Need funding? Hot tips on getting through our grant process

Irma Simpson

Irma Simpson

Does your nonprofit news project involve interacting with and growing your audience, with a potential for making money?

Does it need funding?

If so, the INNovation Fund— a partnership between the Investigative News Network and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation—wants to hear your pitch. Its third grant round is now open and we’re looking for innovative, experimental and replicable ready-to-go projects promoting audience engagement and creating gateways to business sustainability.

You can access the application for Round 3 here. Heads up: Applications must be submitted by midnight (pacific time) on Monday, March 2.

Sixteen projects have already been funded out of nearly 200 applications over the course of two rounds in the last 12 months. Not every proposal is a home run, but we hope to share some tips that could help your project land on top of the pile.

  • Think outside the box. We try to choose projects that are truly innovative. If your project is an iteration of something that’s been done before, we want to know how it will be different and why you expect to learn something unique. Two key words to keep in mind are experimental and replicable.  We are looking for ideas that have the best potential to work and will be adaptable in other nonprofit news organizations.
  • Identify clear and quantifiable goals. Nothing spells conviction more than a clear set of goals aligned with the purpose of the grant: engagement and business sustainability. Tell us how you plan to measure success and independently verify it.
  • Be clear and thorough in your budget. How exactly will every dollar will be earned and spent? If the cost of your project is beyond your asking amount, be clear and transparent about where the rest of the money is coming from. Projects that lack a plan to fund the entire project or anticipate funding not yet secured will likely be rejected.
  • Aim for business ideas, not just journalism: The INNovation Fund is looking for experimentation in engagement and sustainability. Many journalism projects merit funding, but we’re looking for those that enhance and hopefully advance the business side of nonprofit news.
  • Get advice from past winners. Review their summaries and check their progress to date on

Irma Simpson is a fundraising consultant to the Investigative News Network. Follow her on twitter.