Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund

The Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund was created to support Philadelphia-area media and other community organizations as they work tirelessly to meet the information needs of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable communities at this time of acute need. 

The $2.5 million Fund was created by The Independence Public Media Foundation (IPMF), The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund (Knight-Lenfest).

$1.75 million in initial funding has been committed to Resolve Philly, WHYY, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and WURD Radio. $750,000 is dedicated to near-term grants, which will be awarded via an open application process.


Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund Grant Opportunity

Purpose

To support Philadelphia-area media and other community organizations as they work to meet the news and information needs of Philadelphia’s diverse and marginalized communities that leads to informed decision-making and resiliency both at this time of acute need and for the long-term.

Focus

Philadelphia area communities need reliable, accurate news and information that is responsive to needs and creates opportunity for dialogue, reflection and informed decision-making. As a result, grants will be made in the following areas (you don’t need to cover all four):

Community Information Fund Focus Areas

  • News and Information on public health and economic relief for vulnerable communities that addresses health and other structural disparities (economic, social or environmental) and contributing factors
  • News and information generated by and for diverse communities with emphasis on sharing their stories, experiences, expertise, and solutions
  • Infrastructure needs of news and media organizations required to better cover the health, social, and economic impact of COVID-19, to be responsive to community needs and to support new forms of storytelling – amplifying the lived experience, utilizing data, deepening engagement, listening to and co-creation with communities
  • Civic and community systems needs by providing news and information that addresses the evolution and reinvention of key systems such as, but not limited to, food security, health care, employment/economy, education, mass incarceration, or the 2020 election and Census

Terms and Amount

Any of the Community Information Fund Focus Areas could apply to the following terms and amount:

  • Immediate Information Needs – Up to $50,000 for 6 months
  • Resiliency & Reinvention Efforts – Up to $100,000 for 12 months

Application Timeline

Applications will be open April 28 and close May 18 , 2020 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Click here to apply. The Community Information Fund held a webinar on May 5 to answer any questions you may have. You can view a recording of the session below:

Criteria

The Community Information Fund will prioritize support for organizations meeting the following criteria:

  • Who: Organizations or existing collaborations (This can be multiple organizations or individuals working with organizations.) We also encourage small and independent organizations, those that aren’t owned by a larger parent company or have an annual budget under $2 million annually, to apply. Organizations outside of Philadelphia are eligible to apply if their project will be based in and serve the Philadelphia area and they are collaborating with at least one Philadelphia area organization.
  • Audience: Based in and principally serving residents of the Philadelphia region (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania; and Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Mercer in New Jersey); with preference for those serving and increasing the agency of historically marginalized communities.
  • Focus: All funded projects, whether new or existing, must meet at least one of the Community Information Fund’s Focus Areas and have a clear tie to solving vital community information needs in order to be considered. Preference will be given to organizations that allow their content to be publicly accessible. 
  • Sustainability: Projects that have impact on the organization and/or the community served in the longer-term wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grant Use

This grant opportunity is open to for-profit and nonprofit media outlets and collaborations. Organizations will need to demonstrate how this grant would benefit work that helps and supports vulnerable communities and that would not otherwise be possible. Grantees will be required to report on the use of the funds and thereby provide learnings to help others seeking to serve the Philadelphia region and other places navigating the pandemic and its ramifications.

Grant funds for both Immediate Information Needs and Resiliency & Reinvention Efforts must be used for projects that provide public benefit.  Such projects may include costs for: staff or freelance compensation; operating costs related to COVID-19 coverage; technology or other costs that enable or enhance remote working or short-term collaborative projects with other organizations. Similarly it can be used for long-term collaborative projects with other organizations that require infrastructure support or strategic planning support for business sustainability due to the economic impact of COVID-19. 

Grantor funds may not be used in any event: a) to carry on propaganda or otherwise attempt to influence specific legislation; b) to influence the outcome of any specific public election or to carry on, directly or indirectly, any voter registration drive; c) to make a grant to any individual for travel, study or other similar purposes or to make a sub-grant to any other organization unless this activity has been detailed in the approved grant plan and budget; d) to make grant to any other organization, and e) to utilize the Grantor funds in a manner not in furtherance of the purposes enumerated under 170(c)(2)(B) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Application Process

To apply, click here. You will need to provide the following types of information in the application:

  1. Background Information: Organization name, contact information, website (or digital presence of your work), organizational/team diversity and total budget for current fiscal year, W-9 and IRS designation.
    1. If you are applying as a collaborative, please list the organizations and/or individuals who will also be a part of this effort.
  2. Requested Grant Amount: Please specify the amount requested and duration of the project/initiative/program along with a budget.
  3. Grant Idea and Plan:  Please describe your project/initiative/program.
    1. For Immediate Information Needs, How will this grant support your ability to meet community’s information needs related to COVID-19? 
    2. For Resiliency & Reinvention Efforts, How will this grant support your organization’s ability to better serve communities both during and following the COVID-19 crisis?
  4. Community Relationship(s): Describe who you want to reach and/or work with and how you are serving their information needs. 
  5. Recent stories and/or projects: Please share links or upload four recent stories and/or projects on COVID-19 or related topic(s) that help us understand your work and approach.
  6. Optional: Anything else we should know to better understand you and your proposal?

