IJ4EU’s Freelancer Support Scheme provides grants to cross-border teams of journalists made up predominantly of freelancers and who can benefit from an extra layer of tailored support. The scheme will provide around €500,000 in grants in 2024/25, along with training, mentoring and networking opportunities. It is managed by the European Journalism Centre (EJC).
The next call for applications opens on February 1, 2024.
The scheme is designed to support journalists operating outside of newsroom structures who may be underserved by other journalism support schemes and who are willing and able to collaborate with others to launch investigations of importance to audiences at a local, national, regional or European level.
Investigations developed for all formats — including print, broadcast, online media, documentary filmmaking and multi-platform storytelling — are eligible to receive support.
Grantees have six months to complete their projects. During these six months, in addition to grant funding, they also benefit from non-financial support.
Mentorship and training
Each awarded team will work with one or more carefully selected mentors according to how their needs evolve as they proceed with their projects. Teams can decide which team members will communicate with the mentor(s) throughout the programme. Mentors will commit to being available on particular days for calls, emails, feedback sessions etc. throughout the course of the projects. The mentors will have expertise in various aspects of investigative journalism (for example, data journalism, pitching, open-source intelligence, best practices in cross-border collaboration and so on).
In addition to the mentoring programme, the EJC will organise online expert calls (“Ask Me Anything” sessions) with specialists to allow grantees of the scheme to gain knowledge and improve their skills in fields relevant to investigative journalism.
In addition to the in-person networking opportunities for all IJ4EU grantees provided by the programme, EJC will organise a half-day online event bringing together each awarded cohort of the Freelancer Support Scheme at the start of their projects.
These online events will be in a format that encourages active participation from grantees, allowing them to align their expectations and fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration.
To be eligible for the Freelancer Support Scheme, applications must be submitted by teams composed of at least two freelance journalists that meet the following criteria:
Teams must have members based in at least two European countries that have signed up to the full cross-sectoral strand of the European Union’s Creative Europe Programme, which provides core funding for IJ4EU.
Eligible countries include all 27 EU member states and the following non-EU countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Ukraine.
Eligibility is based on residency (where you live and work) and not nationality (citizenship).
Team members based in countries anywhere else in the world are welcome to take part, but they must be part of teams that fulfil the core geographical criteria described above. In other words, they must be part of teams with members based in at least two participating Creative Europe countries in Europe. (For guidelines on including journalists or media organisations from further afield, visit our FAQ section.)
Team members from third countries (countries that are not Creative Europe participating countries) can be part of applying teams, provided that the core eligibility criteria above are already met. Please note that unlike in previous editions of IJ4EU, in the 2024-2025 edition of the programme, the United Kingdom, Moldova and Turkey are considered third countries.
Applications must justify the relevance of the investigation to the public interest in the eligible countries targeted by the investigation, or to the broader European public sphere. Applicants need to be able to demonstrate relevant qualifications or a history of working with trusted news organisations.
Grant funding may be used to cover any costs necessary for the development, completion and publication of the investigation and production of journalistic content, including salary and human resource costs, research-related costs, translation and travel costs. The only exception applies to equipment (hardware) costs, which are not eligible.
Teams must submit a budget as part of their application, based on this model budget.
Applications must be submitted in English.
Projects that receive support from IJ4EU’s Investigation Support Scheme will not be eligible for the Freelancer Support Scheme.
Projects must aim to be published by respected news organisations or platforms in at least two Creative Europe countries, in line with the geographical eligibility requirements described above.
Projects may initially be published behind a paywall, but must be made available outside of the paywall after one month.
We understand that investigative journalism is an unpredictable enterprise. Therefore, grant agreements will require that grantees make every reasonable effort to meet the publication requirements, and to contact the EJC prior to these requirements prospectively not being met.
Investigations will need to acknowledge the support from IJ4EU when they are published, in the most feasible way depending on the format that they are published in.
IJ4EU is open to cross-border investigative projects on any topic. This includes, but is not limited to, corruption, illicit enrichment and financial crime, security, democracy and human rights, environment and climate change, and health. Projects must aim to reveal new information that is of relevance to the public in at least two Creative Europe countries.
IJ4EU is dedicated to supporting a diverse range of topics and teams across Europe. We welcome projects focusing on underreported issues. Furthermore, teams working in eligible countries where investigative journalism is under pressure, including financial and political pressure, are especially encouraged to apply.
Payments and reporting
For teams selected for grant funding, the payment of grants will be made in three instalments:
- 60 percent of the grant amount will be paid upon signing of the grant agreement by the awarded project team and upon counter-signing by the EJC.
- 20 percent following the submission of a mid-term narrative report and completion of agreed milestones.
- The remaining 20 percent will be paid following the submission of a final report by the project team, demonstrating the fulfilment of the grant requirements.
The final report should describe the action(s) carried out with IJ4EU support, as well as expenditures, dissemination efforts, publication achievements and the public impact, if available at the time of reporting. Grantees will also need to include information on the progress and the impact of the mentorship programme on their investigations in their reports.
Grantees will not be required to provide detailed documentation (e.g. receipts) of their spending or accounting information as a precondition of payment of the final instalment, but will be asked to keep the relevant documents for a period of five years.
