Collaborative project grants announced for Newark organizations to fill community information need gaps

One of the things the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University has found through its work studying collaborative journalism is that small, one-time collaborative reporting projects are critical to the overall growth and development of healthy news ecosystems.

That’s because collaborative reporting projects not only generally produce good journalism that otherwise wouldn’t have happened, they build relationships, trust and muscle memory—and they usually lead to even better, deeper, longer-term partnerships.

Through the Peer Learning + Collaboration Fund, Center staff have organized workshops in select U.S. cities to discuss concepts of healthy, connected news ecosystems and the vital role that collaboration plays in them. We’ve encouraged local funders in those cities to make grant funding available after the workshop to incentivize news organizations to work together. Local partners in our first Peer Fund cities, Cleveland and Akron, built a coalition and a pot of more than $100,000 in funding to support local collaborative projects. In Oklahoma City, more than $40,000 was made available through the Center for local collaborations.

In Newark, our third Peer Fund city, we’re excited to announce that $45,000 is now available to organizations to collaborate on projects that address information needs gaps identified in the city through a recent Outlier Media survey. This funding is provided thanks to support from The Nicholson Foundation and Victoria Foundation.

The Outlier Media survey found that severe information gaps exist in Newark when it comes to information about COVID-19, food, shelter and utilities. These grants will support projects that directly address those and other needs identified in the survey.

We’re also happy to welcome to the Center Kenny Miles, a local writer and founding partner of 3rd Space, a boutique coworking space in Newark. Kenny will coordinate the Newark funding opportunity and provide coaching to applicants on behalf of the Center. Kenny will host open office hours for anyone who has questions about the grants during the month of September; you can join him during the weeks of Sept. 14 and Sept. 21 on Mondays 8-10am , Tuesdays 10am-2pm or Fridays 4-6pm by emailing him at mrkennethmiles@gmail.com.

We hope the projects that are funded will assist in the development of the Newark News and Story Collaborative, an effort being led by Brit Harley at WBGO in partnership with Free Press. And we encourage all applicants to also consider being part of Creative New Jersey’s upcoming Call to Collaboration in Newark, which will be hosted in mid-October.

We intend to support meaningful and impactful collaborations among Newark-based news outlets, community organizations and individuals, which we believe will help the growth of a healthy, connected news ecosystem there. Projects led by people of color will be prioritized, as will those that clearly address an information need gap in an innovative and likely impactful way.

The funding application process opens today, Sept. 3, 2020, and the window for applying closes at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. Award winners will be notified by Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, and funding will be disbursed within 30 days after the selected projects complete required financial paperwork. Projects should aim to begin by November and ideally be completed within three months.

Each proposed project must identify one person to serve as the main point of contact (i.e. the project manager) for the project.

All applications will be judged based on scoring from a set of eight objective criteria and three subjective criteria.

The objective criteria are weighted to favor projects that are led by people of color, organizations that directly serve people of color, those that self-identify as having a high financial need, and those that involve organizations and people who are based in or live in Newark.

The subjective criteria consider how the project addresses an information need gap in an innovative way meant to achieve impact; how well the project includes the community; and the overall strength of the application.

The subjective criteria will be judged by an outside panel of three judges, none of whom will be part of any project. Our judges include:

  • Alexandra Bernard Simmons
    Founder and CEO of Think Like a Boss, an award-winning women empowerment podcaster, author and community organizer
  • Tyneisha K. Gibbs
    Founder & Principal, 144th & Vine LLC
  • Manny Faces
    Award-winning new media journalist, content creator, podcast professional, independent scholar, and public speaker.

Click here or click the button below to begin the application process.

Frequently asked questions

The following list of FAQs should answer nearly every question you may have about the grants for Newark collaborative projects through the Peer Learning + Collaboration Fund, but if we didn’t anticipate your question, email us at peerfund@collaborativejournalism.org.

How much money can I request?

In total, we have $45,000 to distribute in Newark. We anticipate that projects will be funded in general ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 each, although you are welcome to make a lower or higher request. We will do our best to accommodate the financial needs of the selected projects. If your project is selected but we can’t fund it entirely and maintain equity for other awardees, we’ll reach out to talk to you about what is possible. Note that it’s very likely that your project will cost more in total than this grant can cover. We encourage you to have open, honest conversations with your collaborators about what each partner can contribute in-kind. (Be sure to think about equity when you are considering how to distribute the grant funding, too.) You could also seek out additional outside funding to support your work.

Are there limitations on what the grant funding may be used for?

