Become A Member

Thank you for your interest in joining the Institute for Nonprofit News!

INN is a membership organization that supports and advances independent, nonprofit news organizations that do original, fact-based reporting. They provide news that benefits the public in one or more of these ways:

    • It promotes positive civil engagement by helping the public make informed decisions about important and/or complex aspects of their lives, society and the world.
    • It holds accountable government officials and others in authority or who hold other positions of public trust.
    • It provides a forum for diverse views and ideas, including those who have traditionally been underrepresented in media and society.

More than 300 newsrooms in INN make up a highly collaborative network of entrepreneurial news leaders. They share resources and work with INN to explore new models for news and expand journalists’ business skills. When an organization becomes a member, all staff gain access the network and its benefits.

INN members share and follow community guidelines for standards in ethics, transparency, and independence. INN vets prospective members for independence and ethics and a primary focus on producing original news content. Applicants are approved for membership by leading journalists on the INN Board of Directors.

If you are interested in applying, please read through the following information before submitting an application to make sure your organization is a good candidate for membership. Applications generally are considered quarterly, but timing can vary depending on the time of year. Membership dues range from $150 to $1000 and are based on annual revenue.

Questions? Check out our FAQs. You can reach out to if you don't see an answer to your question.

Types of Membership


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 or community, civic and public affairs coverage. 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 original news reporting on an ongoing basis.
    • Apply high journalistic standards for accuracy and fairness, including openly correcting errors and prominently labeling opinion, commentary and sponsored content. (Check out this Poynter piece: Opinion, news or editorial? Readers often can’t tell the difference.)
    • 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 still 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 get membership. 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.

As an INN member, a publication agrees to:

      • 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-profits.
      • 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 web site 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.

Members and prospective members who accept anonymous donations of more than $5,000 per individual or comprising more than 5 percent of their total revenue are asked to write an explanation of the situation to the INN board via email to INN Executive Director Sue Cross at, or email to set up a conversation with a board task force. These situations are reviewed periodically by an INN board task force on membership qualifications.

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.

Application Process

The Institute for Nonprofit News’ staff and board members consider membership applications in three cycles per year:

  1. Applications received between December 1 and March 31 will hear back from INN by April 30 at the latest.
  2. Applications received between April 1 and June 3o will hear back from INN by July 31 at the latest.
  3. Applications received between July 1 and November 30 will back from INN by December 31 at the latest.

All membership applications are reviewed by INN’s membership team and then go to INN’s board of directors for approval. Applications go to INN’s board at least twice in a given cycle, but typically more frequently. Applications that need further consideration are forwarded to INN’s membership task force, which typically meets in April, August and December.

Applicants pay a $75 nonrefundable application fee. You can download a PDF copy of the application to prepare your answers here: INN-Membership-PDF-Reference-Application-2020. (Please only download this to review the questions. We will not accept the PDF application via email. Please follow the link below to apply.)

Note: Being a nonprofit news producer does not guarantee acceptance into the network. INN looks closely at how news organizations maintain financial transparency and editorial independence, as well as the outlet’s news coverage.

If you have any questions about the process or if your organization qualifies, please reach out to or sign up for a meeting with INN's membership coordinator.


Apply for Membership