Five Tips for Applying to Press Forward’s First Open Call

By The Press Forward Team

At our recent Information Session, Press Forward and its partners shared a range of insights into our Open Call on Closing Local Coverage Gaps, which is offering small news outlets funding for addressing historic inequities in news coverage across the United States.

Below are a few top tips they shared on applying.

Feel free to pour a cup of coffee and watch the recap video – which includes 45 minutes of Q&A with attendees covering a range of topics.

1. Before you do anything, read the program guidelines.

Available in English and Spanish, the program guidelines drill down into what exactly Press Forward is looking for in applications and how they will be evaluated. The document also includes a hearty section of frequently asked questions.

2.  Paint a picture of your local news outlet 

In addition to the straightforward common application where you complete your organizational profile, the application has three specific questions each news organization must answer in 500 words centered on:

a) the current state of your local news ecosystem,

b) your audience, and

c) how Press Forward funding would impact your organization.

During the session, INN’s Courtney Lewis urged people to translate the bright mosaic that is their news organization into a clear and succinct story that stands above the crowd.

For example, when speaking about audience, news outlets tend to paint a broad picture, saying it includes everyone in a geographic area. Lewis, whose remarks start at the 15-minute mark, urged applicants to provide more detail.

“Out of the entire state or city, what communities or subgroups do you really concentrate your efforts most on?  Another way to tell your story about audience is to tell reviewers the story about what they care about… What issues are they grappling with as residents, and then how do you know…

Do you take or do you capture surveys? Do you host community meetings? And when you’re interacting with people, what are they telling you that they need – and more importantly how are you meeting that need?”

Lewis cited Enlace North Carolina, whose about page talks specifically about focusing on the state’s Hispanic community, providing coverage on politics, government, immigration and community affairs as a way to “encourage them to be more involved in the social and economic changes that benefit their community.”

3. Evaluate your newsroom through LION’s Sustainability Index. 

When reviewing applications, Press Forward will be looking at several criteria, including an organization’s path to sustainability. Using LION Publishers’ framework as its base, Press Forward is looking to support organizations with a clear plan for using the funding to develop and maintain a business model long-term.

LION’s Chris Krewson said applicants should look at the three pillars  – operational resilience, financial health and journalistic impact – and evaluate their strengths. Then, in the application, particularly in question three, news organizations can talk about the progress they have made towards those goals and how the grant would advance their progress.

4. Applicants have access to two sessions with fundraising coaches – on two different topics. 

Because the applicant pool includes likely new and first-time grantseekers, Press Forward is working with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism to offer applicants up to two, 30-minute sessions with fundraising coaches.

Applicants can sign-up for these sessions, which have two offerings: A strategy session, where the coach will offer guidance and support on how to position your organization, and 2) an application review, where the coach will review a draft application and offer specific feedback.

You can sign up here for a session, and learn more about this offering from Lenfest’s Annie McCain Madonia and Yossi Lichterman in the information session video.  

Applicants also have access to Lenfest’s online course, Intro to Grant Writing, which covers a range of topics from research to relationship-building and crafting the perfect proposal.

5. If you plan to apply, start the application now.

All applicants need to start by filling out an organizational profile on our grant platform JustFund. Getting approved can take up to 48 hours, so don’t wait until the last minute to start the process

Start your profile today and get the ball rolling. Then hit submit by 11:59 ET/ 8:59 PT June 12.

Finally, if you have any last minute questions that need answering, sign-up for our Q&A session on June 3.

Best of luck!

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