It was in 2013, the beginning of the Revolution of Dignity, also known as Euromaidan, that I first learned about hromadske. Its round-the-clock online streams were informing about civil protests in central Kyiv and across Ukraine. It was a go-to platform to learn about the latest updates and censorship-free programs. Back then, I was pursuing my Fulbright scholarship in the US. I would share those video streams in my classrooms and with a local TV in Albany, upstate NY.
hromadske was at the forefront of the Euromaidan movement and subsequently followed the Crimean annexation and Russian invasion in eastern Ukraine. Founded in response to the growing authoritarian regime of fugitive president Viktor Yanukovych, hromadske quickly became a medium, symbolizing free, democratic and pro-European Ukraine. In 2014, the channel received the silver play button from YouTube for receiving 100 000 subscribers. It had unprecedented support from the people through crowdfunding - over $150 000 in the first year.
Since then, hromadske has had its highs and lows, at times being hit really hard reputationally. Yet, despite all circumstances and challenges, it has never compromised its mission: explaining without bias what is important and having its first loyalty to readers.
hromadske does not have owners, oligarchs or an influential politician or businessman who would pump money into the media to turn a blind eye to certain issues or publish twisted, self-serving narratives. It was founded as a non-governmental organization and, until now, remains the only media in Ukraine with over 9 million monthly audience (5 million - website and 4 million via social media) with transparent structure and governance. Its financial reports are published on the website.
Some argue that hromadske is a media of revolution and its role is less relevant now. But I cannot disagree more. As never before, there is a crucial task of remaining an independent watchdog of those who govern, so there is no rollback of reforms and achievements of Euromaidan.
Instead of glossing over declared reforms and soft interviews with politicians in power, hromadske always goes in-depth to find out more and provide readers with the most accurate and truthful information, enabling them to be active citizens and contribute to stronger, economically successful, and prosperous Ukraine.
In doing so, hromadske has not chosen an easy path. Until now, its commercial unit has not worked with oligarchic businesses or so-called harmful industries like tobacco, alcohol, and gambling. Yet this is where the money is. hromadske works thanks to its readers and for readers. You can join our community with a monthly or one-time donation HERE. Other sources of funding are native advertising and production for companies that share our values. International assistance has been instrumental for our media over these years.
In the heated debate over the efficiency of international aid, I side with its proponents. I saw lives of dozens and hundreds of people changed through effective policies and programmes introduced and implemented with the help of international donors. Along with successful international projects, I also saw failing initiatives, dying after the help ends.
This year, hromadske proved it can earn money. It has already delivered over 35 successful commercial projects commissioned by industry leaders in banking, retail, health care, IT, international projects and others. Making its way into the scarce native advertising market at the height of the pandemic and earning 10% of the annual budget is nothing but a true success.
Now, we need just a bit more support to develop it further. At hromadske, we are starting an ad hoc fundraising campaign, appealing to all donors we know, to ensure uninterrupted work of the newsroom in 2022. There are a lot of lessons we learned in the past, and income diversification is one of them.
In my role as a fundraiser, I see international grants as a runway, not a path, before taking off as a sustainable, socially-oriented media company.
/ Olena Sadovnik, fundraising director