated in 2012, followed by the International Press Institute of Vienna ($264,770). 

Google was in for $25K, as was The Jewish Community Foundation and the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club. The Philip Graham Fund ponied up $15K, while Blue Cross Blue Shield donated $20,000.

The Schedule of Contributors also indicates that the Poynter Institute has embarked on some sort of “small donor” program for those able to give approximately $5,000. Everyone from the Gannett Foundation and the Scripps Howard Foundation to Home Shopping Network and the Merlin Law Group came in at that level. Even former Governor Charlie Crist’s bodyman, Greg Truax, donated $5,000. 

In fact, several other local companies the Tampa Bay Times reports on — C1 Bank,  Raymond James, Sabal Trust, the Tampa Bay Lightning — all donated to Poynter or what is essentially the charity of the Tampa Bay Times.

If there is a donation which raises red flags, it’s a $5,000 donation from Dr. Akshai Desai, the now-disgraced former finance chair of the Republican Party of Florida, who the Tampa Bay Times reported is under investigation as part of his company’s fraudulent business practices.

Other than that, the Schedule of Contributors is, frankly, kind of boring. If anything, it reveals just how difficult professional fundraising can be because it has to be done one check at a time, regardless of how prestigious the organization.

Take a look for yourself. 

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.