An Experiment in Crowdsourcing

New media are transforming the way that people live, learn, and interact with others.  Digitized information, created by anyone, sharable instantly, accessible at any time, and usually interactive in some way, has changed both the ways that 21st century people behave and their expectations about accessing information and interacting with other people.

To gain a better understanding about the ways that new media can be used to engage people in Jewish life, Natan is launching a New Media grant area for 2011.  Natan’s New Media grants will support cutting-edge projects that use new media to

  • create new access points to Jewish life and learning,
  • build Jewish communities, and/or
  • inspire and enable people to be a part of Jewish life.

In this pilot round of the New Media grants, Natan expects to give away about $100,000 in grants ranging from $10,000 – $40,000.

In keeping with the ethos of the field, and inspired by calls for funders to “open up to new inputs” (as the Monitor Institute puts it in this report), Natan is experimenting with crowdsourcing the application materials for this new grant program.  We’ve also learned a lot from our colleagues at the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund, which has helped us to rethink the way we usually do our grantmaking.

Until 5pm on Wednesday, May 18, on this blog, our draft application materials are open to public commentary.  In the “New Media Discussion Board” tab above you will find a description of our intended process, our grant application, and our guidelines. You are welcome to comment or ask questions, whether you’re a new media theorist or practitioner, a Jewish communal professional, a funder, a new media user – or just an interested observer!  We’ll integrate what we’ve learned in this commentary period into our final application materials.

Some questions you might want to think about as you read through our materials:

1)   What do you think of the application questions and format?  We’ve tried to craft a brief, creative application that would enable a diverse pool of applicants to succeed – not just non-profit organizations accustomed to writing foundation grant applications.

2)   What do you think of the timeline?  Recognizing the accelerated pace of change in this field, we’ve shortened our usual decision-making timeline considerably – from our usual 9 month process down to 5.

3)   What do you think of the application process – an application submission followed by an in-person (or video) presentation for the finalists?

4)   As with all of our grants, Natan is seeking to get the most “bang for our buck” – we’re looking for the greatest possible return on our philanthropic investments.  Given that, what do you think we should be looking for?  And what should we be avoiding?

5)   What metrics should Natan and the grant recipients be using to measure the success of these grants?

The members of Natan thank you in advance for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. We’re looking forward to creating an even better application process thanks to your feedback!

Comment Instructions:
Click on the “New Media Discussion Board” tab above. Use the comment box below the blogpost to give us feedback. Your comments will be public and anyone will have the opportunity to respond. Please keep all comments concise and respectful.  If you would prefer not to share your comments publicly, email them to us at

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