Thank you for your interest in joining the Institute for Nonprofit News — a highly collaborative network of 300+ independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organizations.
INN works with this diverse, entrepreneurial group to expand journalists’ business skills, build success and explore new models for news.
At INN, we know that quality journalism can promote positive civic engagement, provide a forum for diverse views — including those historically underrepresented in media — and hold accountable those in positions of public trust.
Whether you are at the starting stage of building a nonprofit news organization, or you lead an established publication, INN can help you take your nonprofit news business to the next level. When an organization becomes a member, all staff gain access to the network and its benefits. We hope you’ll learn more and consider joining us!
What are the benefits of INN membership?
INN members of all sizes gain access to an array of services, tools and resources that help them grow their businesses, find sustainability and expand their reach. Our members are part of a news ecosystem that is helping build equity in our communities and supporting the growth of civic engagement and service. Here are some of the ways INN membership supports your success, whether you are an established enterprise, a growing newsroom or still in the concept stage:
For Members in Startup and Growth Phases
The INN Startup Guide – Information and tools to help you launch an independent newsroom and lead a successful enterprise.
Fiscal Sponsorship – Save time and effort by having INN be your 501(c)(3) sponsor, allowing you to receive tax-deductible donations while you ramp up operations.
Springboard – Learn how to launch or boost your organization with INN’s strategic planning and leadership-development program for new enterprises and concepts.
Pre-launch consultations – INN members gain access to free business coaching.
Network Philanthropy Center – Members that do not yet have development staff benefit from individual consultations with INN’s experts and access to shared resources.
For Established Members
Internships and Fellowships – INN partners with educational institutions and nonprofits that match member newsrooms with talented interns and subsidize intern salaries.
Emerging LeadersCouncil – Members nominate their rising stars for this training program. Participants, through one-on-one coaching and dynamic group conversations, build leadership and business skills, and design a project for their news organization.
Compensation Study – The INN survey of members, a benchmark for the nonprofit news industry, provides targeted compensation and benefits data for specific job roles at newsrooms across the INN network. Free for participating INN members and at substantially reduced costs to others.
Content Distribution – Members distribute content via third-party platforms, thanks to agreements negotiated by INN, allowing them to reach new readers and earn revenue from the additional traffic. Access to national and international news distribution platforms includes NewsBreak, SmartNews, Patch, and Nextdoor.
For All Members
News Giving Roadmap – The first-of-its-kind for nonprofit news, this comprehensive program helps members understand where they are on the fundraising journey and then master the path to major giving success.
Fundraising Shared Services – Members enjoy free and deeply discounted rates on prospect research, wealth screenings, donor profiles and grant writing.
NewsMatch – INN helps growing newsrooms boost their donated revenue with this dollar-for-dollar match program. The 2020 NewsMatch fund delivered more than $5 million to nonprofit newsrooms.
INN Listservs – Members of INN use the listservs to communicate with colleagues across the network, as well as with smaller peer communities built around topics, geography and roles.
Legal and Media Insurance Consultations – INN partners with experts to provide access to free or discounted legal and media liability insurance consultations.
Accounting – INN offers full-charge accounting services for members needing assistance running the day-to-day activities of their back-office – from paying vendors and recording revenues to tracking grant expenditures and monthly financial reporting.
Lexis/Nexis – INN has negotiated discounted rates for access to Lexis/Nexis’s powerful database tools.
Editorial Collaborations – INN staff work with members to build collaborative projects, allowing them to boost the strength and reach of their reporting. INN funders invest more than $300,000 in collaborative editorial projects annually.
Racial Equity and Inclusion in Nonprofit News – REINN allows leaders to join an ongoing process of building racial equity into their organizational practices. Each element is designed to be accessible, particularly to small and mid-size news operations, in any stage of their DEI work.
INN Index – The most comprehensive studies of nonprofit news media, the INN Index reports provide insights into staffing, business models, financials, and editorial focus.
Nonprofit News Career Center – Members have free access to the INN jobs board for nonprofit news opportunities.
Health insurance/payroll partnerships – INN partners with Justworks, a service provider for health insurance, payroll and other benefits. Members save at least $120 per employee per year on fees, and also receive two free months on the platform.
INN Events – Members enjoy access to webinars, training opportunities and events, such as the annual INN Days, the biggest conference focused on the business side of nonprofit journalism.
Who can join INN?
INN membership is open to independent, nonprofit news organizations that:
Produce high-quality and original reporting that serves their communities through trustworthy information and encouraging civic engagement
Organizations apply to join INN and then are vetted by INN staff to ensure they meet standards for ethics, transparency, independence and quality of journalism. Applicants are approved for membership by leading journalists on the INN Board of Directors.
Once accepted, members will be asked to pay INN dues, which range from $150 to $1,000 per year and are based on the organization’s annual revenue. View dues scale.
Before applying, please, read through the information below to confirm your organization is a good candidate for membership. Additional information can be found on our FAQ page. You’re also welcome to schedule a one-on-one call with INN’s membership team before submitting your application by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
INN is a network of independent newsrooms. Members generally have their own 501c3 designation. If fiscally sponsored, they must have editorial, programmatic and operational independence from their fiscal sponsor.
Full membership is open to organizations that:
Demonstrate the capacity to regularly publish original reporting of high quality that is investigative or public service by nature, such as expert explanatory reporting or coverage of community, civic and public affairs. INN generally does not accept publications that primarily publish opinion, analysis, arts/cultural/community events, literary writing, reviews or curated collections of third-party material unless they include substantial and regular original news reporting.
