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Diversity Report

INN is committed to helping mission-driven nonprofit news organizations reach the goal of a truly diverse, inclusive and equitable news media — and to live it in our own work here at INN. While serving diverse communities has always been part of INN’s mission, we began in 2019 to more formally center diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in our strategic goals and to ask our members to do the same.

DEI is a central element or context for most INN programs, rather than a separate program on its own. In this report, we’ve summarized some of the ways we manifest these values through:

As a membership organization of 450 nonprofit newsrooms, INN has a unique role and stake in the growth of nonprofit news, and serves as a trusted intermediary facilitating journalism philanthropy on behalf of INN members. 

Based on findings from the latest INN Index DEI Report —  including data reported by more than 90% of the INN membership in 2022 — INN developed recommendations that we believe will continue to advance DEI efforts in the field. For an explanation of how these recommendations can be pursued by funders, newsrooms and by INN and other field-building organizations, see Opportunities to advance DEI in nonprofit news: What the INN Index tells us about progress made and room for growth

If you would like to discuss INN’s approach to DEI, please reach out to Chief Operations Officer Soraya Membreno.

Membership & Standards

Recruitment. INN invites any organization that aligns with our shared standards to apply for membership. At the same time, we’re intentional about connecting with organizations that can help strengthen the INN Network through increasing diversity, equity and inclusion among the membership. We use landscape scans, surveys, partnerships and networking in order to identify nonprofit newsrooms who actively reach underserved communities. 

Membership. The benefits of an INN membership can be invaluable to nonprofit newsrooms at any stage, and some of our resources are open to all. Entrepreneurs and civic leaders exploring news startups and conversions from for-profits can access coaching that covers everything from designing inclusive news outlets to equitable hiring practices. All members can access office hours to discuss best practices for creating ethics standards within their organization. 

Awards. INN’s Nonprofit News Awards were established in 2021, and three categories were created to honor the excellent public service journalism of members that centers DEI values: Breaking Barriers Award, Insight Award for Visual Journalism, and Emerging Leader of the Year. 

Standards. The INN Standards Task Force is a select group of diverse leaders guiding development of the field. They provide thought-leadership on questions raised about the standards adopted by the INN Network. Further, INN committed to creating diverse leadership ladders and will deliver on that in two ways this year. The INN Board of Directors effectively centered and advanced goals for diverse representation during the 2023 election by offering candidate recommendations. Additionally, the year’s end will see the establishment of additional advisory councils that diversify input into every major program at INN. 

Growth Programs

Nonprofit newsrooms of the future must avoid the past pitfalls of much of traditional media — imbalanced streams of revenue, lack of diversity and representation, and superficial (and sometimes harmful) relationships with communities of color and other groups traditionally underserved by traditional media. INN’s growth programs are designed to foster growth toward a future media landscape where news organizations led by and serving people of color can sustain and thrive.

Supporting and equipping leaders of color in the field. The Emerging Leaders Council (ELC) identifies and supports leaders who are shaping the future of the nonprofit news sector. This program provides leadership, management, and business tools that yield immediate results, and it creates space for participants to develop and launch a project with help from a supportive network. Between 2021 and 2023, BIPOC individuals made up more than 50% of the council cohort.

Providing DEIB training and resources to newsrooms. Throughout the year, INN provides webinars and resources to support news organizations, particularly small and mid-size, in building equitable practices. In 2023, our three-part leadership learning series highlighted members who have implemented inclusive practices to foster a sense of belonging, identified actionable ways to incorporate DEIB into goal-setting, and instituted equitable measures to manage individual performance reviews. As a result of focus groups held with newsrooms serving communities of color, we also created a series of learning events to address their specific needs and challenges around board recruitment and development.

Building pathways for talent of color to enter the field. INN works to build a pipeline of emerging talent of color to enter the field through recruitment and internship opportunities. In 2022, member newsrooms hosted 70 paid interns and fellows through partnerships between INN and Emma Bowen Foundation, Columbia Journalism School, COOP Careers and more. More than 60% of the interns and fellows are BIPOC. INN also attends and represents its membership at NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA career events to deepen the participation of news nonprofits with these affinity groups and to raise awareness of career opportunities in nonprofit news. In 2023, INN  began to collect research and insights on broader hiring challenges for INN members.

