Community Listening and Engagement Fund

The Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF) is a new grant-making initiative to help news organizations produce more relevant and trusted coverage for the diverse audiences they serve. The fund will subsidize the costs for newsrooms to adopt tools designed for this purpose. CLEF initially supported Hearken and GroundSource exclusively for the first two rounds of funding. CLEF now also supports the Listening Post Collective’s Membership Program, the Coral Project’s “Talk” and DocumentCloud & MuckRock.

CLEF was created by The News Integrity Initiative (NII), the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

More information about CLEF, the application process, and the Listening Post Collective Membership Program, the Coral Project’s “Talk” and DocumentCloud & MuckRock services are available below:


Name: Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF for short)

What is it? A fund to help news organizations better listen to, engage and produce more relevant and differentiated content for the public they serve by using models, tools and consulting designed for this purpose.

Who is it for? U.S. based newsrooms (or international newsrooms with a U.S.-based fiscal sponsor) that are interested in and ready to put into practice proven models, methods and workflows for listening to and building trust with the public. CLEF will help subsidize the cost of services that have a track record of helping newsrooms accomplish these goals: the Coral Project’s Talk, DocumentCloud & MuckRock, and the Listening Post Collective’s training, information ecosystem assessments and consulting.

Here is a full list of the first 34 newsrooms to receive support from CLEF. You can learn more about the second cohort of 18 newsrooms here.

How much do these services cost and how much is subsidized? The cost and subsidy amounts vary by tool:

  • Coral Project’s Talk: The average annual hosting cost for “Talk” is $24,000, plus an additional $2,000 in integration fees, but these amounts can vary based on a variety of factors. This subsidy will cover between 25-90% of the hosting cost for the first year, plus a $500 stipend toward the integration costs.
  • The Listening Post Collective: For this program, cost will be $15,000 for the six months of audience engagement consulting and either an information ecosystem assessment or three-day training on-site, plus up to $2,500 for implementation of the project by the newsroom. The grant will cover the $15,000 cost of the consulting, plus provide $500 toward the cost of project implementation.
  • DocumentCloud & MuckRock: The average annual cost for DocumentCloud or MuckRock is $2,500 The subsidy will cover between 25-75% of the cost.

We are looking for newsrooms that show the most commitment and readiness to make quality engagement a top priority. The amount awarded depends on need, and will subsidize part of the cost of one of the services for year one. There is no guarantee of future funding, so your newsroom should plan for supporting the full cost from its own budget, or through sponsorship or fundraising.

Factors that determine the size of the subsidy include:

  • whether your newsroom is for-profit or nonprofit
  • your annual revenues
  • the specific factors keeping your organization from being able to cover the full cost

You’ll have an opportunity in the application to provide this information.

Can I apply to use both more than one of the supported tools and services? No. When applying, you will only be able to apply for a subsidy for one of the supported services.

Who can apply? This is a needs-based grant that will give preference to:

  • Non-profit journalistic entities (E.g., news outlets, journalism schools)
  • Community-based for-profit media (E.g., ethnic media, LION members)
  • International newsrooms with a U.S.-based fiscal sponsor
  • First-time partners of the Listening Post Collective Membership, The Coral Project’s Talk, or DocumentCloud/MuckRock

Note: this subsidy is not for individuals or third-party services.

Is my newsroom guaranteed a subsidy? No. The fund is limited and preference will be given to newsrooms with the most need and who show the signs of readiness for and commitment to listening and engagement. When newsrooms take on engagement work, they run the risk of further eroding trust of the public if they do not follow through, therefore the application process will screen for signs of readiness and commitment.  

When is the deadline?  October 31st, 2018 at 11:59PM EST

But wait – what if I don’t exactly know how the Listening Post membership, the Coral Project’s “Talk”, or DocumentCloud/MuckRock work yet? Good news! We will be hosting webinar on Tuesday, October 16 at 3:30pm EST/12:30pm PST where representatives of the platforms and the funders will answer questions and discuss the process for applying for the fund.

How do I apply? Once we begin accepting applications, follow this link. The application will take approximately 30-45 minutes to complete. 

Anything else to note? Subsidy recipients agree to participate in a study by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism on the efficacy of these engagement efforts. As part of that study, you may be asked to share performance metrics data and take part in interviews.

This fund is an experiment, and as such we’ll be in learning mode and looking to understand how best to help newsrooms adopt engagement practices for better listening. The fund’s structure and subsidized offerings may change over time.

The slides from this webinar are also available