Writing proposals

Writing articles

Working with Contributoria

What are the proposal guidelines?

Writers propose article ideas, and the community chooses which proposals to fund each month. When submitting your proposal you should consider the following guidelines:

  • Title: The story title is not so much a headline but more of a short description of what you’re proposing. Keep it very short but also be super clear about what you want to write about.
  • Proposal Summary: Write a brief that explains the topic you plan to cover. Be concise, clear and punchy to detail the three main points of your story.
  • Share a little about yourself and why this particular proposal is interesting or meaningful to you as a journalist.
  • Include some of the key stats about the article. Any specific locations or geography relevant to the piece? How long will it be? What kinds of people will you be interviewing?
  • Mention any travel arrangements or activity/equipment which will have a cost attached (Your costs need to be reflected in your requested fee).
  • Ask for any particular skills you need from the community eg. language translation, help with data etc.
  • Description and credit for the picture or image which you are proposing.

Proposals can cover any topic that is likely to be of interest to Contributoria members and is lawful.

All proposals pass through a moderation stage to ensure that our members are not spammed or subjected to offensive material.

Related to that, if you change your proposal it will go back into our moderation queue for review. It's a good idea to tell us ( if you plan to do that so we can be quick to approve it and make it available for backing again.

At the moment we only support 2 proposals per writer per month. Though keep an eye on announcements and changes to the guidelines for information on additional opportunities for writers.

How much should I charge? What’s a normal fee?

Contributoria is very different from traditional publications so there is no such thing as a normal or standard fee, it depends entirely on the individual piece of work. We advise writers to ask for what they need. The fee is not intended as a lineage rate, it is a price intended to cover the true cost of producing the article. It should include any expenses you might need to cover such as transport, translators, photography, specialist equipment, time to research etc.

And don’t be greedy! You will be campaigning to raise the amount you ask for so it’s important to keep it realistic and remember that you can’t alter the fee once it has been set.

When you write the proposal it's best to spell out how you arrived at the fee so that your potential backers can assess how you arrived at the fee.

Whereabouts do I write my proposal on the site?

Once you've been accepted as a writer, you should see a red coloured 'submit a proposal' button. That will take you to this page,, where you can draft your pitch before making it public on the site for people to vote on.

I've written my proposal, why it doesn’t appear on the site?

Once you are happy with your proposal, you’ll need to click the button to submit it. It will then go to our moderators to be checked over in case of any potential legal issues. This process will usually be completed within a couple of hours and you will then see it live on If your story proposal is refused for some reason, we will contact you to let you know.

If you modify your proposal and resubmit it to our moderators they will look at it as soon as possible during normal business hours. While it is in the moderation queue your proposal will be inaccessible to backers, so be sure to contact us if you plan to make a change so we can be on alert.

I like the look of a topic, how do I post a proposal to it?

When you’ve finished reading the topic, you’ll see a button to submit your proposal. This works in the same way as any other proposal on the site but, in addition, it will be linked to the topic so the partner or member can see that you have raised it in response to their request.

Is a proposal to a partner topic guaranteed to succeed?

No, the system for backing is exactly the same as every other proposal and requires backing from the community during the pitching month. There is a slight difference in that the partners also have spending power and so may choose to support some of the proposals as well. This means more funding can be made available to writers. If a partner does support something you propose, you will see a badge making that clear.

Who edits Contributoria?

Everyone. We’re all editors on Contributoria, and we hope you’ll participate in the whole process, not just backing or writing. As a member you should read the community guidelines. The Terms & Conditions make some of the legal obligations clear, too. (Of course, you read the T&Cs already when you registered, right? Thought so.)

Now, there is a person who has the title of “Editor of Contributoria”. Her name is Sarah Hartley, and she is our fearless leader here. You can always contact her at

How can I include a short bio about myself?

You can add some profile details by clicking on your name in the top right corner and going to 'your contributoria'. You will then be presented with a page where you can add more details. This is an important page for members to check out the writers before they back proposals so be sure to add something about your background and other work you have had published.

How do I know who is backing my proposal?

At the bottom of your proposal page we show some information about your backers. Some people will choose to make their support public. You'll see their smiling faces cheering you on. And some will choose to remain anonymous, quietly wishing you well.

I received a warning about backing behaviour on my proposal. What's going on?

The intent of the support model here is to create an open and more democratic approach to commissioning journalism. It's our duty to protect the best interests of the whole community, and we will take action if we see activity that looks wrong.

So, for example, as explained in the Community Guidelines, it is strictly against our policies to create multiple accounts for the purposes of backing a proposal. This practice may jeopardize any proposals that have been backed using those accounts. It may also mean that accounts get suspended.

My story has been backed, when can I start writing?

Each stage of the process currently takes one month. Members can reallocate their points during the month until 24 hrs before the end so writers need to wait until being notified to know whether they've been commissioned. They will then be moved into the collaborative editing stage for a month to work on their story.

How do I format my article?

We use UK English across Contributoria. For individual words, measures, weights etc. refer to The Guardian style guide here:


Reading on screens, especially small devices like phones, is much more tiring than reading print, so ensure your piece is well-presented, to avoid reader fatigue. Use regular paragraph breaks, and intersperse your article with H1 and H2 subheaders, to keep readers engaged.

