Safeguarding the news, protecting the public sphere: The Guardian’s journey to becoming supporter-led

Safeguarding the news, protecting the public sphere: The Guardian’s journey to becoming supporter-led

The world is changing and changing at a rapid pace. Huge advancements in technology have changed us all and critically changed how we interact with the world around us, the charities we support and the commercial brands we buy from. We want things quicker and we demand the very best experiences.

To prepare ourselves for the disruption that is undoubtedly coming we need to look outside of the charity bubble and find inspiration from other organisations who have also experienced rapidly changing business models and thrived.

The Guardian is one of these organisations. Before a revolutionary switch to a membership and contributions model, the newspaper was primarily funded by print subscriptions and advertising.

When this no longer became a sustainable solution, it began exploring alternative options.

The first iteration of its membership scheme launched in 2014 and was primarily an events led programme, before a significant shift in the way its audience was asked to support in 2017, pivoting from memberships to asking readers for contributions.

In late 2018, the Guardian announced that it had received financial contributions from more than one million people around the world over the last three years and in 2019 it announced that it had broken even – the aim of its three-year turnaround plan.

In this Big Room session, Amanda Michel, the Guardian’s Global Director for Contributions will share her experiences from launching and managing this highly successful contributions programme.

Amanda will reveal lessons learnt from her time spearheading these changes and how the Guardian model has become a ‘for-public-good’ newspaper, with readers supporting its journalism through a mixture of recurring and single contributions, print and digital subscriptions and its patrons scheme.


Aimed at:

Nonprofits, charities, news organisations, start-ups, those who work on membership and contributions schemes and programmes.


Learning outcomes:

  • Why the Guardian embraced a mixed model
  • Sources of growth
  • Learnings and implications of being supporter-led.


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Amanda Michel (UK)
Global Director and Senior Product Manager, Contributions, The Guardian
Sara Alfort (Denmark)
Journalist & Community Organiser, Zetland