On February 24th, Russian tanks started openly rolling into Ukraine. Immediately, The Fix’s team – along with our partners Jnomics, Are We Europe, and the Media Development Foundation – started a campaign to save Ukraine’s media.
Over the next months, we raised €3+ million in support for the Ukrainian media sector (not including the €1.8 million we helped raise for Kyiv Independent). We funded the operation of numerous leading national publications in Ukraine, as well as helped with safety and security. The support has been possible thanks to dozens of European media organisations, as well as 15,000+ private donors.
The work is ongoing, but many long days and sleepless nights have already taught us a lot about running a campaign in extreme situations. Here are five lessons we can highlight.
Funding is highly important – but the war showed that, in many cases, money is the least difficult problem. Logistics has been much harder to coordinate.
Where can you buy the equipment necessary? How can you transport it? Which routes are safer than others? What are the customs regulations that might slow you down? Those are some of the questions we’ve been thinking hardest about.
Logistics is a play of multiple inputs and constraints and in our case – limited resources. To achieve impact with resources available, one needs to be agile. Why plan sending three different batches of equipment to three cities in the radius of 150 km if you can send one and ask people on the ground to coordinate it themselves? In these hard times, you need to rely on others, and they usually don’t let you down.
The first days of the war is a chaotic time – it’s hard to collect data on publishers’ needs when they are trying to balance covering the biggest event of their lives with ensuring their personal safety.
We at The Fix were lucky to have background expertise that could inform our work – we’ve had previous experience working with Ukrainian publishers and collecting data from them, such as through our HR benchmarking report. Our partner Media Development Foundation has a network of some 100 regional outlets across Ukraine and has long been working extensively with them.
Thus, we had an understanding of Ukraine’s media market, news organisations’ budgets and typical needs they had to cover.
Military experts say Ukraine’s unexpected success on the battlefield lies in its flexibility and the possibility for junior officers to take initiative – in contrast to Russia’s rigid, centralised decision-making.
We applied the same logic to our fundraising campaign. If you want to move fast and deliver results, you need to have autonomy. There’s no time for all decisions to be run by one leader.
Overall, some two dozens of people worked on supporting Ukrainian media within the coalition run by The Fix and our partners. We divided the work into different streams, with each direction having its team leader empowered to make crucial decisions – crowdfunding, donor fundraising, logistics, communications with media etc.
Regular internal communication, via Slack and other channels, has been key to us staying on the same page and being aligned.
In an extreme situation, many things compete for your attention – requests come in quicker than you can process them. Thus, it’s important to stop and think about what’s most important and what
For us, it’s been launching a GoFundMe campaign, which we published on the second day of Russia’s open invasion. There was a lot of momentum and a lot of willingness to provide financial support to the Ukrainian cause in the first days – which this campaign utilised. Had we launched the GoFundMe campaign a week or two later, we would almost certainly have raised much less money to support Ukrainian media.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been profoundly painful for The Fix’s team on a personal level – some of our team members come from Ukraine, and many others are related to the country.
While it’s important to keep up with news, at some point news consumption becomes toxic and unproductive. We needed to mobilise all mental resources and resist the temptation to constantly check Telegram notifications and Twitter feeds so we could remain productive.
The aim has been to work with calm urgency and not to get sucked into the news.
Learn more about how to join the campaign and help keep Ukraine’s media going.