2017 Pledge of Champions was by far BenitoLink's most successful year; raising over $40,000 and reaching $80,000 when combined with matching funds! (Exact final total has not been tallied yet.) This achievement is thanks to the many individuals who showed their support for local news and confirmed a strong interest in broader coverage and more investigative reporting. The one-for-one match was provided by News Match and the Community Foundation for San Benito County.
About 80 donors were involved in the Pledge, the highest number of individuals to take part so far. San Benito's nonprofit news needs community support to succeed as a full-service, local news source. We appreciate the sincere show of interest we see in the numbers and heard in your comments!
BenitoLink is a nonprofit news site not just for residents but also a growing number of readers who live outside the county.
In 2017, we averaged about 28,000 unique visitors, or different individuals, using the website each month.
This past month of December, about 32,000 unique visitors read BenitoLink.
About 63 percent of our users are return visitors, or regular users who visit the site often.
These days, over 50 percent read BenitoLink on their phones.
Adults 25-44 years old are our biggest user group followed by 45-54, 55-64 and then 18-24 yrs. The smallest group is 65+ years old.
With growing community support, BenitoLink has been able to gradually expand our staff to about 15 reporters, photographers and writers who work regularly for the site. Many of you know John Chadwell, Frank Perez, Laura Romero, Tom Leyde, Becky Bonner-Leland, Joshua Miller and Lisa Robinson to name a few.
This fall, thanks to two major donors and over a year searching, we were able to bring in Jack Foley, a senior/investigative editor. With Foley, an experienced, award-winning investigative journalist on the team, BenitoLink has the capacity to give important stories the research and professional approach they deserve.
With increased funding, we plan to give more attention to copy editing and additional training for new and young writers in the coming year.
As a nonprofit, BenitoLink invites volunteers to get involved in the website and pitch in with information about community issues or events. You can also become involved in the county's nonprofit online news site by becoming a committee member or taking a leadership role as a BenitoLink board member. The team will be holding monthly open editorial meetings, inviting community members to take part in discussions on local news and look at what stories deserve more coverage.
BenitoLink continues to be dedicated to reporting on Hollister, San Juan Bautista and county government and will expand our reporting to the more rural parts of the county. We also expect to increase reporting on more education and planning meetings, many of which have gone unreported over the last decade.
We look forward to working with the San Benito County Farm Bureau on upcoming election forums in 2018. Community members writing regularly for BenitoLink will get together with the rest of the team for our popular contributor's night. Next fall, we will bring together BenitoLink supporters again for our annual "Thank You" social gathering.
This year's Pledge of Champions would not have been as successful without invaluable guidance from News Match17. NewsMatch offered $28,000 in matching funds to about 100 nonprofit websites nationally and Benitolink was fortunate to be one of them. The Community Foundation for San Benito County completed the match with a $10,000 grant.
News Match's goal was to make 2017 a record-breaking year for donations to nonprofit journalism."This support will make it possible for newsrooms to produce more coverage, hire more staff and support innovative approaches to reporting. But most importantly, News Match will build long-term capacity for nonprofit news, expanding the donor base and diversifying revenue streams," their website explains. News Match has been very helpful to BenitoLink and other local nonprofit news site by providing training and guidance in both financial growth but also by being clear about ethical standards expected for news sites like BenitoLink.
Note: BenitoLink will publish the complete list of donors on the website this week when final numbers have been reviewed. It is BenitoLink and News Match policy to make public all donors over $1,000. We provide names unless donors of $1,000 or less give a legitimate reason not to publish their names.