Sahan Journal has received a record $1.5 million grant to support the growing St. Paul-based nonprofit news organization.
GHR Foundation of Minneapolis announced the three-year grant this week, the largest that Sahan Journal has received since the nonprofit website started four years ago. It also landed a $1.2 million grant last year from the American Journalism Project.
"We're really honored," CEO Mukhtar Ibrahim said. "This grant from GHR will allow us to keep doing this amazing work, and it will definitely enable us to dream big and build more sustainable business models while at the same time continuing to create a more inclusive and equitable journalism landscape."
Ibrahim, a former Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio reporter, started Sahan Journal in 2019 to cover news about Minnesota's immigrants and communities of color. Since then it has grown into a 19-person organization, six of whom are reporters. Ibrahim aims to employ 10 reporters by 2024.
Sahan Journal also has a partnership with the Star Tribune, which regularly runs a story from the news site in Sunday's edition.
The grant from the GHR Foundation, which was started by late Opus Group founder Gerald Rauenhorst and his wife Henrietta, is "unrestricted," meaning it's not designated for a specific expense. Ibrahim said Sahan Journal will use the funding for its general operations.
The grant makes up part of about $15 million that GHR gives annually to promote education and racial equity issues in the Twin Cities. The foundation distributes a total of $50 million a year nationally and globally.
The foundation has doubled down on funding racial equity issues since George Floyd's 2020 murder in Minneapolis. Kevin Bennett, GHR's senior program officer who leads the foundation's local racial equity initiative, said it has given smaller grants to Sahan Journal in the past. The news site was selected for the larger grant because GHR supports its mission, he said.
"It's connecting us to our community, our neighbors," Bennett said. "And it elevates those voices that might otherwise go unheard, and really serves as a platform to inspire and hire journalists of color who are starting or growing in their careers."
Unlike for-profit news organizations like the Star Tribune that rely on ads and subscribers for revenue, nonprofit news organizations don't have subscription paywalls and are largely supported by grants. About 70% of Sahan Journal's revenue comes from corporate and foundation grants, with the rest coming from donors and advertising.
The news nonprofit has a $2.6 million budget this year, up from $1.2 million in 2021.
"We believe an organization like the Sahan Journal needs the support of philanthropy as we look to center organizations that are Black-led and elevating the voices of communities of color," Bennett said. "It's really an organization that is here in our backyard that has demonstrated itself to be a national model that others around the country are emulating."
As newspapers across the state and nation shrink or close — the deep staffing cuts at the St. Cloud Times are the latest local example — more nonprofit news organizations are stepping up to fill the void. Ibrahim said there's growing support from foundations for news nonprofits like Sahan Journal, but more money is needed.
"We hope the rest of foundations will see journalism like any other institution that needs to be supported, like we support public works and theaters and other institutions in our state," he said. "Local journalism is really essential to the fabric of society."