ONA Local Organizer’s Toolkit

ONA Local is a global network of volunteer organizers hosting networking and training events for local journalism and technology communities. This toolkit is a guide to successful organizing and includes rules for using the ONA network and brand.

If you’re unfamiliar with ONA Local or what becoming an organizer means, check out our FAQ first.


Approved groups provide a commitment to organize and host events (in person or virtually) at least twice each year.

Seed Money, Budget & Expense Reporting

ONA offers a one-time $400 budget to support each ONA Local group in starting up and holding events. Each group has its own budget code. All expenditures must be approved in advance by Meghan Murphy.

Trademark Guidelines

ONA owns several trademarks and service marks, which it considers to be its valuable intellectual property. Approved ONA Local groups are required to use only trademarks and service marks provided by ONA, and only in accordance with the ONA Local Trademark Guidelines. The guidelines define the scope of the ONA Local groups’ permitted use of the marks, place restrictions on the use of the marks, and protect ONA’s rights in the marks. Use of the ONA trademarks and service marks by ONA Local groups will, of course, impact the reputation of ONA; ONA Local groups may use the marks only in a manner that reflects positively on ONA.

ONA will provide logos for each group. If you are launching a new group and require a logo, please contact Meghan Murphy at meghan@journalists.org.  ONA Local groups may only use logos provided by ONA.

ONA Local Trademark Guidelines

ONA owns various trademarks that it uses in connection with its services, including ONA and ONLINE NEWS ASSOCIATION (collectively, the “ONA Trademarks”), and ONA Local Groups may only use ONA Trademarks in accordance with the following guidelines:

  • An ONA Local group may use the ONA Trademarks, as provided by ONA, only in connection with activities that are consistent with ONA’s mission and function as a membership organization for digital journalists, connecting journalism, technology and innovation.  Provided that the uses are consistent with the previous sentence, an ONA Local group may use the ONA Trademarks to identify the ONA Local group and in connection with publications, websites and other digital services, social media pages and profiles, membership development efforts, and events sponsored by or hosted by the ONA Local group.)
  • ONA Local groups must: (1) always exhibit and display the ONA Trademarks in the exact form provided by ONA (including any notices, such as ® and TM, that ONA includes with the ONA Trademarks), unless otherwise permitted under these guidelines; (2) ensure that events, publications, and other goods or services offered under the ONA Trademarks will be of high quality and commensurate with the quality of the goods and services provided by ONA in connection with its business; (3) provide samples of materials bearing the ONA Trademarks if requested by ONA; and (4) if using any of the ONA Trademarks in conjunction with a trademark of a college or university, use the college or university marks in accordance with the trademark guidelines of the institution.
  • ONA Local groups may not: (1) allow others to use or make copies of the ONA Trademarks, except as necessary to support the ONA Local groups’ authorized activities; (2) use the ONA Trademarks in any manner that may tend to tarnish, or bring disrepute upon, the reputation of or goodwill associated with the ONA Trademarks or ONA; (3) combine any ONA Trademark with any other trademark, except with the written authorization of ONA or as explicitly permitted by these guidelines; or (4) use any mark owned by ONA except as permitted in these guidelines.
  • ONA Local groups and individual members acquire no right or interest in the ONA Trademarks by virtue of the use of the ONA Trademarks, except the right to use the marks as permitted in these guidelines.  All use of the ONA Trademarks by an ONA Local inures to the benefit of ONA.
  • ONA may revoke the right of any ONA Local group or individual ONA member to use the ONA Trademarks at any time, and for any reason.

Look to the Community for Meeting Space

We encourage you to work with the community to find free, donated or sponsored space and event materials. Some suggestions are:

  • Local universities or community colleges
  • Free public space (e.g., libraries, museums)
  • Your local watering hole, which might be happy to have a large group’s regular business, especially during a normally slow time. You may even be able to bargain food or drinks specials for your guests.
  • Local media and tech companies and organizations, which also may offer expertise and speakers

Partnerships & Sponsorships

Approval: All requests for sponsorships or partnerships must be approved by ONA. As a nonprofit organization, we want to make sure any partnerships or sponsorships are reflective of the Online News Association and our members.

Partnerships are collaborations with area associations, clubs or schools and can be a great way to share resources and knowledge. We encourage our groups to look to their community for opportunities to work together to organize events, trainings or discussions. Working with community partners also helps to diversify the makeup of the group and introduces the community to new friends and ideas. Past partners have included SPJ, SND, NABJ, AAJA, NAHJ, Hacks/Hackers, Social Media Week, local area tech groups and more.

Co-hosting or sponsoring: We encourage groups to seek out sponsorships and in-kind payments from local media or tech companies to support events. That can translate into anything from providing space to paying directly for food and drink.

