Funder Perspectives: Assessing Media Investments

by Jessica Clark

Jan 23, 2015

How are funders evaluating the outcomes of the media productions and campaigns that they support? Over the past five years, this question has informed a growing array of convenings, reports and research initiatives within the philanthropic sector, driving the emergence of a small but increasingly visible field of analysts and producers seeking to both quantify and qualify the impact of public interest media.

These examinations have stimulated debate among both funders and grantees. Calls for the creation of a single media impact metric or tool have been met with both curiosity and skepticism. Those in favor of impact analysis cite its strategic usefulness in this moment of myriad new and untested media platforms, the importance of concretely tying mission to outcomes, and the need to justify media investments rather than programmatic ones. Detractors raise concerns about how an excess of evaluation might stifle creativity, needlessly limit funding to those projects whose short-term impact can be conclusively proven, or simply bog grantees down in administrative tasks that require entirely different skills, as well as resources.

However, these debates have taken place in somewhat of an information vacuum. To date, the conversation about media impact has been led by a limited group of foundations. Little substantive information is available about how a broader range of funders address questions of evaluation. This research project aims to help fill that gap.

The report, Funder Perspectives: Assessing Media Investments explores the multiple and sometimes overlapping lenses through which grantmakers view media evaluation, and confirms that there are still many unanswered questions.