New Media Discussion Board

Comment Instructions:
Use the comment box below 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 newmedia@natan.org.

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Note: These are draft application materials open for public commentary until 5pm on Wednesday, May 18. For more information, visit An Experiment in Crowdsourcing.

New Media Request for Proposals

New Media
Natan’s New Media grants 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

Examples of new media include but are not limited to mobile applications, social networks, interactive games and content, digital video, and podcasts.

Guidelines

Natan invites proposals from tax-exempt organizations and from individuals or groups that have a fiscal sponsor with tax-exempt status for the first round of New Media grants. As with all Natan grants, supported organizations must have annual operating budgets of $1.5 million or less.

Timeline and Process

Natan will open up the New Media application period by June 1.  Applicants will have 4 weeks to submit applications.  Natan’s New Media committee and advisors will evaluate the proposals and invite select projects for a presentation round.  Presentations (in person or by video) will take place in September 2011.  Final decisions will be announced by October 31, and grants will begin to be dispersed immediately thereafter.

New Media Grant Application

  1. Tell us about your project on one 8½ x 11” page.  What are you going to do?  What’s your goal? Whom do you hope to reach?  What need are you filling?  (You can be creative with this page – it does not have to be only a page of written text.) Applicants will submit in an online application format.
  2. Upload or send us a link to up to 3 new media attachments that tell us more about yourself, your project, and anything else you want us to know.  These attachments might include: a video (on YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) running 3 minutes or less, a link to a beta site, a screenshot, a podcast, etc. If your project is at the stage for a demonstration, this is a perfect opportunity to give us a visual of how it will work. If it’s not, use these attachments to give us more details about what you’re hoping to achieve.
  3. Attach a project budget.  If this is a project of an existing organization, also attach an organizational budget. Include all revenue sources and all expenses for the project and, if applicable, for the organization.
  4. Attach brief biographies of key staff working on this project, making particular reference to their qualifications for such a project.


20 Responses to New Media Discussion Board

  1. Aliza Mazor says:

    Do applicants to the new media fund need to be aligned with Natan’s regular funding categories and target populations or can applicant projects work in any issue area and with any target group as long as it is focused on creating access points, building community, and inpsiring participation? Can projects based outside of the US also apply if they have a US-based fiscal sponsor?

    • Natan Fund says:

      Applicants do not need to be aligned with Natan’s other grantmaking areas but they do need to fall within Natan’s budgetary guideline of supporting organizations with annual operating budgets of $1.5 million or less. We’re specifically interested in funding creative uses of new media and so that could be in any issue area. Natan members tend to prefer projects that are particularly targeted toward people in their 20s and 30s but given the global and virtual nature of this field, it’s possible that we will fund projects reaching a variety of audiences. Applicants outside the US can also apply for funding.

  2. Is this fund only for individual projects within larger organizations running multiple projects? Or can it also be for general funding? What about cases with organizations that are entirely New Media (as opposed to brick and mortar orgs that are developing only one New Media project for which they seek funding)? Also, where would in-person meetings be held? I think the application is wonderful; however, it seems to be geared toward single-project funding as opposed to organizational funding, so that’s the biggest thing I’d clarify. Thanks for making this process open!!!

    • Natan Fund says:

      Both! We’re happy to provide general support to organizations already working in this space but we’re also particularly interested in funding entrepreneurs with single projects. Part of the reason we drafted the application this way was to also attract applicants that are not part of existing institutions.

      • Andre Oboler says:

        This is a really important clarification and doesn’t really come through…

        Suggested change:
        “Natan’s New Media grants support cutting-edge projects [and new media organisations] that use new media to:”

        Also, the bullet points under the top heading “New Media” seem pretty limited and specific, but I’m not sure if that is the intention? Some things that may currently be excluded:
        * Bridging the gap between traditional community organizations and new media (i.e. improving the community’s capacity)
        * Combating online antisemitism and anti-Israel hate propaganda
        * Building infrastructure to support the Jewish community in an online world (this is wider than building communities as it may cover things like training new experts, increasing literacy in Jewish professionals, etc)

        There is a serious need for deep investment in infrastructure (making online based NGOs viable financially), training (community leadership in particular needs to know more), policy development, etc. I fear one shot projects may mind it easier to get funding than long term solutions to the underlying difficulties. At least the document currently reads as if this may be the case.

