Journalism nonprofit chief leaves

Posted: July 13, 2013

The founder of a Philadelphia nonprofit journalism start-up has resigned because the cash-strapped organization could no longer afford to retain him as CEO, he announced Thursday.

AxisPhilly, founded in January 2012 by Neil Budde, 57, is facing dim financial prospects and plans to reduce its yearly budget by half. The reduction includes savings from the departure of Budde, a former Wall Street Journal editor who said only that his compensation was aligned with an organization with a $1 million yearly budget. AxisPhilly will now aim for a $500,000 yearly budget, he said.

In its first 16 months, the online-only publication placed an emphasis on data-centric journalism and investigative reporting. It built interactive tools to sift through lobbying data and property-tax values. Weekly visits to the site have been increasing since February.

Despite its promise, the outlet has struggled to meet its initial fund-raising target of $5 million, which Budde said was the up-front amount that similar outlets in other states have needed to raise to survive.

A $2.4 million grant from the William Penn Foundation gave AxisPhilly an initial spark. The Center for Public Interest Journalism at Temple University, which incubates the project, retained $400,000 of that grant.

But the remaining $3 million that Budde expected to raise from individual donors now seems unlikely, he said.

"The organization will continue to need to raise money, but not nearly as much," after his departure, he said.

AxisPhilly, which had nine staffers and two contributors, still has $800,000 of the initial foundation grant, and Budde said he thought the outlet would survive. The new structure of the organization should be determined by summer's end. Simultaneously, AxisPhilly's application for tax-exempt status is being evaluated by the IRS.

Budde also said he expected AxisPhilly to receive a small grant in 2014 from the Wyncote Foundation.


Contact Theodore Schleifer at 215-854-5607, tschleifer@philly.com, or follow @teddyschleifer on Twitter.

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