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How it works

The News Challenge has five phases:

  • Inspiration (Aug. 19-Sept. 3)
  • Submission (Sept. 3-17)
  • Feedback (Sept. 17-24)
  • Refinement (Sept. 24-Oct. 2)
  • Judging (Begins Oct. 11)

What is the “inspiration phase?”
The inspiration phase is a means for sharing ideas, hopes and needs. What are the gaps and opportunities you see in your work or life? These could be success stories, observations from your job or community, or lessons from other fields. You don’t need to post an inspiration to submit a project to the News Challenge, but we’ll feature them throughout the challenge to inspire ideas.

How do I apply?
The contest will open on Aug. 19 at During the “submissions phase,” which starts Sept. 3, you can click the “add your entry” button anywhere on the site.

When should I apply?
The contest opens for entries at 9 a.m. US Eastern Time Sept. 3 and closes at 5 p.m. US Eastern Time Sept. 17.

Can I submit a private/closed application?
We believe—and have found through several years of News Challenge contests—that posting your project publicly can help you find new ideas and potential partners. That's why we encourage you to use the open platform at 

But we understand the need for privacy in some situations. Email your entry to us at knc[at] to submit a closed application, which will not be posted in public and will be seen only by Knight Foundation staff and advisors. 

Can I apply from outside the United States?
Yes. Please see the below section on eligibility for full details on whom can apply.

What happens during the feedback phase?
During the feedback phase, our community—including a team of expert readers as well as other applicants—will comment, ask questions and provide feedback on entries.

What questions are on the application?
There’s only one formal application question: What is your project? We ask you to limit this to one sentence. Then you’ll have open space to tell us more, such as why you’re working on this, who you are, and how much money you need. You decide how much to tell us and what to include (photos, videos, sketches, etc). If your project is selected as a semifinalist, we’ll ask you for more detailed information.

Have any tips for good applications?
Be brief and be visual. Ask people who don’t know your project to review your application. Make sure it fits the theme. Make sure that a stranger with no knowledge of your field could read the first few sentences of your application and then describe your idea concisely to someone else.

Who decides who wins?
Our trustees make the final call, with staff recommendations. A group of expert reviewers advise throughout the process. You can see who has helped usreview applications in the past.

Do “applause” and comments on my entry affect my chances?
The only thing we evaluate in reviewing projects is what you tell us in your submission. The amount of “applause” you receive will not affect your chances. However, we encourage you to use the feedback provided to refine and clarify your submission.

How do I decide what amount to apply for?
Awards can be made for any amount - $1,000 to $1,000,000. Obviously large awards are less common than smaller ones, but you should apply for what you need. If you need help budgeting, take a look at existing applications and at similar projects’ budget reports. Or contact us with questions.

What parts of my budget will you fund?
We’ll pay for what it takes to design, develop and implement the project, as well as marketing and travel. We don’t fund universities’ overhead costs or administrative fees.


What is the Knight News Challenge?
The News Challenge aims to accelerate innovation by funding the best new ideas and supporting them with a network of peers and advisors.

Why should I apply to the News Challenge?
Winning the News Challenge makes you part of an international network of entrepreneurs and experts unlike any other. Knight Foundation helps our partners develop their organizations, recruit collaborators, manage projects and grow their networks.

What does Knight Foundation do?
We support transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. Read more about us

Who can enter the News Challenge?
Anyone, anywhere, of any age. This competition is open to nonprofits, for-profits or individuals anywhere in the world. Awards to minors will be made to an intermediary designated by Knight Foundation. Organizations based outside the US will require a fiscal sponsor; we’ll work this out with you later in the process if you move forward.

What are the funding options for a non-profit organization?
We offer charitable grants to registered US nonprofit organizations with 501(c)3 status.

I’m a for-profit company. Can I enter?
Yes. There are several funding options. Don’t worry too much about those specifics before applying. If you’re selected to move forward as a semifinalist, we’ll communicate with you about the details.

• Grants to for-profits (for charitable activity, such as open-source development)

• Program Related Investments (no-interest five year loan, usually as convertible notes) [sample PRI Term Sheet]

Knight Enterprise Fund (an equity investment for projects raising a full round of funding)

Can issue-specific projects, such as those on health or the environment, apply?
Yes, as long as they fit the broader theme of the challenge.

Can I apply with a project that’s already been started?
Yes, if you’re proposing to do new, innovative things with the existing project.

Can two organizations/people submit a collaborative project?
Yes. We have funding mechanisms to make partnership projects possible.

If I applied previously and did not win, can I apply again?
Yes, and you should, if you have an idea that fits the theme.

How many different projects can I submit to News Challenge?
As many as you like.

I’m not a software developer or designer, but I have a good idea. Can I apply?
Yes, absolutely. But you should keep in mind that we’ve found that the most successful projects are those with technology expertise on the team from the early stages.


What are the the IP terms of the News Challenge?
If you win, you’ll own your intellectual property. But under most funding mechanisms, you’ll be required to release what you make as open source (for software) or Creative Commons (for content and documentation). The only exception is companies in which we make an enterprise investment.

Legalese detail: Grants to nonprofits have a strict requirement: any software developed with grant money must be released as open source (typically under GNU General Public License 3). The same is true for grants to for-profit companies. The business receiving a grant agrees to bind itself to the open source license it owns as if it were a licensee. If a Program Related Investment is made, only the initial release must be open source, and future versions can be licensed in different ways. At the end of the funding period, the company can pay back the funds it received or Knight can take a stake in the company. An Enterprise Fund equity investment has no open-source requirements.

What is your definition of releasing as “open source”?
Software that is available for anyone to use or build upon at the conclusion of the grant period. You will own your platform, but you will have to share the software you develop under a GNU General Public License(GPL) (or other open source license, by agreement with us) and any content, documents, manuals or instructions under Creative Commons licensing. We consider exceptions to these requirements on a case-by-case basis.

Am I required to build on existing open source software?
We love to see existing open source software used, but it’s not required.

What is Knight Foundation’s IP licensing policy?
Knight Foundation’s intellectual property (IP) licensing policy seeks to use IP terms and conditions in its agreements that allow projects to achieve their highest possible impact and Knight’s highest social return on investment. This licensing policy also aims to increase the transparency of grant outcomes by allowing for greater sharing of knowledge and adoption among user communities. The specific type of license required by Knight Foundation depends on the type of IP being created, the type of organization receiving the support and the specific objectives of the project.

In general, non-charitable organizations (for-profits or individuals) receiving a grant must use the most permissible IP licenses. In addition to licensing the IP, non-charitable organizations will also be licensees themselves and so subject to the terms of the license for any future versions of the IP. If non-charitable organizations receive a Program Related Investment (PRI) they are not required to be licensees.


Please note that the challenge will open at will launch Aug. 19.

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