  3. Efraim Feinstein says:

    First I would like to congratulate you for opening the application materials for comment. As far as I know, you’re the first in the space to do it, and it shows a willingness to maintain an open process.

    While it’s clear (to me, anyway) that the committee should have the final say as to which projects are chosen for funding, have you considered opening the applications themselves to a brief, open comment/response period? While it runs the risk of alienating projects that keep themselves entirely secret, that may not be an entirely bad thing. I would discourage inviting non-substantive types of feedback like up and down votes, which may tend to devolve into personal popularity contests among the applicants.

    Alternatively, one could imagine a more private review/comment process where the applicants could respond to questions that arose in the first-round of readings, say, using the comment features in a Google Doc. Perhaps this more detail-oriented process only makes sense for a the second round in the application process? If nothing else, it could improve all projects’ future applications and let them all know what committee members “think” when their applications are read.

    Notably, the suggestions above are questions of process, not technology, as all the pieces to accomplish this kind of review are readily available.

    Now, for specific comments:

    Presentations (in person or by video

    Does this mean by videophone/video chat (eg, skype) or by presenting another video? The former is interactive, the latter is not.

    You can be creative with this page – it does not have to be only a page of written text.

    This sentence seems like an invitation to abuse of the basic rule (one 8 1/2″ x 11″ page): I can only fit so much information on a letter size page, but if I put it in a non-page oriented format, I can potentially get away with including more. A one page description seems like an “equalizer” between applications, in the sense that it is one place where substance can be evaluated somewhat separately from design or style.

    Attach a project budget.

    Do you prefer a particular format? Some example budgets might be helpful. Do you have any unwritten expectations with respect to the budget? For example, do you expect that a project receiving funding will be produced completely on 10-40k? Get to alpha or beta stage? Seed funding? Make significant advances toward a larger goal?

    The commenting parameters also ask:

    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?

    The best way to get “bang for the buck” is to make sure that the “bang” is not limited to where the buck is spent. Fortunately, for media, which is an intangible asset, it is not at all difficult to ensure that the potential impact of a project can extend beyond itself. As such, I think the grant should prioritize projects whose end products conform to industry-standard guidelines for free software, such as the Open Source Definition or, for non-software projects, the Free Culture Definition. The products of any projects that conform to these guidelines will be usable, in source code form, to anyone else who wants to use them, for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial. Allowing commercial use of the content is essential if social entrepreneurs – whether involved or uninvolved with the grantee’s project – are to be granted sufficient rights to be entrepreneurial with the project. Further, if the project releases its source code and content in public under free terms: (1) the success of a successful project can be more readily replicated in similar projects, even in those with foci that are different from the original, and (2) even a failed project is not a loss, because a future project can either take over where the other left off or use the public knowledge gained in the former project to advance the latter.

    Because “new media” products are entirely intellectual constructs, it is important to look at the copyright licensing structure of the project. What rights does it give its users? … to the broader developer community? What rights does it take for itself over content generated by its users? Are these highly asymmetric?

    (Disclosure: I am a potential applicant, but I am speaking for myself and not for my project.)

    • Natan Fund says:

      We’ve found that the best way to learn about an applicant’s project is by meeting with them in person. For applicants that are in the NY-area, we will meet with them in-person. All other applicants we will meet via video chat. We’ll include a sample budget with our application materials in order to give applicants a better idea of what we’re looking for. At this moment, we do not have any particular expectations for projects and their budgets. The size of the grants and the parameters for each grant will be determined once we see the details of each project, meet with the applicants, and choose our grantees.

    • Andre Oboler says:

      Hi Efraim,

      Great feedback. The only think I’d personally take issue with is the open source aspect. The funding on offer is not enough to buy outright a major software development project. It is, however, enough to enable major new developments in the space. By coupling grant funding with a public release of source code, many very substantial efforts will simply walk away. Mean time, many projects that are “new media” but insubstantial technically will remain. It’s the difference between creating YouTube and creating a video on YouTube. If all you are providing is the video, sure, give it away under the creative commons. If you are creating an enabling platform that you might reuse again and again for the benefit of the community… but need to charge for (or get grant funding for) each time you use it… you are not in a position to give that away.

      - Andre

      • Efraim Feinstein says:

        Hi Andre,

        I agree that the funding on offer is not enough to buy a major infrastructure project. Few (if any) grants in the Jewish community are, particularly among those that are realistically accessible to startups. It is, however, enough to seed such a project. Therefore, if seeding is not acceptable for this grant, all that will come out of it are more single-purpose apps, videos, and websites and very little actual innovation will take place.

