FAIR Grants Guidelines

In view of the difficulties often experienced by African investigative journalists in obtaining space, time and means for longer term investigative stories, FAIR allocates grants for such investigative journalism projects to deserving colleagues. The grants are intended to be used by a journalist for an investigative story in the public interest that would, without support, not see the light of day. Applications will have to match criteria around importance of the subject, investigative methodology, newsworthiness and others. They will be adjudicated by the independent FAIR Advisory Council. Applications are open to all investigative journalists (FAIR members as well as non-FAIR members) based and working in Africa.

I. Grants amount and purpose

The FAIR investigative grants support investigative story or programme projects that are proposed by journalists working (either full time or free lance) for African media houses, and for which an expense budget is required.

The investigative journalism projects submitted need to match criteria set below. The grants cover expenses to be incurred in an investigative story or programme project only and are not to be used for fees.

Applications to the fund need to be accompanied by an expense budget.  The FAIR Advisory Council will adjudicate each application on its merits and FAIR will announce the winning applicants in personal correspondence and on its website.

Neither the FAIR Board, which administrates the grants, nor the fund donor organisation, will have a say in the adjudication process: the adjudication is the sole prerogative of the FAIR Advisory Council. As the adjudication process is out of the hands of FAIR and its controlling structures, any FAIR member is entitled to apply for a grant as well as any non-FAIR member.

II. Grants advertising

The invite for applications for the grants will be offered for attention to the websites and, if any, to the hard copy publications of as many as possible of the journalism (support) organisations that are engaged in the development and advancement of journalism in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. They will be advertized on the FAIR website and on the FAIR listserve. FAIR members will be encouraged to announce the invite in the publications of the media houses they work for, as well as on the websites they run, or have connections with, in their countries in Africa. The announcement will also specifically be communicated to FAIR funders and partners, for the purpose of wider communication by these funders and partners within their African media contact circles.

III. Language

Applications may be submitted in English, French or Portuguese. Where FAIR takes the initiative to correspond with any grantee, this correspondence will also take place in the language of the applicant.

IV. Applications rules

Applications must be accompanied by a 1 page summary in either English, French or Portuguese. The summary is of extreme importance because the initial shortlist of applications will be compiled on the basis of the summary and only the applications that make the shortlist will be considered in full.

The summary should contain the following:

  • Subject
  • Reason why this subject was chosen
  • Envisaged methodology (source-building, data to access, testing of obtained info in order to reach conclusion)
  • Media house that has undertaken to publish (the acceptance letter from the editor is to be attached)
  • A paragraph about earlier publications by the journalist
  • Budget (expenses only)

If an investigation topic is of such a sensitive nature that the applicant does not want the topic to be known to others, he/she should state this in the application. In this event, the applicant and the advisory council will come to an agreement on a suitably neutral/general description of the nature of the investigation, which description will be used when the award is announced.

V. Judging criteria

Applications will be judged on the following criteria:

The proposed subject must be an investigation of a societal ill relevant to Africa. Though it can be an investigation into an issue in one locality, subjects that are only relevant to one locality, or only to a very specialized audience, are excluded. It has to be an issue that is clearly in the public interest in one or more countries.

  1. The proposed investigation must envisage the use of investigative methodologies, such as source building and data (physical or web-based) searching
  2. The proposed investigation must be the applicants’ own initiative and the reason why the applicant chose the subject must be clearly outlined
  3. The proposed investigation must be viable and realistic
  4. The envisaged end result must be newsworthy
  5. The applicant must show investigative credibility, by experience and/or by reference
  6. The applicant must show that without financial expenses support the investigation would not take place
  7. The applicant must show that a reputable publishing or broadcast house is interested in publishing the end product; to this end a letter from the editor of the publication or media house must be attached to the original application.
  8. The applicant must show that the proposed investigation needs an expense budget, which surpasses the financial capacity of the media house

VI. Adjudicatory process and contract

Selection of the winning applications will be made by majority of votes on the Advisory Council. Though the Advisory Council may request the applicant to furnish additional information, it will not accept amendments to proposals after the application cut-off date. It will also not enter into unsolicited dialogue with applicants, either before, during or after the adjudication.

The Advisory Council will keep to strict confidentiality on applications and adjudications at all times. The Advisory Councils’ decision is final.

