What We Fund

We seek out social entrepreneurs who share our belief that local news is a public good and are leading civic news organizations positioned for growth.

What is a civic news organization? A civic news organization, or CNO, is a local news organization distinguished by its public service mission and commitment to meeting the critical information needs of the community — in areas such as government, environment, education, social and criminal justice, or public health. CNOs are supported by a mix of commercial media tactics and sophisticated charitable fundraising.

As we build our portfolio of CNOs to receive investment and intensive support, our aim is to help catalyze transitions to multiple and sustainable revenue streams, while significantly growing local philanthropic support for news. We will primarily fund capacity for CNOs to generate new revenue — including salaries, technology and overhead costs.

To be considered for an AJP grant, organizations must be independent nonprofit organizations, or intending to become nonprofit organizations.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The American Journalism Project believes that every community deserves access to high quality local news.

We especially encourage inquiries from CNOs that are led by and serve traditionally underrepresented communities. We know there are great entrepreneurs and CNOs who won’t fit everything described in the rubric below or who provide important public service to their communities that we have not considered.

Who We’re Looking For

While we will consider proposals from a wide range of organizations, we expect all grantees selected for our CNO portfolio to share these core criteria:

  • Be Mission-Driven

    Our goal is to catalyze the next generation of local public-service media. Our grantees’ top priority must be their public-service mission.

  • Offer A Core Product Free to All

    We believe the core product of public service journalism must be free to the public and abide by the highest standards of editorial independence.

  • Do High-Quality Local News

    Local to us means CNOs at the state, city, or regional level that both operate in and serve the information needs of those markets or communities.

  • Have Local Financial Backing

    We expect organizations to have local philanthropic support and work with us to further grow that support. Startup CNOs should have at least two years of funding in place or committed. The American Journalism Project will not be the sole or majority funder.

  • Look Like The Public We Serve

    Diversity, equity and inclusion are core American Journalism Project values and our grantees must have or be building a culture in which these values are reflected throughout their operations.

  • Aspire To Grow

    Grantees must want to and be ready to significantly grow their revenue and programming in service to their mission.

Is the American Journalism Project a good fit?

The American Journalism Project began making grants to local news organizations in 2019, focusing our investments on business and operational capacity so that nonprofit local news organizations can build sustainable and scalable models to serve communities. We have invested in 20 tremendous local news organizations that represent a wide cross section of demographics. AJP is committed to supporting a portfolio of grantees that looks like the public it serves; our portfolio’s leadership is 55% people of color and 65% women. Grantees are diverse in model, geography and communities served, and between them they represent a variety of approaches to addressing the growing needs of our country. You can read more about our current grantees here.

AJP believes that as the commercial local news sector rapidly declines, nonprofit news will have to scale to meet the growing need for original local reporting and to rebuild a local news ecosystem that is more equitable, diverse and driven by communities’ information needs. We are therefore prioritizing providing growth capital to organizations with a viable plan to dramatically increase the scale of their organizations in pursuit of meeting these needs. 

Organizations seeking grants must have a track record of being driven by meeting their communities’ information needs, and they must have the vision and ambition to grow significantly to become a primary source of local original reporting for their communities. We recognize that what “primary source” means will vary depending on the local news ecosystem; it can be a collaborative vision, and it must ultimately be rooted in growing to meet the currently unmet critical information needs of the diverse communities in the geographies served. We are currently prioritizing organizations serving or seeking to serve regions that are either an entire state or a large population area.

We are also inviting letters of inquiry this quarter from national, topical and regional (extending beyond one state) nonprofit news organizations that are planning to grow their investments in original local journalism and demonstrate a clear commitment to serving local audiences. We will support organizations that have credible paths to unlocking new, incremental funding sources for local news and will grow their local news strategies across numerous geographies. 

Please take a look at our rubric, which outlines seven additional areas for organizations to strengthen in partnership with AJP. We do not expect organizations to be strong across all rubric criteria, but we do expect them to have a compelling track record and demonstrate a commitment toward strengthening each area outlined.

Download the AJP Criteria Rubric PDF


If your organization meets our core criteria and is aligned with our rubric and our current call for inquiries, we invite you to submit a letter of inquiry form. AJP makes multiyear funding commitments on a rolling basis; for consideration for funding in 2021, please keep in mind the following deadlines:

  • We will be largely focused on grants to national, regional and topically focused organizations over the next few months with the aim of announcing grantees around the end of the third quarter of 2021. The deadline to submit a letter of inquiry for funding for this year for organizations in these categories is June 7.
  • We aim to focus on grants to place-based local news organizations in the fall with the aim of announcing grantees toward the end of the year. You may submit a letter of inquiry for a grant whenever you are ready, but to be considered for a grant by the end of 2021, please submit your form by July 12.

Connect with Us

If you don’t fully meet our criteria or our current grantmaking priorities, but you are working on an initiative that you think we should know about, please reach out via this form. Our team can’t respond to every inquiry we receive, but we always appreciate hearing about initiatives from those working to strengthen the local news field.

LOI link is here

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