Capital City Fund For Investigative Journalism

How To Apply for a Grant

SpotlightDC is eager to fund investigative and explanatory projects for print, online media, podcast, radio and broadcast outlets. The projects must cover stories based in Washington, D.C., or probe cross-cutting subjects on matters such as health care, crime, transportation or corruption within the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region.

We offer grants of up to $10,000 for projects by freelance investigative journalists or reporters affiliated with news organizations.

SpotlightDC also awards grants for shorter, breaking watchdog projects of up to $2,000. Pitches for these projects can be shorter, direct emails to the SpotlightDC president, and the approval process takes less time to respond to breaking news.

All pitches must be supported by documents, interviews and proprietary personal reporting. The resulting project should aim for high-impact journalism with the goal of exposing wrongdoing and provoking positive change


SpotlightDC accepts and evaluates grant applications on a rolling basis.

Please send applications to We accept applications from journalists who reside or work in the District of Columbia region or beyond. The project must involve objective, investigative reporting rather than opinion, trend or feature writing.             Each proposal should begin with a short summary of the investigative project: whom it’s about; what it hopes describe; where it takes place; why the project will have impact; how the journalist will report the project; when it will be filed. The proposal should also contain the results of preliminary reporting.

The pitch should not exceed 1,000 words.

The summary should state the main question the investigation seeks to answer and provide SpotlightDC with:

  • Descriptions of the project’s primary reporting: list of public records, interviews, personal reporting and observations. 
  • Roadmaps for tracking down information and how the investigation will proceed.

The proposal should include a budget that describes costs for reporting, travel, accessing and copying documents, transcription services and equipment rental.


  • SpotlightDC’s president or executive director will screen proposals that he or she considers worthy of further evaluation. The executive director can, in some cases, work with grantees to refine or modify their submissions. The executive director will recommend projects for board review.
  • SpotlightDC’s Advisory Board of working and former journalists will consider, critique, evaluate and rank grant proposals based on their chances of execution and completion, potential for impact and opportunity for wide and deep readership.
  • SpotlightDC’s Executive Board of Directors is responsible for approving and funding investigative reporting proposals. Grants can be for a maximum of $10,000. Regardless of the amount, funds will be disbursed in two installments: 50% when the Board approves the project and the remaining 50% when the article or series of articles is complete and ready for publication.


  1. Potential Impact: Does publication of the investigative project hold the chance for forcing public hearings or policy changes to remedy the matters highlighted in the article?
  2. Reporting and Documentation: Does the journalist support the project with public-record documents and on-the-record interviews?
  3. Timeliness: Does the reporting uncover and expose a matter that is previously unexplored and will create news?
  4. Potential for Wider Publication: Will the investigative project based in Washington, D.C., resonate beyond the region? Does it have the potential to be published in outlets outside Washington, D.C., and provoke similar investigative scrutiny in other regions?

PUBLICATION AND GUIDANCE:  SpotlightDC is a funder rather than a publisher.

SpotlightDC prefers that the journalist provide an expression of interest or commitment from a news outlet with the initial grant application. If necessary, SpotlightDC will assist in finding a publication partner for the project. Before awarding funds, SpotlightDC requires that the applicant find a home for the project with one of our media partners or another news outlet.

We will collaborate with a partnering media outlet that will publish completed projects that we fund. Once a project has been published, SpotlightDC will promote it on our website — — and promote it through social-media platforms.

As part of its relationship with media partners, SpotlightDC expects to share credit as a supporter or funder of the completed project.

In some circumstances, SpotlightDC can partner an Advisory Board member with a journalist who’s been granted funds to complete an investigative project. That guidance and mentoring relationship would stop short of assistance in actual reporting or writing.

DISCLAIMER OF LIABILITY SpotlightDC’s role in assisting journalists is limited to making grants and supporting publication of their work. SpotlightDC assumes no liability for legal and/or safety risks undertaken by journalists in the course of their reporting and writing.

For more information please email us at

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