The other important estimate that your project plan will need is a budget. How much will the investigation consume in terms of money and resources? Elements to consider when putting your budget together include travel costs, accommodation and meals (you might also need to provide hospitality for your sources), fees for expert advisers, translators, transcribers or service providers, fees for conducting archive or record searches or getting notarised copies of documents, communication costs (phone, Internet) and photographic costs. If you are working in a team also think about heads’ (e.g., a project manager), workshops and fieldtrips that will need to be included in your budget.
For many small media organisations in developing nations, budgets are tight. The kind of investment major U.S. papers make in investigative projects would be enough to keep the whole newspaper running for a year. In these circumstances, you need to be creative about identifying other sources of support. A good starting point is international donor organisations. Sometimes they have areas of interest that coincide with your investigation. However, beware of donors who push towards their own priority issues. If they are not the same as your own, do not waste time on donors that will not support you. Another possibility is crowdfunding. Fundraising money for general journalistic projects or publications working in the investigative journalism sector has become more popular, but also more difficult.
An overview of potential fellowships and more information about crowdfunding as well as examples of successful projects can be found here:
- Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) - Grants and Fellowships
- GIJN - Crowdfunding
- Fund for Investigative Journalism (FIJ)
Most journalists agree that it is not a good idea to pay sources. The lure of payment can encourage sources to tell lies and exaggerate. Even worse, payment can be used later to retract or discredit the evidence when a source claims that they only provided information because they were offered money. Moreover, paying for stories does not reflect well on your publication’s ethics or your own investigative skills. However, in exceptional circumstances, a paper may compensate a source for working time lost when giving an interview, or for travel or other costs. But even here it is important that both parties are clear what the payment is for, and to pay a low, ‘normal’ rate for the expense. Remind sources that they are not doing you or your paper a personal favour by providing information; rather, they are helping an affected community or society at large.
Bribing an official to gain access is also disreputable. But in some communities, officials have developed a culture of demanding small favours (e.g., ‘dash’, ‘cool-drink’) for doing anything – including opening their offices in the morning! In such climates, you may be unable to work without oiling the wheels of officialdom. Yet, you risk compromising your whole investigation through these trivial payments. However small and routine they are, they are still considered as bribes if the official reveals to his bosses or rival media that you paid them. You should develop a strategy for dealing with these kinds of demands: Think each one through in relation to its circumstances – could you justify it (most importantly, to your readers) if it was challenged later? It is always better to try and secure co-operation by explaining the importance of your work and building allies.