Yes, there are some limitations, but not many. The funding must be used to directly support execution of the proposed collaborative reporting project. That can include covering costs related to staffing, acquisition of data, software, printing or other creation of physical artifacts, events, travel or a variety of other similar direct costs. The funding can not be used for lobbying efforts, to directly influence legislation, to influence the outcome of a public election or to carry on a voter registration drive. If you have any more questions about this, the Center’s staff is happy to discuss your concerns.

How quickly will we get the funding if we are awarded a grant?

We intend to notify our grant winners by Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. At that time you’ll be asked to supply additional documentation, including a W-9 for the organization(s) that will receive the funding and Montclair State’s vendor paperwork, which can be found at bit.ly/MSUnewsupplier. After your paperwork is complete, your funding should arrive within 30 days.

Can you disburse a grant to multiple organizations, or will only one organization be expected to receive and then further distribute the money?

We can divide up and disburse the grant funding to multiple organizations per project, if that makes things easier for you. Please note that on the application, under the questions “Is there anything else you want us to know about your project?”

Do I have to be a nonprofit to receive the grant funding?

No, you do not.

Are individuals or sole proprietors eligible to apply?

Yes, as long as they are part of a collaborative effort.

Can a collaborative group comprised solely of individuals or sole proprietors apply?

Yes.

Can we put in applications for multiple projects?

An organization may be named as a collaborator on multiple grant applications, but people from the same organization may not be named as the project manager on multiple grant applications. This is to ensure fairness and that a wide variety of organizations are engaged in these experimental collaborative projects.

Can we have multiple project managers?

You are welcome to have as many project managers in reality as you like, but your project must name one individual as the project manager for the sake of the grant process. Note that research by the Center has found that the most successful collaborations employ one sole project manager (a third party is best, but that’s not often feasible for temporary, smaller projects such as what we’re aiming to fund here).

What if our project won’t be completed within three months?

Your project must at least begin to be publicly published, broadcast, streamed or otherwise disseminated within three months. If you run into issues, let the Center know.

What happens if one of our partners backs out?

This is an unfortunate reality that many collaborative projects struggle with. If you are awarded funding and a partner later backs out, the Center will work with you to finding new partners. If you are unable to secure new partners and the project becomes infeasible, you will be asked to return the grant money and the Center will award it to another applicant.

Can you help us formulate our project?

Yes! The Center will offer coaching sessions during open office hours, which will be hosted by Kenny Miles over two weeks in September. You can join him during the weeks of Sept. 14 and Sept. 21 on Mondays 8-10am , Tuesdays 10am-2pm or Fridays 4-6pm by emailing him at mrkennethmiles@gmail.com. We are also offering a series of worksheets and examples from another collaborative projects at collaborativejournalism.org/newarkworkshop. (Note that using the Center’s coaching services doesn’t count toward your objective scores for the grant application and won’t influence the final decisions.)

Is there anyone who could help us execute our project if we need extra help?

Yes. The Center can provide limited support and coaching for grant winners as needed; Kenny will work with you to coordinate this should you need it. While we aim to avoid directly managing your project, we can certainly support you in many other ways, including coaching on project management, documentation and execution.

Worksheets to help you plan collaborative efforts

Once you get to the point where you’re working together with other organizations to sketch out collaborative efforts to address information need gaps identified in the Outlier Media survey, the following worksheets may help you with some basics.

Project outline

Use this worksheet to outline your collaborative project. The series of questions on the worksheet will walk you through the basics of building a collaboration. This is just for brainstorming, and is not all-encompassing, so let the ideas flow!

Project budget

Use this worksheet to create a budget for your project. When you budget, don’t forget about expenses related to meetings, marketing, software, obtaining data, tracking impact, etc. Some of these things may be required if you are applying for grant funding.

Success + impact metrics

Use this worksheet to outline and plan for what success looks like. To ensure your project is successful, you’ll want to think about what success looks like when you’re first starting to map out the project.

Risk mitigation

To ensure your project is successful, you’ll need to openly acknowledge, discuss and plan for risks that could derail it. By having an honest conversation about what could cause the project to fail, you’ll naturally start to think about how you could restructure the plan to avoid those risks.

 


 

Want to learn more about collaborative journalism? You can subscribe to our collaborative journalism newsletter for more updates and information. And of course, we invite you to visit collaborativejournalism.org to learn more about the topic of collaborative journalism — including our growing database of collaborative journalism projects, which is currently being updated.

Stefanie Murray is director of the Center for Cooperative Media. Contact her at murrayst@montclair.edu. 

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.