The Inside Scoop on How to Win a Knight Foundation Journalism Grant

As you read this, somewhere a nonprofit director or grant writer is rigorously poring over some foundation's application guidelines. And while that's all well and good, wouldn't it be even more useful to get application tips from an organization who actually received funding? That's precisely what MediaShift, a digital news site, thought after receiving a $35,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. 

The money will help MediaShift revamp a portion of its web site and explore new collaborative approaches in journalism education. MediaShift got the money and many other organizations did not. But rather than unseemly gloating, MediaShift offered these five tips to like-minded journalism organizations vying for funding:

  1. Embrace constructive disruption. MediaShift notes that journalism is still trapped in the past and that some new and potentially disruptive innovations are needed. Be bold, experiment, and challenge conventional thinking. (Notice we didn't say "constructive destruction.") 
  2. There's no such thing as too much collaboration. Put egos and preconceptions aside. Work with as many groups as possible and acknowledge that you can learn quite a bit from a tech-savvy 18 year old.
  3. Don't limit yourself. Don't fall into a trap by thinking you or your organization lack the time, resources, or expertise to pull off such an experiment. Don't create boundaries for yourself.
  4. Think outside your organizational silo. There are other resources out there to help applications navigate the process, such as Facebook pages and Twitter feeds like #hackcurriculum. Use them early and often. 
  5. Stretch your limits. When it comes to the foundation's journalism funding, one thing is certain: they never fund groups that maintain the status quo. Instead they champion the underdog. If you're a small organization, think and act like a large one. 

The key takeaway here is to embrace risks. Once again, the foundation is aiming at nothing less than a total reinvention of the journalism field. Journalism schools are trapped in the past. The social media revolution is passing them by. "Citizen journalists" need to be empowered and new technologies need to be embraced.

So if your idea "just might be crazy enough to work," you have nothing to lose. Except, in this case, $35,000.