Apply high journalistic standards for accuracy and fairness, including openly correcting errors and prominently labeling opinion, commentary and sponsored content. Maintain editorial and organizational independence. INN members do not advocate or operate in a way that promotes any legislation, policies, government action or outcomes, though policy or legislative changes may be a consequence of their reporting. Members avoid conflicts of interest that could compromise the integrity of the work. They lobby only for freedom of information and freedom of press issues.
Outlets with strong points of view will be accepted on a case-by-case basis. They must produce original reporting that does not misrepresent facts, selectively choose sources or selectively publish stories in an attempt to advance a policy or cause. In other words, they report with impartiality, attempting to achieve fairness in content of distinct points of view with objectivity and dedication to truth.
Report for the general public. Religious, campus or student publications generally do not qualify for INN membership unless they are primarily covering general news for a general audience and meet INN’s standards for editorial independence. Student publications covering general news also should have professional editorial staff or be closely partnered with a professional organization to be considered.
Affiliate membership is available to organizations that:
Are not primarily newsrooms, but advance nonprofit, public service journalism in other ways. For example, they might include:
Journalism support organizations, such as a 501(c)3 public charity, private foundation or private operating foundation, association or membership organization that works to support and encourage nonprofit journalism in the public interest.
An accredited university journalism or communications program that trains student journalists and/or researches news topics of public interest; an accredited university philanthropy, public affairs or business program that researches, trains students in or otherwise supports the financial health and civic benefit of investigative and public service journalism.;
Produce independent, nonpartisan journalism as part of a broader or non-journalism mission. For these organizations, publishing and/or broadcasting may be part of a broader mission such as research or raising public awareness of an issue, as long as the publication has editorial and financial independence from any parent organization.
INN generally does not accept as members: B Corporations, 501c4 nonprofits, or staff publications of nonprofits that have a mission other than journalism, such as museum magazines, publications produced by think tanks, associations or advocacy organizations. INN does not accept cause communications, corporate or trade outlets even if content is produced using journalism techniques.
Affiliate organizations may participate in most network programs and INN services. Affiliate[s] do not vote on bylaws or elections to the INN Board of Directors, nor can they run for the INN board. Affiliates and non-publishing members of INN do not qualify for NewsMatch under the current terms of that program, which are set by the sponsoring foundations.
Most members are accepted after they have a track record of news coverage, and most publications should wait until they have launched to apply. News organizations in planning stages can participate in most INN programs even before they become members. In special circumstances, provisional membership may be available to select qualifying news startups, led by established journalists, for up to one year before launch of publication. Publications seeking provisional membership should include with their application a publication or strategic plan that indicates they will meet membership requirements once publication begins, make sure they meet the following standards and have them in place before applying:
Policies to meet INN requirements for editorial independence and transparency.
A leadership team that includes journalists with proven professional records in news.
A board or pre-launch advisory board formed that can guide launch of a high-quality journalism organization.
Incorporation in their state.
501(c)(3) status, an application that has been submitted for 501(c)3 status, or a fiscal sponsorship agreement that ensures organizational and editorial independence. See FAQs.
Editorial Independence & Transparency
Public trust in journalism is essential. To build and maintain trust, journalists and their organizations must be truthful, transparent and independent in their reporting in order to best serve the public.
All INN members share a commitment to transparency and, by becoming members, agree to publish policies regarding fundraising, donations and conflict-of-interest on their websites, in an effort to maintain reader trust. These policies must specify what kind of funding the publication will and won’t accept.
Confirm its 501(c)(3) certified by the Internal Revenue Service or have a 501(c)(3) nonprofit fiscal sponsor. Canadian publications and those based at universities with a different IRS status are invited to consult with INN before applying. INN can provide fiscal sponsorship for qualifying journalism nonprofits that are starting up or converting to nonprofit from for-profit status.
Publish financial information publicly to a publication’s website and/or print product.
Identify all donors to the organization that give more than $5,000 in a year by publicly listing them on the publication’s site and/or posting a link to 990 tax filings that identify donors of $5,000 or more.
Post either full 990 filings, links to their 990, or equivalent budget, salary and donor information on its website where consumers can access it. In the case of fiscally sponsored organizations, the member will post a link to its sponsor’s 990, and publish on its own site all funders of $5,000 and above.
Ensure that no more than 15 percent of its total annual budget derives from anonymous donations.
Post an editorial independence policy.
If the publication has a fiscal sponsor or parent 501(c)3 organization, publicly disclose and explain how the news project maintains editorial independence from its fiscal sponsor or parent, and if or how donor funds are separated between the organizations.
INN encourages all members to adopt, publicize and share with donors and other relevant partners their policies on editorial independence, conflicts of interest, ethics and privacy. Members are welcome to adopt or adapt INN’s standard of editorial independence and share that with donors. The editorial independence and samples of these other types of policies can be found on INN’s Ethics & Practices page.
Prospective members applying for membership should include an explanation of any variance from these standards with their application for the board to review. INN may investigate, at its discretion, any complaints or any evidence that it discovers that would suggest that a member organization has violated membership standards and/or the membership agreement.
The Institute for Nonprofit News’ staff and board members consider membership applications in three cycles per year:
Applications received between Dec. 1 and March 31 will hear back from INN by April 30.
Applications received between April 1 and June 30 will hear back from INN by July 31.
Applications received between July 1 and Nov. 30 will hear back from INN by Dec. 31.
All membership applications are reviewed by INN’s membership team and then go to INN’s Board of Directors for approval. Applications that need further consideration are forwarded to INN’s Membership Task Force, which typically meets in Spring, Summer and Winter.
Applicants pay a $75 nonrefundable application fee. A copy of the application can be viewed here for reference. (The document is for reference only: Applications must be submitted via the online form below.)