Do you have ideas for news ways government and accountability journalism can reflect the needs of local communities? The American Press Institute is now accepting applications from local news organizations for small-project funding to do this kind of work. Eligible local news outlets can apply for funds through August 6, 2021 in amounts from $2,500 up to $10,000 USD.
The funding is available as part of API’s Local News Ideas-to-Action Series, a new effort to help journalists listen to their communities and learn from leading audience and engagement professionals, test ideas, and execute experiments in their coverage of local governance.
API is interested in supporting projects that promote greater community engagement and participation in the reporting process on issues related to government and public accountability, including though not limited to the project ideas listed below:
- Projects that seek to identify what local community members know, don’t know, and what they’d like to know about local government and policy and offer reporting that responds to those information needs.
- Projects that help audiences understand how local government operates, including the responsibilities, decision making procedures, budgets, and outcomes of government agencies and officials and their rights, obligations, and opportunities as community members.
- Projects that help locals “navigate” interactions with public systems, like accessing unemployment benefits, making vaccine appointments, or understanding issues with their utility bills.
- Projects that facilitate discussion among and between broad groups of community members about local challenges and possible solutions to those issues that can build trust, inform future coverage, or expand audiences and relationships to reflect more of the community.
- Projects that offer consistent reporting on community efforts and opportunities to address local problems.
For additional project ideas and inspiration, see our project resources page.
To apply, please complete the application below. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Applications are due by 5pm ET on Friday, August 6, 2021. Funding decisions will be made by Friday, August 13, 2021, with applicants notified shortly thereafter.
All U.S. local news organizations, either nonprofit or commercial, are eligible to apply. We welcome applications from news organizations of any size, including daily or weekly newspapers, public or commercial radio, TV, digital-only news sites, or other non-traditional news and information formats, and those serving urban, suburban or rural populations, including specific ethnic, racial or religious demographics. We will also consider applications from individuals leading or launching their own news organization or who are working with an established news organization.
EXPECTATIONS AND PARTICIPATION
In line with API’s mission, funding recipients must be comfortable sharing insights for other news organizations. Newsrooms receiving funding must submit two brief reports to the American Press Institute by Friday, January 7: 1) a short memo of lessons from their activities, and 2) a brief financial report. They will also be asked to participate in at least 2 of 3 learning calls among funding recipients during Fall 2021.
HOW MUCH FUNDING CAN WE REQUEST?
We’re looking to fund support requests in the range of $2,500 to $10,000. We may consider smaller or larger requests in special circumstances. Larger requests may be considered if they involve multiple news organizations. Funding must be reserved for activities from the time of disbursement until November 30, 2021. API expects to select five to ten applicants to receive project funding.
HOW MAY FUNDS BE SPENT?
Funding is intended to support projects that prioritize needs of local communities in accountability and government reporting. Funds can be spent on direct project expenses, including but not limited to staff time, freelancer fees, technology or event expenses. No funds should be used for an organization’s general and administrative expenses. No funds may be used for lobbying or other political activities. Unspent funds will be returned to API. Records are subject to audit at API’s expense and should be retained. Specific terms will be laid out in an official funding agreement.
HOW WILL PROJECTS BE EVALUATED?
API staff will evaluate project proposals against the following criteria:
- The project audience is clearly defined and demonstrates a strong understanding of the audience.
- The information needs of the audience are clearly defined and based on research, prior engagement or other evidence.
- The news organization or individual demonstrates the capacity to reach and serve the defined audience.
- The project has the potential to meaningfully benefit the defined audience.
- The project, in whole or part, demonstrates the potential to be sustained beyond the funding period (August – November 2021).
Please submit your application by 5pm ET on Friday, August 6, 2021
You may copy and paste the questions below for drafting responses outside of the application form.
- Please briefly describe your news organization and its current coverage of local governance issues.
- Describe a project or reporting effort you’d like to begin or expand.
- How much do you estimate this project will cost? How will project funds be spent?
- Briefly describe the audience you aim to reach with this project. Why do you want to serve the specific audience you’ve defined here?
- How will you reach that audience?
- What challenges might you face in reaching and serving this audience? What will you do to overcome those challenges?
- What does success look like for this project? How will you measure that?
- How might you sustain this (or a similar effort) after the funding period?
- What would you learn through this experiment that may help you expand this (or a similar effort) after the funding period?
- Please add anything else you’d like us to know.