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Dear reader, 

We’re deep into our work designing a comprehensive guide to membership in news, which will feature advice, best practices, case studies, and templates to help newsrooms develop and sustain membership programs and memberful routines. 

There are two topics tackled in that guide where we could use your input today: the tools you’re using to support your membership program, and how you’ve distributed membership tasks within your organization. 

In our last newsletter, we shared new research by media consultant and former Membership in News Fund coach Emma Carew Grovum outlining key tech stack considerations for member-driven newsrooms. Now we’re working with News Catalyst to understand what tools member-driven newsrooms are using. We’ll be offering a crowd-sourced list in the membership guide, while News Catalyst will be evaluating the pros and cons of some of those most commonly used. 

Fill out this form to let us know what tools we should include.  

The other thing we’re collecting today is job descriptions for roles supporting membership. The role doesn’t need to have “membership” in its title. We want to hear the many ways newsrooms have staffed their membership efforts, from hiring an executive level membership editor all the way to outsourcing most of their membership work to a consultancy. 

If you have a job description or collection of job descriptions that capture your newsroom’s membership “jobs to be done,” we’d love to see them. You can send them to submissions@membershippuzzle.orgOur goal in collecting these is to offer a series of example job descriptions in the membership guide that newsrooms can adapt for their needs.

Some of the DoR team in Târgu Mureș. Credit: Mihai Ciobanu
Conversations about membership often focus on very tactical things, as demonstrated by our questions above. Getting that right is critical to success, but equally important is something much harder to accomplish: cultivating a membership mindset across the whole organization, to address not just revenue challenges, but trust and listening challenges as well.

That’s why Membership Puzzle Project supported Decat o Revista’s effort to design and implement a curriculum that would help their journalists become stronger community facilitators as the organization shifted to membership. Today, we’ll share what DoR did and how it’s changed the way their team does journalism. 

We supported DoR’s “memberful” curriculum through our Membership in News Fund, which greenlights promising experiments with membership and audience engagement around the world. That means we gave DoR funding, access to a learning community, and venture support for this project. 
Over the course of a couple months in 2019, DoR brought in experts on topics such as neuroscience, facilitation, and social change to train DoR’s journalists for their new roles as facilitators of community. 

They began practicing these new skills in a lightweight way by holding regular, casual gatherings in their newsroom. Between 10 and 50 readers came to each, joining discussions on topics such as rural development, domestic violence, and mental health. 

After the DoR team got comfortable with the new role, they took those skills on the road, first to a music festival, where they hosted eight hours of conversations with young Romanians. Then they held a week-long pop-up newsroom in Transylvania. Over the course of summer and fall of 2019, they spent a total of a month reporting alongside residents in the region of Vaslui, culminating in an evening of community storytelling organized and promoted by DoR. 

You can read about it in detail on DoR's Medium profile.


When we interviewed DoR for the Membership in News Fund, their founder and editor Cristian Lupsa said something that stuck with us (paraphrased): membership is a relationship business, and journalists need a new set of skills to build these relationships. He’s right. But many organizations skip this step and jump straight to the more tactical aspects of membership, such as choosing a CRM or designing their member-only newsletter.

We think DoR’s curriculum offers a blueprint to other news organizations who are seeking inspiration for bringing relationship-building skills like facilitation, listening, and self-care to their own teams. 

We also appreciate that they began testing these skills in lightweight, low-pressure ways with the small newsroom gatherings, building up to the work in Vaslui over many months. That test-and-learn mindset is another best practice for building membership. 


While the pandemic put a halt to the in-person gatherings for the time being, the training positioned DoR to empathetically hold space for their community as they navigated the crisis.

Cristian Lupsa writes in the overview of their curriculum and how they applied it: 

“After everything we’ve learned over the past year, it seems natural we responded to the pandemic the way we did: adjusting the work to a new reality without abandoning the mission. But I don’t think it would have been as easy to do if we didn’t have the language to discuss our fears as things around us changed, to understand that these feelings exist among our audience as well, and to know how to respond to them with an invitation to conversation.

Learning how we’re wired, how we operate as human beings, and how different people communicate is essential to listening. Practicing our new facilitation and moderation skills built courage to adopt the new roles we are expected to play as journalists today.”

All the best,

Ariel Zirulnick
Fund Director
P.S. When coronavirus hit, expats in Europe struggled to find clarity about the virus and lockdown rules where they lived. The Local Europe – which serves expats via nine English-language sites throughout Europe – stepped up to offer that, and grew to 26,000 supporters this spring as a result. The European Journalism Centre breaks down the steps they took.
The Membership Puzzle Project runs from May 2017 until May 2020. We will regularly publish our findings on our site

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