Journalism & Media Grant Guidelines

Understand guideline and funding cycles

MacArthur publishes program guidelines to help applicants determine whether their idea for a grant fits within a particular grantmaking strategy.

As a general rule, applicants should base this decision on three related criteria that appear in program guidelines: the topical focus addressed by the grantmaking strategy; the geographic area covered by the grantmaking strategy; and, finally, the type of funding (i.e., general operating support, research, program support, etc.) that supports the grantmaking strategy.

Like most strategic grantmaking foundations, the MacArthur Foundation considers funding only those applications that closely match the topical, geographic, and funding criteria for a specific grantmaking strategy.


MacArthur's goal in media grantmaking is to provide the public with high-quality, professionally-produced documentary films, deep and analytical journalism, and well-produced news and public affairs programming. In a media environment characterized by proliferating information sources of varying degrees of reliability, the Foundation seeks to support serious, fact-based journalism for television, radio and the web, the type of original reporting that is likely to be blogged about, linked to, tweeted, and otherwise circulated throughout the Internet. Programs supported by the Foundation inform and educate their viewers about important and under-reported topics, provide balance and accurate information, encourage global conversations, and use technology to tell stories in engaging and interactive ways.

Key staff officers for this program are Director Kathy Im. Inquiries about grantmaking should be sent to

What MacArthur Funds

Documentary Films

MacArthur supports the production of social-issue documentary films on important contemporary topics, intended for a broad audience, particularly in the U.S.  Over the last 30 years, we have supported over 200 films by some of the most critically acclaimed filmmakers in the country.  Their documentary work combines exceptional storytelling with in-depth journalism. Many of these films have had a long life beyond festivals and broadcast, and been used in educational, community, and policymaking settings over many years, sparking conversations and activities that contribute to social and policy change. 

Through an open call process, the program seeks to fund documentary projects that address the significant social challenges of our time or explore important but under-reported topics.  Domestic and international topics are welcome, and preference will be given to projects that align with one of MacArthur’s grantmaking areas. Support will be provided primarily for production and post-production activities, and to experienced filmmakers based in the U.S. with track records of completing excellent feature-length films that have been broadcast nationally and internationally and received critical recognition.

This is a highly selective process.  We see many more qualified projects than we are able to fund, and must make difficult choices. In each round, the Foundation is able to support just 8-12 projects, from the 300-400 proposals submitted. 

View the Documentary Film Grant Guidelines

What MacArthur Does Not Fund

  • News and documentary programs that are local or regional in focus, except in Chicago
  • Media projects intended to advocate a particular point of view or policy position, or to promote a particular organization or field
  • The distribution and/or outreach activities associated with a documentary film
  • Film festivals
  • Training programs
  • General operating support for independent production companies or professional associations of media professionals


Updated March 2015