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2012 Request for Proposals (RFP)

The McCormick Foundation Journalism Program aims to bolster a more informed citizenry by investing in quality news content and educating people—especially students—to better appreciate the importance of news. We also are dedicated to protecting press freedoms and defending the First Amendment.

Our overarching focus is News Literacy and its role as a catalyst for informing and engaging citizens. News literacy teaches students the critical thinking skills they need to be smarter and more frequent consumers and creators of credible information. Students learn how to distinguish verified information from raw messages, spin, gossip and opinion, and are encouraged to seek news and information that will help them become well-informed citizens and voters (see www.newsliteracyproject.org).

Key Themes

The News Literacy emphasis is supported by grantmaking initiatives in Content, Audience and Rights (CAR). Please note that our grantmaking strategy now includes more Chicago investment and increased support for youth media. We’re also putting stronger emphasis on performance evaluation and impact. In addition, we are active in coordinating funding and field-building collaborations and partnerships.

  • Content.Our Content category addresses the continuous need to improve journalistic context, depth and quality. We’re looking for proposals that address the following:
    1. Investigative and collaborative efforts impacting Chicago audiences.
    2. Models for high-quality news content and better trained journalists.
  • Audience.The Audience initiative recognizes a shift in focus from the newsroom to those who consume news. Today’s audiences are less passive, more engaged and eager to interact with news sources. Our work with young people, community news organizations and scholastic journalism programs has fueled interest in the potential of audience building. We’re looking for proposals that address:
    1. Increasing opportunities and participation in youth journalism and news literacy programs.
    2. Sustaining teacher and educator networks that provide trainings, resources, equipment and curriculum guidance.
    3. Building awareness of news literacy principles and their role in education.
  • Rights.Col. Robert R. McCormick’s unwavering support of First Amendment freedoms and legal protections for journalists are cornerstones of the Journalism Program. We’re looking for proposals that:
    1. Support information access and press freedoms for Chicago journalists.
    2. Reinforce press freedoms and access to information

What We Don't Fund

  • Production or distribution of TV or radio programming or documentaries
  • Scholarships for university studies
  • Grants to individuals
  • Personal research

Steps for Applying for 2012 Funding

Letter of Inquiry (LOI) due by May 2, 2011

  1. Before submitting a full proposal, the organization should fill out an application cover sheet and compose a two- to three-page letter of inquiry. Please keep within the page count limit.
  2. The letter should outline the following: the program’s nature, purpose, need, proposed timeline and cost. It should also address the qualifications of the organization and how the program fits into the Journalism Program’s strategy.
  3. E-mail your cover sheet and letter of inquiry to the attention of Aaron Smith, Administrative Officer, at asmith@mccormickfoundation.org. You will receive an e-mail confirming that your letter has been received.
  4. The staff will review your proposal by June 10, 2011. We will either send you a decline letter or be touch with questions or requests for additional information. If your project is selected to be considered for funding, we will request a full proposal. Proposal components are outlined below.

View a video of how to compose a letter of inquiry for the McCormick Journalism Program:

Full Proposal (invitation only), due June 30, 2011

If your organization is invited to submit a full proposal, you will be asked to prepare a project narrative using the subheads below. In some instances, this information will elaborate on wording in the LOI. Please format your Word document using Times New Roman, 12 point font, single spaced. When possible, please use bullet points to break up complex program descriptions.

  1. Program
    1. Describe your program in detail.
    2. Include clearly stated goals and objectives.
    3. Include a project activities timeline.
    4. If your program involves a partner or partners, describe why you have chosen them.
  2. Organization
    1. Describe your organization's background, history and mission.
    2. Include the overall goals of the organization.
    3. List current programs and activities, emphasizing major achievements of the past two years.
  3. Need
    1. Include a needs statement describing the issue and who the program will serve.
    2. Describe how your strategy compares with or differs from others in the field.
    3. Describe how the proposed project will address the identified need.
    4. What research supports your idea?
  4. Fit
    1. Describe how your project addresses one of the Journalism Program's three grantmaking initiatives (Content, Audience or Rights).
  5. Impact & Measurement
    1. Describe your plans for assessing the results and impact of the project. For example, how will your organization track, measure, and monitor progress toward meeting outputs, outcomes, and key milestones during and at the end of the grant period?
    2. How do you plan to share with others the obstacles you’ve met along the way, the failures encountered, or the best practices and lessons learned from carrying out this initiative?
    3. Detail how your organization will recognize the McCormick Foundation as a funder of your project or activity.
  6. Project Budget
    1. Please download and use the attached budgeting form to show your budget for the program for which you're requesting funding. If you are proposing a multiple-year grant, you must provide a projected budget for each requested funding year.
    2. Describe any unusual or specific circumstances about the funding request and provide an explanation.
    3. Describe why the proposed budget is realistic and reasonable in relation to the specific grant results you have identified.
    4. What is your sustainability strategy?
  7. Organizational Budget
    1. Provide an operating budget for your organization that includes income and expense projections pertaining to the fiscal year in which the project will take place. Feel free to submit in a format that is convenient for you—there is no required form or worksheet.
  8. Funders
    1. List your top five funders and amount of support for fiscal year 2010.This list should include the name of the corporation/foundation/individual, amount, and purpose of the donations.
  9. Board of Directors
    1. Provide the most recent list of your Board of Directors.
    2. Please list their name and job title on the first line, and the principal business or professional affiliation on the second. Please provide this in Word Document format.
  10. Other Required Attachments
    1. Most recent audited financial report.
    2. Tax exempt certificate. This signed form certifies the organization's current tax-exempt status. Please download this form to sign.
    3. IRS tax determination letter / 501(c)(3). We require a copy of the most recent tax determination letter issued to your organization (or your fiscal agent) by the IRS. It should include your federal tax identification number and the date your organization (or fiscal agent) was awarded tax-exempt status. (If this information is not printed on the letter, it should be written in manually at the top or bottom.) This is NOT the state tax exemption certification. We will need all applicable components for the registered 501(c)(3) organization by June 30, 2011. In some instances, where fiscal agents or universities are involved, the intended grantee is not the same as the entity carrying out the proposed initiative. In such cases the foundation needs all the applicable documents for both organizations (i.e. the university’s fundraising foundation and the center/organization applying for funding).

Please contact Aaron Smith (asmith@mccormickfoundation.org) with questions.