Winners will be informed of the adjudication outcome by email and if necessary by fax. All other applicants will receive emailed communications of the adjudication result. Announcement of the winners will simultaneously be made to all FAIR partners, members, media support groups, media houses, funders and audiences.

Grant winners will then sign a contract with FAIR, in which the responsibilities and undertakings by both parties are clearly defined.

If a FAIR Board member wins a grant, he/she should recuse him/herself from the FAIR Board for the entire duration of the grants project, and he/she will be subjected to the same rules and interventions as any other grantee.

FAIR office staff are excluded from participation in the grants project.

VII. Peer mentoring and editing

The projects will be supervised by FAIR’s in-house peer-mentor/editor, who will be informed of progress by each grantee on a regular basis. The peer-mentor/editor will intervene in case of hiccups in the process, and guide and assist the grantee where necessary, with a view to ensure maximum quality of the end result, which should be up to the standard of publication by the supporting media house as well as up to FAIR and international standards, in view of the yearly showcase grants brochure that is produced by FAIR. The final story should not be published without the clearance of the peer mentor/editor otherwise the balance of the grant will not be released.

VIII. Finance transfer and delivery of results

The pay out of the grants will take place as follows: 50 % will be paid out on signing the contract; the second 50 % is to be paid out on completion of the project by the applicant, upon submission of a detailed and satisfactory account of the use of the expenses budget as well as a copy of the published story.

All unused expenses or expenses not satisfactorily accounted for will have to be returned or offset against the second half of the grant.

The project must be completed within the dates agreed in the final project contract. The applicant can submit a request for extension, which may or may not be granted by the FAIR secretariat.

IX. Revoking of grants/payback

After the timeframe envisaged in the original application has passed, and the envisaged publication has not taken place, the applicant will have to present an explanation and progress report to FAIR, outlining both reasons for the delay and a new timeframe. The explanation and the proposed new timeframe will then be considered by the FAIR secretariat and can either be approved or rejected. If rejected, the applicant will have to pay back the grant in full (i.e. including the first tranche).

If, in the explanation, the original investigative hypothesis has been rephrased on the basis of found data which do not support the original hypothesis, the FAIR reserves the right to approve the resulting new investigation based on the rephrased hypothesis with a view to the criteria, particularly 1, 4, 5 and 8. If FAIR does not approve the resulting new investigation, the grant must also be paid back in full.

If, during the grants project, the supervising peer-mentor/editor feels that the project is in danger of not delivering the desired end result, he/she will inform the FAIR Board and the advisory council of this threat. Board and council will then work together with the peer mentor/editor towards a solution. The nature of the intervention will ultimately be up to the discretion of the FAIR Board.

If the FAIR Board, advised by the Advisory Council and the peer mentor/editor, comes to the conclusion that the grantee has not delivered an end result that is up to the standard that may be expected from a professional journalist, and that the grantee has no good excuse or reason for his bad or non-delivery, the FAIR Board has the right to withhold the second tranche of the expenses budget. In severe cases, where the Board doubts that expenses were used in good faith, it has the right to demand all paid out moneys back in their entirety.

The applicant will also have to pay back the grant if it is found that he/she lied in his/her application or if he/she broke the FAIR Grant rules or the contract signed between him/her and FAIR in any way.

X. Applications process and administration

Online Grant Application Form

Applications can also be submitted by email to grants@fairreporters.org.  FAIR will send out acknowledgements to the email address(es) provided. If no such acknowledgement is received, applicants should contact the FAIR desk.  Email applications must contain a summary, not exceeding 2 pages, of the following:

  • Personal data (including two email addresses, one fax number, one postal address and at least one telephone number) and banking data (1 page)
  • Form of envisaged output (article, series, book, TV or radio programme)
  • Outline of subject and investigative process as envisaged
  • Explanation of need of grant
  • Timeline including expected publication
  • Budget

Required attachments are:

  • Letter of intent from editor/publishing house, stating their interest in publishing/broadcasting the resulting story or programme.
  • Experience and references

The full application may be longer than the above, but full applications will only be read if and after they make the shortlist.

FAIR will acknowledge receipt of all applications. If no such acknowledgement is received within a week of submitting the application, applicants are advised to contact FAIR.

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