        The big infrastructure projects are the ones that benefit most from open source and the ones where the community can benefit most from the project being open source. In fact, if the project’s code and data are not open sourced, the cost of replicating the project for other purposes must be added to the total cost of the project for the wider community. That’s the argument I tried to make (mostly from the data side) in a series of posts. It is particularly true if the project cannot be completed on its seed funding, which will be the case for nearly all infrastructure projects. The choices therefore are: funding the open source project once or funding many technologically duplicative projects many times. In the latter case, each individual project is set back to start at the beginning instead of starting at the first project’s state of the art. The latter case is also the status quo.

        Open source projects can and do charge for services provided. Projects that prohibit commercial use, or limit their code or data to “personal use,” “educational use,” “non-profit use,” or any other form of discrimination on the basis of endeavor do not qualify as open source. Neither do they benefit true open source projects nor entrepreneurial projects in the future.

  4. Kudos on your “Show me, don’t tell me” approach, particularly in the New Media spere when it is often more effective and easier to grasp the project concept through video, beta sites etc. The quicker grant process is also a definite plus.
    One question, similar to Aliza’s comment, is about target population. Will Natan consider projects that utilize New Media’s uniquely global nature to reach and connect target audiences in multiple countries, including those beyond Natan’s regular regional targets?

    • Natan Fund says:

      Absolutely! We recognize the global nature of this field and hope to read all kinds of applications, including those that aim to connect Jews both globally and virtually.

  5. Shoshanna says:

    Hi, and kudos on the comments section- Great way to be interactive.

    I have to express dissapointment that your New Media Fund, like the JNMF, excludes the category of Israel. Bringing people- Jews and non- closer to and giving them a better understanding of Israel is a very real issue in today’s world. Using new media to tell Israel’s story is a vital way of connecting Jews around the world to their heritage and homeland as well as combating anti semitism, anti Zionism and bringing opposing sides together.

    Please rethink this.

    Thanks

    Shoshanna

    • Natan Fund says:

      Thanks for your comments, Shoshanna. We’re not excluding Israel at all! We can explicitly add it as a bullet point, but we had always meant for it to be part of the very wide scope we sketched out in the bullets above.

  6. Jonathan Horowitz says:

    Very exciting to see Natan open up its application process in this way! First off, I applaud your plan to shorten the review period from 9 to 5 months (perhaps this can be a test case for shortening your process in other funding areas). Even June-November can feel like forever to an individual entreprenuer in the technology realm waiting to hear if she will receive funding. I would push you to examine your process carefully and consider if there are ways tighten the timeline further. Perhaps early applicants who have presented highly compelling applications can be invited to make their presentations in August and receive award notifications in September (so they can get started on their important work!).

    Regarding what metrics Natan should be using to measure success, I would put it to the applicants. The application should ask, “How do you plan to measure the impact of your work?” By allowing applicants to articulate their own metrics you 1) avoid needing to develop a single of metrics for assessing very different forms of new media and 2) you will learn a lot about an applicant’s way of thinking and level of sophistication by how they answer this question (are they interested in more than # of users, do they a realistic plan for figuring out if they have achieved their goals, etc.).

    • Natan Fund says:

      You make an important point about the timing of our process and we’re glad to be able to have a shorter timeline than usual for our New Media grants – though it’s as short as we can make it right now! We’d love to be able to have a shorter process for our other grants as well, but given the nature of our giving collective (9 grant committees, dozens of people involved in our grantmaking, and only 3 staff people), our current annual process is the best mechanism for us.

      • I echo Jonathan’s excitement about your accelerated application process (especially in the new media realm). As a potential applicant, may I suggest shortening the deadline for submitting applications? Four weeks seems like a more than generous amount of time to submit the application outlined above.

        Do others agree?

  7. sarah lefton says:

    Love it. Worry that one page is far too short for someone trying to share a media pitch. That’s great if you are describing your mobile app that helps people find the closest hot dog stand or something, but for those of us engaged in storytelling, it’s limiting to the point where it would be impossible for me to, say, explain what G-dcast is.

    I think what would be great for those of us doing narrative work would be the opportunity to share not just a Youtube video but a treatment or a slide deck instead.

    • Natan Fund says:

      In the uploads section, applicants will be able to share anything they feel best highlights their project whether it is a youtube video or a treatment!

