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Two early lessons from a nonprofit’s first grant

Friday, June 17th, 2011

The 72 bus near the 82nd Avenue MAX stopI’m sort of bursting with pride that the nonprofit I manage (which also, for that matter, publishes this blog) has landed its first private grant.

It’s small: just $5,000. We’re far from Success. But this is a success. It’s a start. And that, I’ve been learning, is the way nonprofits get built.

This situation is too new, and I’m too close to it, to draw many useful lessons from this. But here are a couple:

  • We teamed up. This wouldn’t have happened without the support of a partner. As I wrote last year, entrepreneurial journalists aren’t just picking a niche to serve their advertisers or their audience. They’re also doing it because every niche already has institutions in it. Blessedly, we’ve found several institutions that we admire and admire us back. One of them suggested this collaboration.
  • We aimed low. Last year, we applied unsuccessfully for a $25,000 startup grant from Knight. Though I sometimes dream about how easy this would have all been if we’d landed that, in retrospect I wouldn’t have awarded it to me, either. Whatever his journalism experience, an inexperienced business manager needs to learn to walk before he learns to run. Funders, I think, know this well.

By the way, this means we’re hiring.

The post-intrepreneurship Medium Run

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Mike rediscovers the first law of blogging: never promise anything. If you say you’ve got three posts in the works, you won’t write a thing for months. If you say you’re going to type up your final thoughts on a seminar you went to, the file will sit permanently unfinished on your laptop’s desktop. And if you say you’re going to post something tomorrow, you’ll have an existential crisis, quit your job and go to work as a direct-to-print reporter for a paper that doesn’t even post its content until noon.

It wasn’t actually much of a crisis, but a couple weeks ago I did leave the Daily News of Longview for the Columbian of Vancouver, a family-owned paper down the road that does some things online very well and others pretty clumsily. But it won’t be my job to worry about that.

I don’t expect to stop thinking or writing about the Web, but I’m abandoning the pretense of regular updates here.

Leaving the front lines always comes with a sense of loss and guilt, I guess. My previously mentioned friend David linked to a Guy Kawaski post that hit home:

From the outside looking in, entrepreneurs think intrapreneurs have it made: ample capital, infrastructure (desks, chairs, Internet access, secretaries, lines of credit, etc), salespeople, support people, and an umbrella brand.

Guess again. Intrapreneurs don’t have it better—at best, they simply have it different.

I can do without the chair, but I’ll miss the capital. Increasingly, though, my hopes for the future of online news lie away from capital. In the meantime, I just want to learn how to write.

See you around.