While Circle of Blue’s scope includes many disciplines, its core is based upon the journalistic principle of the Fourth Estate, in which self-governed societies function optimally when served by a free and responsible press that informs, engages and inspires. Any valid consideration of vital issues such as water must begin with a comprehensive, fair and compassionate assessment and documentation.
As a non-profit organization, Circle of Blue relies on contributions, both in-kind and monetary, from multiple outside sources, but preserves a “church and state” separation between sponsors and content. While donors may choose to fund a particular aspect of a program, project, site, newsletter, or event, they participate with the understanding that their funding will not influence the content. With respect to journalistic ethics questions, Circle of Blue refers to the National Public Radio Code of Ethics and Practices, WGBH-TV standards and the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.

Circle of Blue’s Sponsorship Policy

Prologue: Trust

Circle of Blue, is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit journalism organization that prizes, above all else, its reputation for impartial, high-quality reportage and assessments, and its ability to inform policymakers and the public with with trust and clarity. Funding for Circle of Blue comes from various sources, ranging from foundation and government grants to individual donations and corporate contributions. Circle of Blue is not influenced or discouraged from its mission to report the widest of issues by its funders or funding sources.

General Support

Unrestricted foundation, corporate or other general support donations of any kind that are made in support of Circle of Blue operations are welcome.
Donations are subject to review by Circle of Blue staff and, where deemed, by the Circle of Blue Board of Directors, to ensure that there will be no undue influence on our activities and that the donation will not adversely affect Circle of Blue’s reputation for independence. Under no circumstances will donors of any kind be allowed to edit, redraft, or hinder publications or other Circle of Blue products. Contributions may in no way limit or put unspoken expectations on actions Circle of Blue may take, research we may publish, or positions we may advocate.

Fee-For-Service

Unrestricted foundation, corporate or other general support donations of any kind that are made in support of Circle of Blue operations are welcome.
Some reportage and/or activities by Circle of Blue – and recommendations based on that work – are explicitly relevant for companies. Where appropriate, we work to ensure that businesses hear and understand what we recommend and report. We also use our work to inform governments and corporation policies. On occasion, we will accept and even solicit work from corporations on a fee-for-service basis when we retain complete control over the analysis and final products. Under no circumstances will Circle of Blue accept funding for the purpose of enhancing the image of a corporation or influencing policy in a direction antithetical to the results of our analysis. All information and/or research gathered from a corporate donor’s support will remain part of the public domain.

Newsletter, Content and Event Underwriting

Some content packaging, such as Circle of Blue newsletters, and events, such as H2O Catalyst broadcasts and convenings, many receive underwriting support from companies, foundations, governments, and other organizations. This underwriting draws on processes and policies from National Public Radio and the U.S. Public Broadcasting System. “Acknowledgments are strictly for identification of donors and should not promote the company, products, or services of the donor.” All Circle of Blue content and all editorial decisions related to the distribution and channels are the sole responsibility of the Circle of Blue staff. 

Screening Process

Circle of Blue will neither seek nor accept corporate, foundation, or other funding that may create a conflict of interest for Circle of Blue and/or its academic, research, and or other partners, or whose practices are directly and intentionally in conflict with Circle of Blue goals. This policy, however, permits Circle of Blue to accept funds from excluded corporations when an individual employee makes a gift that triggers a matching gift from the corporation. When determining whether to accept support from specific corporations, Circle of Blue will review the type of support offered, the products and outcomes expected, if any, and the reputation of the source of support. Senior staff of Circle of Blue will be asked for their opinions, which will be considered in a final decision by the managing director and the board where deemed necessary. The managing director together with the board of directors will evaluate corporate contributions greater than 10 percent of estimated annual income, or from any sources for which serious concerns have been raised. In addition, an ad hoc committee comprised of staff, board, and outside participants may be formed to both review specific cases and to recommend refinements of this policy. Circle of Blue recognizes that the activities of many corporations change rapidly, and that we will periodically need to update information about corporate donors. We encourage our staff and others to provide information about corporate activities that they believe has bearing on this policy.

Additional Guidance

Circle of Blue policy states unequivocally that the board and staff  shall not permit any donor to influence or determine the content of any project or activity. Donors shall have no control over things like:
  • the development of Circle of Blue’s strategic plans or work plans;
  • which projects and activities Circle of Blue undertakes, and which issues the Circle of Blue researches and analyzes;
  • the content of any Circle of Blue publication, either in paper or in electronic format;
  • the attendance at, participation in, or agenda of any Circle of Blue event;
  • the solicitation of funds by Circle of Blue from other sources.

Corporate Donations Policies Reviewed in Preparation for this Policy