Some tips on on applying for Knight News Challenge: Elections

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Photo by Flickr user notsosubtle.

The Knight News Challenge on Elections is open through March 19 for your ideas to better inform voters and increase civic participation. It’s your chance to share in more than $3 million.

Wednesday, we hosted our first virtual office hours. Below are seven of the most common questions we’ve received - and our answers. (You can also check out our FAQ and application tips) at


"Knight News Challenge: Elections Mixtape" by Knight Foundation

"Towards empathetic disruption: Civic tech and doing what works" by John Bracken and Lucas Hernandez on Knight blog, 03/04/15

"Democracy Works launches new voter tool, expands programs" by Seth Flaxman on Knight blog, 03/04/15

"Better informing voters and increasing civic participation focus of new $1.4 million support to Democracy Works from Knight Foundation and MacArthur Foundation" - press release, 3/4/15

"Balancing technology risks and benefits in elections" by Jeremy Epstein on Knight blog, 03/02/15

"To improve civic participation we need transparency" by Chris Gates on Knight blog, 02/26/15

"Civic engagement essential to strengthening democracy" by Kelly Born on Knight blog, 02/25/15

"Knight News Challenge on Elections offers more than $3 million for innovative ideas" - press release, 02/25/15

"Knight News Challenge on Elections opens for ideas" by Chris Barr and Shazna Nessa on Knight blog, 02/25/15

"Knight News Challenge to focus on Elections" on Knight blog, 02/12/15

What do you mean by “innovation”?

We believe that innovation can come from anywhere: both new and established enterprises, the commercial and nonprofit sectors, as well as individuals. We look for ambition amid existing constraints. Whatever your idea, make sure it pushes boundaries to help people become better informed about the world around them.  And here are some thoughts from Knight President Alberto Ibargüen on the work we do.

Is the challenge open to international applicants?

Yes. The Knight News Challenge is open to organizations and individuals from  anywhere. We look for international submissions to provide good learning opportunities and models or tools that could be replicable in the United States.  Currently, all applications must be submitted in English.

What are you looking for?

We’re looking for new ideas to engage Americans in the political process and increase participation in our democracy. We are not just looking for the next new technology tool. For more information see this blog post by Shazna Nessa and Chris Barr.

I don’t have an idea, how can I help?

Too many ways to count! Create an account on, comment on projects, offer advice, share the challenge on social media using the #newschallenge hashtag, tell your friends, your coworkers, and even applaud submissions. Here’s how the platform works here.

What do you hope to accomplish?

We hope to source hundreds of ideas and engineer collisions between organizations and people working to better inform and inspire voters or make the election experience more fun and accessible. We also hope to learn ourselves and to widely share that knowledge.

Should my idea be fully refined and my team fully in place before applying?

Not at all. We do not expect submissions to be final products. We make the process quick, open and simple to surface innovative and ambitious ideas. You are allowed to edit your submission until the semifinalists announcement on April 13. If you advance to the next round you will be receive more questions, including a request for budget and timeline information. In short, apply as early as possible to take advantage of the community’s (and readers’) feedback.

What kind of projects are ineligible for funding?

 Knight and our partners are nonpartisan, nonprofit foundations. We are unable to support certain projects that violate any Internal Revenue Service rules* or do the following:

  • Engage in direct lobbying activities (i.e., contacting legislators regarding specific legislation).
  • Engage in grassroots lobbying activities (i.e., encouraging the public to contact legislators regarding specific legislation).
  • Participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for elective public office.
  • Support a voter registration drive (unless the grantee is a Section 4945(f) organization).
  • Benefit a private party (other than through providing grant funds to conduct activities in furtherance of charitable and educational purposes).

If you are interested in learning more, or asking your own question, see the schedule for our community events here: or e-mail us directly at [email protected].

Lucas Hernandez is a media innovation associate at Knight Foundation.

* The Knight News Challenge will only support nonpartisan ideas. There are categories of ideas the challenge will not fund, under laws governing elections and nonprofit organizations. It will not support ideas that are aimed to influence the outcome of any specific election or legislation. Nor will it fund, directly or indirectly, a voter registration drive. We will be offering virtual office hours during the application period and otherwise responding to questions to make sure applicants are clear on the parameters.

Knight Foundation is partnering with the Democracy Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Rita Allen Foundation on Knight News Challenge: Elections, which asks the question, How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections? The best ideas will share in more than $3 million. Apply at by 5 p.m. ET March 19. Winners will be announced in June.  

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