From a statewide civic forum to a mobile app for veterans to share their stories, the latest round of the INNovation Fund features a wide and diverse range of projects. Established with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the INNovation Fund supports projects proposed by nonprofit news organizations to advance business innovation and experimentation in their newsrooms. With two rounds already under its belt, the Institute for Nonprofit News announced eight winners in this third round for a total of $223,810 in funding.
“We are pleased with the depth and breadth of these awards that reflect the enthusiasm with which INN members embrace innovation,” said Brant Houston, chair of the INN board, in a press release. “And we thank the Knight Foundation for their crucial support that helps our members advance in the digital journalism world.”
Denise Malan, interim CEO of INN, says the fund helps nonprofit newsrooms find new and interesting ways of engaging audiences, building membership, and developing revenue streams. These projects, she says, will become models for other newsrooms looking to move toward long-term sustainability.
“The most unique aspect of these grants is that the Knight Foundation and INN wanted to fund experiments so that other newsrooms can learn from successes and even from projects that don’t quite work out,” she said in an email.
Due to a shifting media landscape, traditional news outlets have faced much adversity in recent years, cutting staff and coverage as profits continue to decline and audiences continue to shrink. With this decline in traditional media, however, comes opportunity for the nonprofit news sector.
“Nonprofit newsrooms are independent, innovative, and invested in their communities, and they are helping fill the need for more engaging and more impactful news,” Malan said. “Through the INNovation Fund, we’re happy to be able to support exploration of new ways to build audiences and revenue so they can continue to produce that kind of news.”
Meet the Winners
Banyan Project: $35,000 to create a digital tool that fosters engagement in the comments section of a news site and ultimately create a paid membership model around it.
Connecticut Health Investigative Team: $20,000 to plan a day-long health fair targeting a quarter-million new consumers of health insurance in Connecticut, many of whom are not taking advantage of the annual wellness check benefit.
Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE): $30,610 to begin a membership program that both sustains the topical nonprofit’s work in the long term and creates a mutually beneficial, customized relationship with specific subsets of the specialized, mostly professional audience working in juvenile justice, tied to their individual financial capability and interests.
Investigative Post: $35,000 to leverage its social media reach using paid Facebook and Twitter posts and see whether this is a legitimate and financially feasible approach to building audience loyalty for a regional nonprofit news brand.
New Jersey Spotlight: $35,000 to stage a one-day, multi-tracked event entitled “The Symposium for NJ Cities” which will convene local, state, and perhaps national leaders along with interested citizens to share plans, success stories and discuss needs of major New Jersey cities on a multitude of critical civic issues.
Seattle Globalist: $17,200 to organize a series of community media training workshops on a variety of skills.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting: $31,000 to develop a mobile app, Stories for Service, that will enable younger military veterans of war in Iraq and Afghanistan to use the camera, text and recording features to record their story.
WyoFile: $20,000 to conduct a “road show” to far-flung parts of Wyoming to greatly expand their audience.
This is the third of four grant rounds of the INNovation Fund. Applications for the final round will open August 3, 2015.
Meg Dalton (@megdalts) is the associate editor of PBS MediaShift and Idea Lab.