Membership Standards

Please review the requirements below before you fill out an application. INN holds itself and all its members to these standards.

Nonprofit status

Members must be 501(c)(3) certified by the Internal Revenue Service or have a 501(c)(3) nonprofit fiscal sponsor. INN is also willing to provide fiscal sponsorship to select organizations awaiting certification that would otherwise meet all of the other membership standards.

Just starting up?

INN offers applicants who qualify for membership but don’t yet have a 501(c)3 status or fiscal sponsorship the opportunity to join INN as provisional members. This enables you to join the listserv, participate in INN trainings and contribute your knowledge to the network while your fiscal sponsorship or 501(c)3 applications are pending.

Donor Transparency

We are committed to transparency in every aspect of funding our organization and we require our members to share this concern. Our goal is to ensure that our members do not support the views, interests or policies of any single political or religious group.

  • Members must write and publish policies regarding fundraising, donations and conflict-of-interest on their websites. These must specify what kind of funding they are and are not willing to accept. We also strongly urge all members to adopt an editorial independence policy.
  • Members should publish the names of all donors and organizations who have contributed $1,000 or more to the organization or project on their websites.
  • Members must publish their IRS 990 forms, or their fiscal sponsor’s 990, or the equivalent budget and salary information on their websites.

The applicant or an existing member shall discuss any of the following circumstances with INN:

  • Potential or existing donors who have requested anonymity and have contributed a total of $1,000 or more.
  • Any donor organization that does not disclose the source of its funding.

After that discussion, INN will vote on whether the applicant or existing member still qualifies for membership.

Nonpartisan journalism

Members must:

  • Create, publish and produce nonpartisan information and news. To qualify for membership, members should demonstrate the capacity to regularly publish original reporting of high quality that is investigative or public service by nature. Nonpartisan means the member is engaged in investigative and/or public interest news reporting that is not based upon, influenced by or supportive of the interests or policies of any single political party or political viewpoint or any single religion or religious viewpoint.
  • Lobby only for freedom of information and freedom of press issues.
  • Apply high journalistic standards for accuracy and fairness in order to prevent conflicts of interest that compromise the integrity of the work.

INN encourages all members to adopt, public and proactively share with donors and other relevant partners their policies on editorial independence, conflicts of interest, ethics and privacy.  Members also are invited to adopt INN's standards of editorial independence and share that with donors.  You can find the editorial independence and samples of these other types of policies on our Legal Resources page.

INN may review each member organization periodically and investigate, at its discretion, any complaints or any evidence that it discovers that would suggest that a member organization has violated any membership standards and/or the binding membership agreement.

What's provisional membership?

Organizations that apply for INN membership and are confirmed by the INN staff as likely to meet regular membership guidelines a) once they begin publishing if they are startups or b) if already publishing, once they get 501(c)3 status on their own or as a fiscally sponsored program, will be considered provisional members for up to one year as long as they pay their regular membership fees. Provisional members may take part in all INN member services at member rates, but do not have voting rights on bylaws or board elections until confirmed by the board.


Please write to with any questions regarding these standards.