Block quotes are also a good way of punctuating longer sections, and keeping readers interested.


Should be in normal sentence case. Not With Every Word Capped.


To be used for very short speech, quotes. As they are only used in this way, there is no need to insert quotation marks as well. The online editing tool will automatically produce the block quote in green text.

Sub heads

The editing tool will provide for bold text for subheadings. Again, should be normal sentence case.


Use italics for foreign words and phrases (with roman translation in brackets); poetry and scientific names.

Never use italics in headlines or standfirsts.


Highlight the most appropriate words or the title of a book or website being referred to and embed the link using the editing tool. Alternatively, links to source can be clearly labelled as footnotes at the bottom of the piece using the Harvard citation style:

What is the collaborative month all about?

Writers who have been backed and so commissioned to complete an article will be contacted by If you are not contacted, you haven’t been successful. During the collaborative stage the work will be visible to site members but will not be public on the internet. Members are invited to collaborate with the writers during month and then the article will be visible to the public once again when it’s complete.

What if I’m unable to complete the commission?

We know things can change, interview requests get turned down, the story doesn’t stand up but if the story can’t be completed for any reason, the fee won’t be paid out and will remain in the collective funding pot for the benefit of future commissions.

What deadlines do I need to know about?

Everything basically mirrors the calendar, running in a monthly cycle.

Proposals can be submitted throughout the month. That’s when members back the proposals they want to commission.

Backed proposals become open drafts in the next month. Writers are encouraged to publish draft updates frequently in order to get editorial guidance from other community members.

Final drafts are due at the end of the month and then they roll over to published articles on the 1st of the next month.

Look out for an email from us with schedule details. We also post information to both Twitter and Facebook regularly.

Does the article have to be all my own work?

All the articles on Contributoria must be the original work of the writer and not have been published anywhere else previously.

If quotes or sections of other work are included within the article, they must be properly attributed. Proper attribution means including the original author’s name and a link to any online mention of the work. If the work being quoted is not published online, then the title of the publication together with the year of its publication can be used in a footnote.

We take plagiarism ( very seriously and will take action to remove writers who do not respect others’ work.

If in doubt, please do contact us

Who owns my story?

You do. Seriously. Writers retain the copyright for their work here.

Here's what the Terms & Conditions say about that: "7.6.1 Writers will retain the copyright and all other rights in and to the Proposal and the Commissioned Contribution."

By agreeing to the Terms & Conditions when you signed up for the platform, you have licensed to use the article and publish it on the site. If any other publisher wishes to use your content they will be required to pay for those rights. We can help with that and make sure that you get paid appropriate license fees for re-publication.

How do I keep people from stealing my ideas?

You should write about things where you have expertise, insight or a unique point of view rather than things that others could do as well as you. If you are worried someone will steal your idea then either pitch in more vague terms or consider pitching something else. This isn't a good place for breaking news, for example.

We’ve written some guidelines for writers that may help you with a successful proposal.

How much money will it give out for commissions? How much will I get paid? How and when will I be paid?

The funding sources and points exchange rate determine the amount we can use to commission. So the total fees paid will depend on how many members join, how much we can raise through other means, how many members are backing proposals, etc.

Of course, you will get paid your fee if you get commissioned and there aren’t any complications.

The first time you're commissioned at Contributoria we'll be in touch with you by email shortly after publication to get your bank details. Then, once you're on our system the payment becomes automatic and goes straight to you bank account without the need for an invoice. We’ll pay commissioned writers within 30 days, generally much much faster than that.

It’s worth reading the guidelines for writers and T&Cs again for more specific details on payment.

What subjects is Contributoria looking for? Is there an editorial position for the site?

Each issue is themed. Maybe it’s about Local Life or Press Freedom or The Future. Sometimes we open the theme for you to choose. You’ll know what we’re looking for on the ‘Submit a proposal’ form.

We have no prescribed editorial position for Contributoria. It’s our space together to shape, and the editorial position will form based on how the community engages with it.

Contributoria has relationships with many partner organisations who look for journalists to write about specific issues.

Can I pitch my article to other publications, or is it exclusive to Contributoria?

Go on and pitch away! We will do the same and share revenue with you and the community. We don’t think of as a traditional publisher/media property. It’s a community for writers - a platform, a process and a cooperative.

Will my article appear on the Guardian?

Only if it gets commissioned and the Guardian pays for it, just like everyone else. We know a lot of people on staff at the Guardian and can help get your article commissioned there, but we certainly can’t guarantee it.

Will my article be syndicated to anyone else?

We actively seek further publication for many of the articles. This means your work could be re-licensed to another provider and earn you an extra fee.

What happens if someone re-licenses my article via the site?

If another publication wants to use your article there are two possible routes. First, if the organisation is non-commercial, they are able to publish it under the Creative Commons share and attribution licence that you signed up to on using the site.

If the re-license request is made by a commercial organisation we will ask for a further fee. The writer will receive an additional fee and Contributoria will make a charge (to the publisher) for handling the transaction is re-invested into the community.