These people supported fearless investigative reporting — and helped to set a record

We asked for your help.

You delivered — in record fashion!

For the third straight year, donors provided gifts that qualified the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism for full funding in the national NewsMatch campaign for nonprofit newsrooms.

And once again, the Center attained an annual fundraising record.

Individual and business donations increased 12 percent from $94,362 in 2017 to $105,850 — our first time in six figures — in 2018, putting the Center in a strong position as it begins its 11th year of operations.

Those gains were attained through the generosity of first-time donors, reliable supporters and an increase in major gifts of $1,000 or more.

Donors provided kind words in addition to financial support.

“It is getting harder and harder (almost impossible) to recognize the truth amid all the noise — but it needs to be found and shared,” donors Robert and Elke Hagge wrote.

“Democracy needs informed participants. Thank you for helping so much to shed light into Wisconsin’s darker corners.”

Tom Bier, a retired broadcast executive, told us: “I continue to be impressed with the work of you and your team. It’s not only good investigative journalism but also a needed example for others — both journalists and media organizations.”

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Watchdog Club membership grows

Members of the Center’s Watchdog Club, its largest and most loyal donors, accounted for 73 percent of the individual donations received, up from 67 percent in 2017.

Watchdog Club membership increased 54 percent, from 50 to 77.

Watchdog Club members received special invitations to the Center’s events, including a club launch reception featuring Walt Bogdanich, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist at The New York Times and a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate; the annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards; coffee with NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik; and an evening with former New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.

Additional events for club members will be held in 2019.

Donations to the Center were matched, up to $1,000 apiece to the maximum limit of $25,000, by the NewsMatch program, created by foundations to encourage grassroots support of nonprofit journalism.

During 2018, the Center received gifts from people in 20 states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and of course Wisconsin — plus the District of Columbia.

Andy Hall, the Center’s co-founder and executive director, noted that the Center’s budget, which is about $500,000, increasingly relies on support from individuals and businesses to complement revenue from foundations, earned income and sponsorships. The 2019 budget sets the bar for individual donations at $200,000 — nearly double the record amount received in 2018 — as the Center seeks to expand its journalistic operations to better serve the public.

On Thursday, the Center announced that it has been been selected to host one of 50 journalists by Report for America, a national service program that places emerging reporters in local newsrooms to report on undercovered topics and communities.

The Center’s RFA corps member will investigate criminal justice issues in Wisconsin, including wrongful convictions and official misconduct.

“We are filled with gratitude,” Hall said, “that so many people have shared their hard-earned dollars to support the Center’s efforts to produce high-quality investigative reporting and train the next generation while informing the public and strengthening our democracy.

“We couldn’t do this without you.”

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

WCIJ staff photo, summer 2018. From left: Grigor Atanesian, Coburn Dukehart, Andy Hall, Belle Lin, Lauren Fuhrmann, Madeleine Heim, Katie Scheidt, Dee Hall, Emily Hamer, Natalie Yahr, Emily Neinfeldt.

The independent and nonpartisan Center has four full-time employees, and several paid interns and skilled volunteers. Its investigative reports are shared for free on WisconsinWatch.org and through hundreds of other news organizations. The Center collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where it is housed.

Funders exercise no control over the Center’s editorial decisions. All are publicly identified as a matter of policy to protect the integrity of the Center’s journalism.

More information about the Center is available at: https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/

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