A project of Democracy Fund
The Local News Lab has been archived as of March 1, 2023. This page will remain online but will not be updated. More info.

Apply to the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund

En Español
About the Fund
Fund Focus Areas
Advisory Board
Contact Us

Applications for the Fund are now closed.

Those moving on will receive a notification the week of April 30.

Download these instructions as a PDF

Llame a Language Service Solution marcando (919) 949-9272 con preguntas sobre nuestra traducción.


The North Carolina Local News Lab Fund is pleased to open its first call for applications. The Fund is asking for one-page letters submitted through an online system that share how your organization or project will help build the state’s capacity for more relevant and useful news and information for North Carolina’s communities. We are looking for applications from a wide array of organizations and people: from libraries to news organizations to community groups to collaborations between outlets and more.

On this page, you’ll find more information about the fund, how to apply, and the timeline for proposals. Please read through the instructions and focus areas of the fund before submitting.

This is the first open call at the fund. We value your feedback, questions and want to hear from you. Our goal is to make this accessible to as many people and organizations as we can. If you are not sure if you are a fit, if anything isn’t clear, or if you want to offer feedback, please write localnewslab@democracyfund.org


  • Organizations may submit individually or as part of a coalition.
  • Organizations must be nonprofit institutions, or be fiscally sponsored.
  • The number of proposals supported and total amount of support will depend on the nature and quality of LOIs received.
  • The Fund will consider requests for general operating, project specific, and/or capacity building support.
  • The Fund is content agnostic, and will not fund specific reporting projects, beats, or topic areas, unless they build capacity and infrastructure for the local news and information ecosystem.
  • Organizations may be part of more than one LOI submission.
  • Grant amounts may range from $25,000-$100,000, depending on the proposal and coalition of partners. The fund currently stands at $710,000, a portion of which will be allocated for this call for proposals, depending on the quality and amount of proposals that are received.


  • March 1: Request for LOIs released
  • March 14: Office hours for frequently asked questions.
  • March 30: LOI deadline at 5 p.m. ET
  • Week of April 30: Selected LOIs invited to submit full proposals.
  • May 29: Grant proposals due for those that are invited to next round
  • By end of June: First-round of grant decisions made
  • By end of July: Grants dispersed


Para servicios de traducción o interpretación al español, contacte a (919) 949-9272.

About the Fund

The North Carolina Local News Lab Fund is a collaborative fund housed at the North Carolina Community Foundation to support people and organizations working to build a healthier local news and information ecosystem in North Carolina. The Fund was established by a group of local and national funders who believe in the power of local journalism, local stories, and local people to strengthen our democracy.

The central goal of The North Carolina Local News Lab Fund is to build the State’s capacity for more relevant and useful news and information for North Carolina communities. The fund recognizes that North Carolinians get their news and information from a wide array of sources and it will invest in bold and creative ideas both inside traditional journalism and well beyond it.

If successful, North Carolinians will have greater access to the news and information they need to participate fully in their communities and our democracy.

The Fund is locally led by a cohort of stakeholders who embrace learning, diversity, equity, inclusion, innovation, and transparency. The fund recognizes that editorial independence is essential to the integrity of this work, and will never seek to interfere with what grantees publish.

Focus Areas

The strategic focus of the fund is on supporting local news and information as a vital part of just communities and a healthy democracy. The fund is interested in systems-level change and thus will focus on network building, capacity building, innovation, experiments and long-term change over short-term solutions. It will focus on creating a stronger infrastructure for independent media and communications efforts that can serve numerous communities or organizations. As such, the fund will be content agnostic (i.e. will not fund specific reporting projects, beats, or topic areas, unless they build capacity and infrastructure for the local news and information ecosystem).

The fund is not focused on saving local news as it has been, but pushing forward changes that will both improve how the news and information landscape serves the public and makes that landscape more resilient over the long term. The fund launches with a focus on three core focus areas:

  • Innovation: The fund is not interested in innovation for innovation’s sake, or chasing new shiny trends, but it is keenly interested in people who are testing bold ideas and taking risks that can help serve community information needs better and more sustainably. This may mean supporting new experiments or helping scale innovations that are working. The fund understands that sometimes innovations fail, and our key concern is that people have space to take those risks, learn from them, and share what they learn with people and organizations across North Carolina.
  • Sustainability: A healthy news ecosystem must feature a diversity of business models and revenue strategies to be sustainable. It also must support the sustainability of the people who help produce news and information. The fund will support revenue experiments, sustainability efforts for individuals, and talent engine and pipeline initiatives.
  • Access: The fund is concerned with ensuring all North Carolinians have access to the trustworthy, quality news and information that they need to help their communities thrive. There are many ways to tackle these challenges, but initially the fund is interested in supporting efforts in two areas:
    • Network Building: We live in an era of fractured attention and dwindling resources for local news. Collaborations (between newsrooms, nonprofits and the public) are increasingly important to maximize the impact and reach of local news and information. We believe that in a healthy news ecosystem the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts. The fund will support efforts to boost collaboration, build and strengthen networks, and develop shared services that can increase the sustainability of local news and expand people’s access to it.
    • Engaged Journalism: A healthy news ecosystem responds to people’s priorities and needs, engaging communities more deeply in the process and product of local news, ensuring that communities have the access to the information that they need. Engaged journalism practices are helping put diverse community voices and viewpoints at the center of news and are pioneering creative new ways of putting journalism and information to work in people’s daily lives. In addition, the fund sees community engagement as core to the sustainability of local news. The fund will support engaged journalism efforts in newsrooms and community organizations that help put people at the center of news and information and put news and information in the hands of more people.

Advisory Board:

LOI submissions will be reviewed by the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund’s Advisory Board. The members of the board are:

Brett Chambers, North Carolina Central University
Elena Conley, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
Damon Circosta, AJ Fletcher Foundation
Teresa Gorman, Democracy Fund
Barbara Hapgood, Prentice Foundation
Ivan Kohar Parra, NC Congress of Latino Organizations
Sorien Schmidt, Z Smith Reynolds Foundation
Josh Stearns, Democracy Fund

Contact Us

  • If you experience technical difficulty while accessing and using the online application system, contact North Carolina Community Foundation Manager of Information Technology D’Wayne Wilkins at dwilkins@nccommunityfoundation.org.
  • Llame a Language Service Solution marcando (919) 949-9272 con preguntas sobre nuestra traducción.
  • For other questions, contact localnewslab@democracyfund.org