Designating NewsMatch matching funds to boost newsrooms serving communities of color. The NewsMatch partner fund for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI partner fund) directly amplifies the impact of newsrooms led by or serving BIPOC, immigrant or multilingual communities. In 2022, 53 newsrooms participated in the DEI partner fund, receiving $258,000 specifically from the fund and $890,000 in NewsMatch support overall. These newsrooms leveraged the campaign match to raise almost $3.5 million from 18,000 donors and secured $946,000 in local matches, a nearly 80% increase compared to 2021 DEI Fund recipients. The unrestricted funding NewsMatch provides is a measure of trust and partnership, building a bridge between funders, newsrooms, and the communities they serve.

Designing a new major gift program to support newsrooms led by and serving communities of color. In 2023, we commissioned an evaluation of INN’s Major Gifts Cohort Program. One of the core questions of our inquiry was whether BIPOC-led or serving news organizations had distinct or unique challenges to building their major gifts programs. News leaders of color identified limited staff capacity and lack of access to high-net-worth individuals as barriers (also barriers commonly cited by leaders working in small newsrooms, startups, and organizations outside metropolitan areas). In response to this feedback, INN is developing a cohort-based program designed to tackle these challenges that will serve as a bridge to its current Major Gifts Cohort Program.

Elevating the voices and work of news leaders of color at conferences and member gatherings. We track and hold ourselves accountable for speaker representation at INN Days and other member gatherings and programs to reflect the diversity of the field. In 2023, 39% of INN Days conference speakers self-identify as non-White. In addition, INN frequently helps philanthropy programs and journalism programs identify and be introduced to diverse speakers and representation for their programs. This isn’t a formal program but an ongoing part of the role we serve.

In addition to representation on stage, we also highlight the diversity, equity, and inclusion work of newsrooms in member-led sessions like How Spanish-Language News Can Impact Civic Engagement, Tearing Down Taboos: Rethinking Transparency and Power to Transform NewsroomsBuild DEIB into Your Organization’s DNA, Who’s Telling the Story?, and broader field-wide discussions like INN’s 2023 Index: Key Updates on the Nonprofit News Sector’s Revenue and DEI Trends. We do not currently track diversity among all program participants.

Educating funders about the impact of newsrooms serving communities of color. INN plays a crucial role in educating funders about the field. For funders, both currently active and new in the journalism space, INN’s leadership and development team consistently highlights the specific needs for BIPOC-led and -serving outlets, especially for sustained and unrestricted support and potentially for longer runways for institutional support.

Editorial Collaborations

INN aims to amplify public service journalism across the network through its collaborations. All member editorial collaborations center on equity issues by design. INN has set goals and regularly evaluates how many collaboration participants have either a primary mission or core priority to serve communities of color, the number of collaborative series stories that have sources representing diverse communities, and how those stories include the people being covered.

In 2020, INN began collective fundraising with member groups specifically to strengthen reporting for underserved communities. Our first two ventures covered COVID-19 impacts on education in rural school districts, and Spanish language reporting of Chicago issues, and distribution of Spanish publications’ coverage to English-speaking influencers. 

Since then, INN editorial collaborations have included examinations of tribal economies, how flooding has impacted immigrant communities and how rural communities of color are speaking out against legacies of injustice.

The Rural News Network, INN’s first sustained editorial collaboration consortium, has grown to more than 75 news organizations, covering regions that have been drastically undercovered and generally underserved by commercial media, and particularly subject to closure and cutbacks in traditional media. As with other collaborations, coverage is intentionally focused on equity issues and thus often touches on DEI in the reporting and outlets participating.


Studying and tracking diversity, equity and inclusion across the nonprofit news industry: Since 2018, the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) has conducted an annual Index survey of its growing network of newsroom members to help assess the state of the nonprofit news sector. INN’s most recent survey, the 2023 Index, focused deeply on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The data offer an updated picture of whether and how DEI is reflected in the sector’s staffing and leadership, operations, engagement with underserved communities, and revenue patterns. See the latest statistics and trends on DEI in nonprofit newsroom staffing and coverage.

