MacArthur Foundation: Grants for Journalism

OVERVIEW: MacArthur's grantmaking in public interest media is one of its longest-running and most widely-recognized areas of work. Its support of documentaries and news programs aimed at informing audiences about important social issues is part of the foundation's broader mission and goes hand in hand with many of its other program fields.

IP TAKE: MacArthur has undergone restructuring recently, phasing out work in different areas, but funding for journalism and media has survived as one of its "enduring commitments."

PROFILE: With assets of over $6 billion, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is an impossible-to-ignore funder in the world of philanthropy. The foundation seeks to “[build] a more just, verdant, and peaceful world” by working “to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.” It supports journalism through its Journalism and Media program.

The MacArthur Foundation's Journalism and Media program broadly aims to "strengthen American democracy by informing, engaging, and activating Americans through deep investments in independent journalism and media." This funder transparently describes its grantmaking on its website, and all grant seeker research should start there. Begin by reading this strategy statement and then explore the detailed grantmaking guidelines for this program.

MacArthur only supports journalism organizations, not individual journalists and documentarians. It prioritizes three main areas:

  • Professional Nonprofit Reporting - This includes organizations that carry out nonprofit journalism in the US, address issues and challenges facing journalists, and support the infrastructure for journalism education and innovation.
  • Nonfiction Multimedia Storytelling - This includes organizations that fund, produce and distribute nonfiction narratives on contemporary social issues and that train, support, and provide infrastructure for people creating such narratives.
  • Civic Media - This includes organizations that support the use of media by organizations and individuals to bring about social change.

Since the mid-1980s, MacArthur has supported over 300 documentary projects: a cumulative investment of $50 million. However, currently it only supports filmmaking through its partner organizations, some of which, including the Sundance Institute and the Tribeca Film Institute, offer funding and support directly to individuals. 

Grants from the MacArthur Foundation are often substantial, in the hundreds of thousands or more, and can be searched in the foundation’s grants database

The foundation does not accept unsolicited applications, but inquiries may be sent here.

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