How to apply
The IJ4EU application process aims to be simple, secure and efficient.
All applications must be submitted in English via the online Good Grants platform. Good Grants is a free-to-use secure platform for submission and storage. It is ISO/IEC 27001 certified and GDPR compliant, and has multi-factor authentication, encrypted data, multi-tier backups and a secure multi-server architecture in VPC.
Each applying team should designate a lead applicant, who should create a personal user account to ensure that the application can be submitted securely and so as not to jeopardise the proposed investigation or those involved. Applicants can save the application form and return to it until they have completed it and are ready to submit. Once the application is submitted, it can no longer be edited. Only applications received via the Good Grants platform by the stated date and time will be considered. You will receive an email confirmation of your submission.
Applicants are required to provide in the application form information about their project and the team working on it, including:
- A brief description of the proposed project, topic and the objective(s) of the investigation, highlighting its cross-border relevance, public relevance and what new knowledge and information it will provide;
- A publication plan, describing the expected timeline for the investigation and the media outlets or platforms in which the project will be published, and the expected publication date(s);
- The main risks associated with completing the project and how the team plans to mitigate against these risks. Applicants are encouraged to use this risk assessment template.
- A budget (in EUR). The budget should be based on this model budget. The budget does not need to specify in detail items that need to remain confidential during an investigation.
Applicants are also strongly encouraged to provide etters of intent from at least two independent news outlets based in two different Creative Europe countries.
Selection process and timeline
Applications undergo an initial pre-screening to review basic eligibility requirements and applicants may be asked during this phase to supply additional information. Applications that do not meet the basic requirements are not further evaluated.
The selection of successful applications is done by an independent jury made up of distinguished journalists who understand the needs of freelance investigative journalists and their ways of working.
The jury’s decision takes account of, but not necessarily confines itself to, the following criteria:
- Cross-border relevance
- Relevance of the topic to European and local public
- Newsworthiness and added value
- Strength of research and publication plan
- Expected impact and/or reach of the project
- Feasibility of project within project timeline and budget
- Applicants’ experience and journalistic credentials
- Adequate risk assessment
- The urgency of financial need or other assistance
In addition, the guidelines instruct the jury to consider the overall package of grantees with a view toward ensuring:
- Geographical balance
- Thematic balance
- Balance among types of investigative teams
- Attention is paid to underreported topics as well as investigative topics affecting local communities.
More information about the selection process and the ways of working of the jury can be found in the FAQ section.
Notification of award and timeline
Successful applicants will be notified about the outcome of their application as soon as the independent jury makes its decision. Given the high volume of applications, the EJC reserves the right to not provide individual feedback to unsuccessful applicants.
Selected applicants — acting through one lead representative — are required to sign and adhere to a grant agreement with the European Journalism Centre in order to receive the funds. The lead applicant is responsible for receiving and distributing the grant to the rest of the team members, in accordance with the project application form and budget.
Successful investigations receive the awarded grants in three instalments on the grounds of a budget that is double-checked and approved by the EJC as credible and reasonable. Unless the EJC has any indications for improper use of funds, grantees are not required to provide detailed documentation of their spending as a precondition of payment of the final instalment.
Grants are awarded for a period of six months. All funded projects must be finalised no later than the date specified in the grant agreement.
The lead representatives of selected projects are expected to stay in regular contact with EJC on the progress of investigative work and immediately communicate any major unexpected delays or other deviations.
EJC reserves the right to publish references to and re-publish excerpts of the project on its website and applicants agree to make themselves available to EJC and IPI for interviews related to their experience working on the project within six months after the end of IJ4EU.
Optional project support
IJ4EU provides legal, editorial and practical support and guidance to grantees, to help ensure the success of the individual projects.
Legal contingency fund
IJ4EU has a small legal contingency fund to support grantees. This fund is designed to provide additional financial support in the case of unforeseen legal costs, which can include the coverage of legal advice, lawyers’ fees or other support.
The legal aid fund is managed by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF). (Please note: any expected legal costs, such as standard pre-publication review, should be included in project budgets and cannot be covered by the legal contingency fund.)
The IJ4EU consortium is led by the International Press Institute (IPI), a global press freedom organisation with more than 70 years of experience defending media freedom. IPI and the other partners in the consortium are committed to defending the rights of IJ4EU grantees to do their work free from interference. Together with ECPMF, IPI is a member of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) mechanism for press freedom violations in the EU. Any threats to the work of IJ4EU grantees will be immediately reviewed by IPI for an appropriate response and, where appropriate, will be shared with other members of the MFRR for coordinated advocacy or another form of response, including legal and practical support.
All IJ4EU grantees are eligible for one year of free membership of its global network of editors, media executives and prominent journalists.
Grantees will also have access to editorial support and general advice in case they face difficulties in the advancement of the publication of their investigations.
This support — in line with clear internal guidelines established by the consortium — will not assume any form of editorial supervision so as to preserve the separation between donor and grantee, but will be able to offer general guidance that may prove valuable to teams that have hit a “pothole” in their work.
Questions and contact
Our FAQ section provides answers to many specific questions about the grant. For further questions, applicants should contact the European Journalism Centre at siderova[at]ejc.net