  8. Josh Miller says:

    Kol HaKavod to Natan for seeking others’ input on this process and for allowing applicants to submit their applications in a new media format, rather than a traditional written proposal application.

    Here are the questions and comments that came up for me in reviewing the posted materials and comments above:

    1) Would Natan be open to creating a forum for applicants who want to opt into sharing their ideas publicly in order to receive feedback from the “crowd”, connect to potential partners and/or to other potential funders? If so, I think it would be helpful to include the “opt in” box on the original application form. (Without punishing those who decide to opt out). An interesting potential partner for this might be the Fulcrum Project, http://jewishsocialmedia.net.

    2) Beyond the financial awards, what kind of support will Natan be able to provide to the winners? Will Natan board members be available to provide mentoring expertise around either technology development or the Jewish community? Would Natan be open to funding a consultant to provide this kind of support? Could Natan convene the winners? In my experience, some of the best ideas came from applicants who would benefit from additional support and guidance to fully realize the potential of their projects.

    3) Does Natan have a preference between projects that will utilize existing new media tools (ie facebook and youtube) vs those projects that will require technology development? My sense is that there is tremendous opportunity to leverage existing technologies in new, innovative ways, but that these projects tend to come across as less “cutting edge,” when being compared against a pool that “cooler technologies” like interactive games or mobile apps.

    4) There are many Jewish organizations seeking funding to support more modest technology projects like marketing campaigns, website upgrades, blogs, or the hiring of a new professional focused on technology. Would these kinds of projects be considered “cutting edge” enough to qualify for a Natan New Media Grant? If not, I’d suggest adding some language to the criteria to clarify what would and would not be considered “cutting edge” enough to qualify for funding.

    5) In terms of “bang for the buck” I’d recommend favoring:
    - Demonstration projects that can show the Jewish world how to use existing technologies in new ways to promote the stated outcomes (new access points, build community, inspire and enable)
    - Existing new media projects in the Jewish community that need additional dollars to fully realize their potential.
    - Teams that already have the tech savvy and Jewish sophistication to deliver on their project ideas.
    - Projects that have a very broad audience–ie not limited by a particular organization’s members, or a regional audience, or some niche interest area.
    - Projects that could be up and running quickly and will be relatively easy to maintain without ongoing updating or extensive monitoring.

  9. Evonne Marzouk says:

    Thank you so much for the opportunity to comment on this process. I hope that you feel that you get useful things out of your crowd-sourcing experiment, and I also hope that others will consider following your lead.

    As a potential applicant, a few comments and questions came up for me while I was reading your proposal. I’ll share them here:
    1) Under the list of types of new media projects you’ll be supporting, I see that you are focusing largely on how to create access points to Jewish life and learning, build Jewish communities, and inspire and enable people to be part of Jewish life. One thing that seems notably absent is new media projects which mobilize Jews and Jewish communities to make a difference together on topics of shared concern. This is another way that young Jews connect with Jewish life, but it is more externally focused – what can we, as a Jewish community, do together to make a difference in the world? This is also an important way to build Jewish peoplehood and connect Jews to their Jewish identity, and I’d love to see it explicitly referenced in the types of projects you are seeking.

    2) Regarding the types of new media projects, it is not clear whether you are only seeking projects in the design phase, or if you would fund projects in what the Jewish New Media Fund considered the “beta phase,” i.e., some initial development has begun but there is more to do, or where an initial technology is established but an expansion is planned. It would be helpful to know more about whether this fund is for new projects or can also include existing efforts.

    3) I suspect that when you invite applicants to submit only one page of content, you are thinking that this will be easier and quicker for applicants than a five page written grant proposal. This might be true for some, but creatively squeezing content into a single page (including, assumedly, the use of graphic elements) can actually be far more complicated and time consuming than simply writing a proposal. Further, I’m not sure that the graphic design and artistic skills that may be required to win this grant will actually be the same skills necessary to successfully execute the project. If you continue with the one-page strategy, I would just encourage you to refrain from judging on the basis of creativity of presentation, and instead focus on the quality of the proposal itself.

    4) One final note, I see that you’ve suggested as an attachment a video running three minutes or less. I know that you are looking for short items, rather than long videos, but I feel that a three-minute video limit is rather arbitrary and would limit the ability to share already-created videos which may be three and a half, four or five minutes long. It would be helpful if this time limit could be expanded to five minutes to allow for this.

    I hope that this feedback will be helpful, and I look forward to continuing the conversation!