Crosscut and the Seattle Foundation are launching two initiatives to better serve the needs of the public for information that is useful in making decisions that are good for local communities and help solve area problems.
Support for both initiatives comes from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation under what is perhaps the nation’s premier program for supporting new media efforts to fill the vacuum created by the weakening of traditional news outlets. Last year, the foundation’s program, the Knight Community Information Challenge, awarded the Seattle Foundation a two-year, $185,000 grant for this project with Crosscut, matched by funds from The Seattle Foundation.
We are also able to make these improvements thanks to support from Crosscut Members. Our Fall Membership drive is under way, so I hope you are inspired to join or renew, enjoying Member benefits such as parties and forums, and putting your name into the daily and weekly drawings. Details in an adjoining article.
The Knight grant supports the Seattle Foundation and Crosscut in efforts to strengthen local news coverage and spur community-driven, public-spirited discussion and engagement with local issues and needs. To meet those goals, we are creating new connections between The Seattle Foundation’s web site and Crosscut; new tools for readers to get information; and deeper Crosscut coverage of community issues, particularly pertaining to economic hard times, with a team of news professionals.
Beginning today, some Crosscut stories will include a box offering links to more information on both Seattle Foundation’s and Crosscut’s web site. In addition, the Foundation is putting links to a Crosscut’s local coverage on its web site, as a way to give visitors there wider access beyond a selection of local media stories relevant to non-profits, the Foundation, and philanthropy.
The Get Involved box (an example is on the right side) will adjoin stories where there is a connection between a topic — such as today’s story by Judy Lightfoot on the challenges created by shrinking state revenues, particularly for human services — and the work of the Foundation and non-profits in the community.
The box is an "Activation Engine," because the idea is to give people easy ways for gaining more information and for becoming more active as community members. It generates links to the Seattle Foundation’s extensive and quantitative information on non-profits that work in fields like education or health. (The Foundation’s main areas of focus are: basic needs, including housing and food; health and wellness; neighborhoods and communities; the economy, which includes job training and resources for small businesses; arts and culture; education; environment; and global giving.)
By following one of the links, a reader can find out about the work of that charity or others whose performance the Foundation has reviewed. You can also find out more about the Foundation’s work in that area, or go to a Foundation web page for learning more and getting involved in helping find solutions. Another link allows you to go to other Crosscut coverage of the topic.
Since The Seattle Foundation has reviewed hundreds of non-profits, the box provides for a random, constantly changing list of three charities to appear. If a reader hits a refresh button, he or she will see a different set of non-profits. In some cases, however, an editor may choose a limited set of non-profits to concentrate attention on one or more of particular relevance to the story. We hope that the Get Involved box will prove to be something that can be used as a model in other city websites for deepening community involvement.
The Seattle Foundation has become a national leader in making its Web page a public asset. Easy access to information about local charities is something that is often discussed around the country but it has generally turned out to be difficult to provide. The Foundation and the hundreds of non-profits involved with providing information about their work have taken significant steps to demystify their work and empower potential donors by giving them the tools to direct their donations and volunteering.
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