purple deadnettle flower,” Mark Dixon

May 7, 2020; Editor & Publisher

This morning, we note the story of a nonprofit news startup called the Beacon in Kansas City, Missouri. The story sounds familiar: It was started by a laid-off investigative reporter who was distressed at the paucity of substantive local news. Others have piled on, including funders and a board of twelve. Groundwork was laid, and it launched with a soft open in March—in the midst of the pandemic. That’s what made us take notice.

Some might say “Now? In the time of crises in the nation and the field of journalism?” Well, back in the last recession, NPQ noted that far from reducing the number of nonprofits in the world, the downturn may have increased their number. We thought about this again today, as we saw a few stories about current startups, and it might be the right time to explain this very common dynamic. As we wrote then:

What we find interesting about this article, which is based on a Kauffman Foundation study that found that entrepreneurial activity is at its highest rate in 14 years, is that it is not at all alarmed about the fact that people during a time of scarcity start up small businesses with a 50 percent chance of going under even in the best of times but we’ve noted that there is a different attitude about the continuation of nonprofit startups during this same period. In our opinion, again, small locally controlled organizations rock! Let’s all make sure they are supported so we remain the richly entrepreneurial country that we are with the full diversity of local character.

This gets to another issue, in that too many nonprofits retain practices that essentially exclude people of color from leadership positions and otherwise ignore real needs. In some ways, this churn may be a necessary to shake out responses to a changing world. Funders, however, must cooperate to aid that churn.—Ruth McCambridge