FAQ

Which organizations initially received funding from The Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund?

The Fund’s initial grants are supporting the following initiatives: 

• Resolve Philly ($1 million): Resolve Philly, which leads a collaborative of 24 Philadelphia-area news organizations, will serve as the backbone for a coordinated city-wide, crisis response plan that provides vital news and information access and is powered by its partners and other local organizations and institutions. Partners will collaborate to gather, produce, and disseminate localized, urgent, and up-to-date reporting and public health information.

Resolve is creating a comprehensive digital information hub, in the form of an FAQ, that will feature regularly updated answers to frequently asked questions on the coronavirus crisis and related health and economic challenges. The questions will be sourced by partner newsrooms using SMS text messaging and online survey call-outs. Resolve partner newsrooms, Resolve staff, and freelance journalists assigned to member organizations will collaborate to answer the questions and also publish in Spanish and other languages. 

The information resource will be published using an open-source web development framework developed by Distributed Media Lab, and based upon the Google AMP standard, that will allow the resource to be easily republished on any website. 

From this grant, Resolve will also help distribute funding to key partners through public service advertising, sponsored content, and other means.

WHYY ($350,000): WHYY will launch The News and Information Community Exchange, a collective of grassroots content creators who will share news, information, resources and best practices aimed at engaging underserved communities in Philadelphia.

Through the Exchange there will be a focus on closing trust and power gaps between mainstream organizations and communities of color by collaborating with and amplifying those who already are delivering vital information to their communities, from the church newsletter to neighborhood publishers to up-and-coming creators. This is especially important because of COVID-19, which exposes inequities in healthcare, education and economics that already existed.

As the long-term impact of the coronavirus crisis on communities becomes more evident, WHYY plans to partner with already civic-minded individuals and organizations who regularly interact with, and provide information to their communities ​through newsletters, hyperlocal newspapers, community organization communications, blogs, Facebook live broadcasts, podcasts, original videos, and flyers ​to co-design ways to re-imagine and deepen news engagement, while anticipating, reflecting, and meeting the information needs of residents.

• The Philadelphia Inquirer ($250,000): The Inquirer Community News Service will support a growing series of listening and engagement efforts that leverage the resources and reach of The Inquirer, the largest news operation in the Philadelphia region, to bring reporting to underrepresented communities in Philadelphia and to share the voices of communities across the city with broader audiences.

The Community News Service will feature an expansion of Curious Philly, The Inquirer’s listening platform that enables community members to get questions answered by Inquirer reporters. The Inquirer will also launch a text message-based news service that will allow readers to submit questions and share tips directly to the newsroom. 

The Inquirer will also expand  El Inquirer, its Spanish-language coverage. El Inquirer both translates stories into Spanish and publishes original Spanish-language journalism. Its stories are published both on inquirer.com and as part of Resolve Philadelphia’s Broke in Philly collaboration. The added funding will allow El Inquirer to support staff and use tools such as text messaging to continue to serve the community. 

“From the Front Lines” is an ongoing Inquirer series featuring first-person narratives from healthcare workers, and other essential employees who are working during the pandemic. The Inquirer will expand the series to include the voices of the most vulnerable, the most hard-hit, and the most diverse representation of Philadelphians in crisis and in healing.  

These initiatives build upon a $3 million investment from the Knight-Lenfest Fund in September 2019 that enabled new product development at The Philadelphia Inquirer emphasizing community-focused journalism. 

• WURD Radio ($170,000): WURD Radio, Philadelphia’s leading Black talk radio station, will launch Lively-HOOD, a multimedia initiative including radio, digital, and event programming that is designed to connect Philadelphians with employment opportunities, career readiness information, entrepreneurship, small business, and financial literacy resources.

Lively-HOOD will examine the new job and business opportunities that will evolve out of the COVID-19 crisis and the many new issues that will inform people’s choices as they seek to find dignity, security and meaning in their lives through work. A new paradigm is emerging as a result of the coronavirus. Small businesses are being deeply impacted by the widespread economic devastation, which directly impacts access to jobs, resources and opportunities. The success of the small business sector in the Black community is connected to the health and well being of the community.

WURD will host on-air tutorials which will be supplemented by online micro-summits, workshops, and one-on-one interviews conducted via video call in an effort to connect people looking for work with jobs, career readiness, small business support, and entrepreneurship opportunities. WURD will also function as a watchdog to make sure that governmental, corporate, and non-profit resources aimed at supporting small businesses and low-income families are reaching the intended targets.

How can individuals, foundations, and corporations contribute to The Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund? 

If you are an individual, business, or foundation concerned about your community’s access to trusted and accurate information throughout this crisis and beyond, but don’t know how best to support them, we welcome your partnership. We work with a wide range of partners, from news outlets and libraries to other trusted community sources. Your contribution can help support their ability to keep people safe and informed. If you or your organization wish to join as a partner to the Fund in support of your local community, you can contribute directly at lenfestinstitute.org/covid19support

If you’d like additional information or have any questions about making a gift, you may contact Lenfest Institute Director of Advancement Rebecca Forman at [email protected].