The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is proud to fund projects and organizations building news and information products that engage and inform local communities.

We are building a new type of organization based on a “venture philanthropy” model: pairing a non-profit structure with an entrepreneurial mindset. We encourage bold risk-taking on projects with the potential for major payoffs, recognizing many attempts aimed at transformation will deliver important new insights even if missing the mark on desired outcomes.

The institute makes two forms of grants:

Experimentation grants: Designed to seed new projects, for up to $35,000. These grants are meant to support new projects just getting off the ground, for which the applicant has  initial evidence of a user need. A product or working demo doesn’t necessarily have to be built yet, but you should have a specific and actionable idea for a novel product or service.

Amplification grants: These grants are designed to help existing projects grow and reach the next level, with funding of up to $100,000. These are meant for products or services that have already shown initial traction, and applicants who are looking to scale for broad impact. Such grants could be made together with other partners, including with conventional investors taking equity in a company.

Grant projects should address one or more of the following focus areas:

  • News and Information Products: New approaches to collecting news and information, and to reporting,storytellingand distribution that embrace the possibilities of technology, expand audiences, deepen relationships with existing readers and ultimately lead to business sustainability.
  • Reaching Underserved Communities: Meaningful approaches to reach and empower people in diverse local communities who are generally underserved by mainstream news media.
  • New revenue sources: New business models for local news and information products that assure sustainability.
  • Community Engagement: New methods to engage deeply with the local community, whether in-person or digitally. Rethinking the relationship between media and the public, which may lead to new forms of financial support.
  • Local News Ecosystem Collaboration: Bringing together existing and new players in novel ways to fuel new forms of media, cost-efficiency, impact and sustainability.

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for mission-driven individuals and organizations passionate about trying new approaches to local news and information. We encourage applicants who don’t have traditional journalism and media backgrounds, particularly from the areas of technology, design and business.

Does my project need to be in Philadelphia?

Grantees who will use the Philadelphia metro area as a test market are especially encouraged. All grantees will be offered the potential to partner with and leverage the resources and reach of the Philadelphia Media Network, incuding The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and The institute is also interested in applicants from major metro areas across the United States whose projects can be applied to Philadelphia and scaled to similar metro regions across the nation. Grant recipients working outside Philadelphia will be asked to travel to Philadelphia for meetings and events funded by the institute.

How do I apply?

For Experimentation Grants, please apply here:

For Amplification Grants, please apply here:

The deadline for our initial funding cycle is Friday, June 30.

The Institute’s staff, board and outside advisers will narrow down applicants to a set of finalists for phone or in-person interviews during July before making our selections later in the summer. For larger grants, we will also at that time request more detailed financial information and budgets.

How can I learn more about what you’re looking for?

We will be holding a couple of open conference calls during the application period to answer your questions. To receive updates on these as well as general institute news, please subscribe to our email list at You can also contact Burt Herman, the institute’s director of innovation projects, at burt (at) lenfestinstitute (dot) org.

Do I need to be affiliated with an organization or be incorporated?

No. If you don’t have an entity established, we will work with you to determine the best way to fund your project.

Do I need to be a non-profit organization or can I be for-profit?

We are happy to give grants to for-profits, non-profits and individuals. All grantees will be required to document and publish their work to satisfy the institute’s mandate to provide public benefit.

Does my project need to be open source?

No, although we encourage you to do so if it makes sense for your work. You own the intellectual property created under the grant, with the requirement to publicly document your work as mentioned above.