Local religion news website to lose fundingWritten by Tom Konecny | | firstname.lastname@example.org
ToledoFAVS.com — a local website covering area religious news — learned that its funding ends May 31, forcing a change in its business model and approach.
The Lilly Endowment, based in Indianapolis, had guaranteed three years of funding to ToledoFAVS in 2011, one of five community-based regional hub sites for Religion News Service of Columbia, Mo. However, ToledoFAVS wasn’t launched until summer 2012, at which point the three-year grant clock had already been ticking.
“I was guaranteed three years of funding, and [believed] we’d likely get another three years, but then I’d have to be self-sustaining,” said David Yonke, ToledoFAVS editor and community manager. The additional three years of funding did not pan out. “After May 31, I don’t have any income unless it’s by donation. I’m going to continue it, but I’m not going to be able to devote as much time to it.
“We were not guaranteed another three years, but there were a lot of indications that we would get another three years. So, I would say it was a surprise,” Yonke said.
Religion News Service Publisher Debra L. Mason indicated in a statement that the original business model was flawed from the start.
“The business model previously relied heavily on grant funds to launch FAVS as a startup,” Mason said. “Unfortunately, the business model we relied upon (which was adapted from Knight Foundation-funded research) overestimated the amount of revenue we could raise via donors and advertising. As a result, our overall budget going forward needed to be cut.”
Under the new business model, Yonke will become a contractor for ToledoFAVS as of June 1.
The site was conceived as a gathering place for nonsectarian coverage of faith and values news (hence FAVS) for Northwest Ohio. Readers embraced the site, generating 20,000 hits per month, second highest among the five hub sites nationwide.
“It will look the same, but right now I’m updating it five times a day,” Yonke said. “That may go to twice a day, depending on how much I get from volunteers. Right now I write four to five stories a week, but that may go down to one a week. We’ve published 2,800 stories since the inception of the site, and with blogs as well, maybe 3,000 stories in 21 months.”
Religion News Service offered nothing but praise for Yonke and ToledoFAVS. Its stories have appeared regularly in Toledo Free Press.
“It was a real pleasure to have had the opportunity to work with David Yonke and the Toledo community,” said Tiffany McCallen, national community manager for Religion News Service. “It has been obvious to me from the beginning that David is a true treasure in his community, a notion that was reflected in the area’s willingness to heartily engage with ToledoFAVS as readers, writers, event-goers and supporters. I have no doubt the community will continue to embrace ToledoFAVS in its new form.”
At least two of the five regional hub sites will cease operation. Yonke hopes to find new funding somewhere, but is not counting on it.
“I don’t think religious leaders know,” Yonke said. “I haven’t tried to really rally the troops, so I don’t think people are aware of it. There’s been some outpouring of support, mostly from regular visitors. I don’t expect to bring in enough money to make it self-sustaining in a month, but maybe in the long term we can build it up and bring in some revenue. It all depends. If some funding does come in, I have big plans for it.
“We would love nothing more than for the community to support this site; that’s in fact what is needed,” Mason said.
Those interested in assisting ToledoFAVS.com through financial or in-kind gifts, can contact Yonke at David.Yonke@ReligionNews.com, or (419) 346-1007.