How do I apply?

You can submit your application on by Oct. 27, 2015. You don’t have to be a professional grant writer to apply but you should be ready with a plan to make your idea a reality. We’re looking for projects big and small that can have wide impact. Tell us how you would help your city, your neighborhood, or your block succeed. The initial application asks just three primary questions about your project that should be answered in 100 words or less.

What are the rules?

1) Your project must take place in or benefit one or more of the 26 Knight communities. They include:

2) Your idea must focus on one or all of three key drivers of city success: attracting and retaining talent, expanding economic opportunity, and creating a culture of robust civic engagement.

Do I need to be based in a Knight community to apply?

No, but your idea needs to be carried out in a Knight community. You’ll need a local partner if you’re not based in a Knight community. You should still apply if you have a great idea and don’t have a local partner. If your idea qualifies as a finalist, we will conduct a pairing process that will gauge the appetite for your idea across Knight communities and partner you with a local organization.

Do I need to be based in the United States to apply?

No, but your idea needs to be carried out in a Knight community, and you will need a local partner. If your idea qualifies as a finalist, we will conduct a pairing process that will gauge the appetite for your idea in Knight communities and partner you with a local organization.

Do I need to be a nonprofit to apply?

No; the challenge is open to nonprofits, for-profits, individuals, governments and anyone with a great idea that will advance talent, opportunity or engagement. Some organizations or individuals may require a fiscal sponsor or an intermediary. If your project advances, we will work out the details later.

Do I need to raise matching funds?

No. You do not need to raise matching funds to qualify for a Knight Cities Challenge grant.

What do you need to know about my project?

For the initial application, we want to know what you’re proposing to do, why it makes sense in your city, now and a little about the team who will execute the project.

Who decides on finalists and winners?

The Knight Foundation board of trustees approves the final projects, but expert readers and panelists offer advice throughout the review process. The majority of the readers are from Knight communities.

What are the criteria for a successful application?

Initial applications will be reviewed and evaluated on the strength of your idea, its potential to advance talent, opportunity or engagement and your plan to execute the project. Finalists will be scored against five criteria: impact, innovation, inspiration, learning and capacity.

How much money is available?

We may award any amount. There is $5 million available in this cycle of the challenge. No project is too small as long as your idea is big.

How long is the grant period?

A Knight Cities Challenge grant is 18 months long.

How many different ideas can I submit?

You may submit as many ideas as you would like.

I received a Knight Foundation grant in the past. Can I apply for the Knight Cities Challenge?

Yes. Prior funding does not affect eligibility for the Knight Cities Challenge.

How soon will I hear the decision on my application?

You'll hear back with a decision on your application by the end of January 2016. If you have questions about your application please contact

When will the winners be announced?

Winners of the challenge will be announced in Spring 2016. The winners of the first Knight Cities Challenge were announced March 31 2015.

If my proposal isn’t accepted, will I know why?

We receive a large number of applications and are unable to comment on each one. We will be unable to share the exact reasons for the declination of your project.

What are the intellectual property terms of the Knight Cities Challenge?

If you win, you will own your intellectual property. However, under most funding mechanisms, you will be required to release what you make as open source code (for software) or with a Creative Commons license (for content and documentation). The only exception is companies in which we make an enterprise investment.

Legal details

Grants to nonprofits have a strict requirement: Any software developed with grant money must be released as open source (typically under GNU General Public License 3). The same is true for grants to for-profit companies. The business receiving a grant agrees to bind itself to the open source license it owns as if it were a licensee. If we make a program-related investment, only the initial release must be open source, and future versions can be licensed in different ways. At the end of the funding period, the company can pay back the funds it received or Knight can take a stake in the company.

What is Knight Foundation’s intellectual property licensing policy?

The intellectual property developed using Knight Foundation grant funds generally will need to be released to the public under an open-source license. We make exceptions in a limited number of cases; the criteria are spelled out in our intellectual property licensing policy.

Is there anything that Knight cannot fund?

Internal Revenue Service regulations on private foundations define some items Knight Foundation can and cannot fund. Knight is prohibited from making grants: to carry on propaganda, or otherwise attempt to influence legislation (as explained in Internal Revenue Code 4945(d)(1));
to influence the outcome of any specific public election, or to carry on a partisan voter registration drive (directly or indirectly) (as explained in Internal Revenue Code 4945(d)(2)).

What if my question isn’t answered in the FAQ?

Please submit additional questions to

No idea is too big.

Applications open October 1 - 27

Knight Foundation


Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.