This 2023 report represents INN’s second in-depth study of DEI among its newsroom members. INN published its first DEI Index Report three years ago, examining components of diversity, equity, and inclusion across its membership in 2019. At that time, other industry studies examining race, ethnicity, and gender representation within the journalism sector were unable to capture standardized, representative figures that would allow for year over year tracking. INN committed to investing in measurement of diversity as the nonprofit news sector continued to expand and develop, including undertaking in-depth studies of DEI every three years in its recurring Index survey.

Learn more about the research team’s approach to studying DEIB, including building an advisory board.

Audience Development

INN’s audience work represents members’ commitment to creating news that serves and is accessible to a broad diversity of audiences.

Expanding research tools. In 2023, INN developed and launched a series of audience research tools and guides for member organizations committed to understanding the diversity of their audiences and how their coverage may connect to audiences traditionally left out of news coverage. The tools were developed in partnership with members at the forefront of efforts to serve a broader range of communities, as well as leading researchers working on the disengagement from news, the links between organizational decision-making and audience diversity and the foundations of audience loyalty. These tools are made available free to members, with support from staff on how to use them effectively.

Valuing audience relationships. Reinventing the news requires rethinking news organizations’ relationships with their audiences beyond the likelihood to donate or subscribe. After an assessment of existing resources, INN developed a series of new trainings and workshops that incorporate standards and benchmarks specifically designed for how nonprofit news organizations operate and their need to build relationships with more diverse audiences. Nearly half of the members participated in at least one of these trainings, which culminated in August with a five-hour, in-person workshop on designing an audience development strategy that incorporates and values diverse audiences.

Reaching new audiences. In 2023, INN significantly expanded its distribution options for members. Nonprofit news organizations covering communities often left out of news coverage now have numerous additional options to get that coverage out to a larger audience and connect more deeply with those also invested in those communities. INN successfully advocated for new pathways for members to argue for the value of this reporting directly to editors and other decision makers at Apple News, SmartNews and other large platforms, where a featured story can reach millions.


Training and trainers. INN makes a diversity commitment in all of its capacity-building programs to recruit diverse applicant pools, from which 30% of participant seats can be filled by organizations with people of color in leadership and/or outlets that are primarily serving underrepresented communities. And we commit to equitable representation by people of color in program trainers, facilitators and all leadership positions in our programming.

In our own programming, INN does not present panels that are not inclusive across gender and race, nor do we participate in industry events that do not reflect a diverse or inclusive community.

In 2023, INN adopted anonymous and expanded internal diversity tracking of our staff and board. INN also was then able to incorporate this in toolkits for member news organizations as well.

In addition to our board and staff tracking, in 2024 we plan to resume the tracking of contractor diversity factors in INN consulting agreements.

Internally, INN is also conducting a salary analysis across all our staff and working to clarify our compensation structure and philosophy to ensure that roles, titles and salary bands are transparent, equitable and fair.

To better support our staff and ensure that INN remains an accessible place to work, INN has updated benefits  to include an expanded paid parental leave policy, employer-sponsored short-term disability insurance, national plan options for medical, dental, and vision insurance, and access to telehealth, mental health, and health advocacy resources. Looking ahead to 2024 and in recognition of how our staff is growing, we have also added partial employer coverage of spouse, dependent and family medical plans.

Staff & Board Composition

In this time of rapid growth for the field, INN has increased the diversity of our staff and board, and we intend to continue in order to better reflect the U.S. population and the range of communities our member news organizations serve across North America. 

INN grew from a staff of six in 2015, then all white, to a staff of 23 as of September 2023. Based on survey responses from 21 out of 23 full-time employees, INN’s staff is 57% white and 38% people of color, including people who identify as Black, Latino, Asian and Middle Eastern/North African. This staff composition largely reflects what we expect the next census to show: a U.S. population that is roughly 60% white and 40% Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).

Among the five members of INN’s senior management team, 60% are white and 40% people of color. More than 80% of our staff, including senior managers, identify as female, and 15% of INN staff identify as LGBTQIA+. 

INN’s Board of Directors is composed of individuals elected to represent our member organizations and those from outside our network who are known for their strong commitment to investigative journalism and/or who bring broader expertise to help INN achieve its mission. In February 2023, a survey completed by 10 out of 12 board members indicated that 30% are BIPOC and 70% are white. The directors are 40% female and 20% LGBTQIA+. 

Directors are encouraged to run based on varied experience, geographic representation of our membership and representation of the varied INN member subgroups, such as those which  are local or single-subject news.

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