Promotions: Sponsors/partners may have their names attached to any ONA Local event in promotional materials, social media, email blasts and on journalists.org.

Event: Sponsors/partners should be acknowledged on the night of the event and on signage promoting the event and in communications around the event.

Monetary sponsorship: Sponsors may opt to support one or a series of events with a blanket contribution. In that event, please contact Meghan Murphy for approval. Once approved, the sponsoring organization can pay by either credit card or check.

Credit card payments can be made by calling Jeremiah Patterson at (202) 643-1662.

Checks must be made out to the Online News Association and mailed to:

Online News Association
Attn: ONA Local
Online News Association, care of NPR
1111 North Capitol Street, NE,
Washington, DC 20002

Reporting: Any donations or in-kind services supporting a local event must be recorded in the monthly report. To file for reimbursement, please contact Meghan for an expense report.

Social Media

Social media is a great way to promote your events, engage with your community and invite new friends to the ONA community. To help us keep track of what springs up in the social media universe, here are a few guidelines for creating a social web presence:

  • ONA Local groups use Meetup.com to organize and engage their communities. It’s a good platform for automating event reminders and providing a place for organizers and participants to post photos, video or other digital coverage of the event. It doesn’t, however, provide an e-commerce system efficient for our needs, so any event charging a registration fee will have to use a third-party platform. For more information see “Charging for your events” below.
  • Groups must request approval to launch any presence on the web or any social platform that will use the Online News Association name, the trademark “ONA” or ONA logo. ONA will provide your group with a customized logo. To request a logo, please contact Meghan at meghan@journalists.org.
  • To keep communications manageable, groups may launch with up to two social platforms; for additional platforms, we ask that you submit a one-page communications strategy for managing the accounts.
  • ONA Central must have access to any account using the ONA name or logo. Accounts should be created using a journalists.org email address. Email your requests to Meghan at meghan@journalists.org.

Charging for your Events

Free events are always the best events, but we know that identifying meeting space can be challenging and expensive. If you charge, we ask that the fee be reasonable (under $10). If you would like to charge for events, please contact Meghan at meghan@journalists.org for written approval and to be connected with ONA on Paypal or WePay.

To set up registration for an event, you may use Meetup.com or talk to us about other options.

Promotion & Materials

ONA Local events are open to all, but we encourage leaders to prioritize benefits to ONA members and to share information about becoming an ONA member with attendees at every meeting.

Tips for promoting membership:

  • Share five reasons why you’re an ONA member.
  • Encourage attendees to visit journalists.org or the ONA Issues Tumblr and point out your favorite resources.
  • If your events tend to sell out and there is no registration fee, make sure ONA members get priority over non-members when it comes to attendance. That’s a real benefit of membership.
  • Have your attendees been to the annual ONA conference? Members get deep discounts to the event, which is sold out early every year.

Tips for promoting your events and local group:

  • Make sure ONA has been properly notified of your event and that it’s posted on journalists.org and promoted on ONA’s social networks.
  • Be consistent with the timing of your event and broadcast it to your community. Some groups choose to meet once a month while others don’t have the bandwidth to organize that often. Whether it’s once a week, every month or four times a year, determine your strategy and let the community know what to expect.
  • Be sure to tag or reply to @ONA on Twitter when posting on social networks for quick re-sharing.
  • Ask the community to share event or group details with their friends and to invite new faces to attend.
  • Use hashtags for the group and be sure to promote the tag when opening the event, as well as include it in your event promotions.
  • Arrange for media coverage or cover the event yourself. This easily can be done by photographing, livestreaming, livetweeting or recording audio of the event and then sharing with your community. Have fun — use new tools like Storify or ScribbleLive and experiment. Don’t be shy about submitting event wrap-ups or great features to ONA for consideration on journalists.org; they are valuable additions to our training and resource library or to the ONA Issues Tumblr. Submissions should go to Meghan.
  • Write a follow-up email to attendees the day after your event thanking them for their attendance, asking for feedback and keeping them posted on plans. That’s also a good time to put out the word if you need a location or sponsor for the next event.

Programming 101

Programming local events is one of the major benefits of being a leader — you get to provide your community with events and resources tailored to their needs. We believe that leaders on the ground are better equipped to learn what their communities and colleagues want, so ONA provides little oversight on programming. But here are a few tips gleaned from experience:

Note: For program ideas, search the archives of other ONA Local groups’ events.

  • Not every event needs to have a program. There’s great value in gathering for a networking event or mixer.
  • Look to local expertise first. Who in the area is innovating and what sorts of lessons and best practices can they share with the community?
  • Be nimble and agile. Look for breaking news topics that should to be discussed by the journalism community.
  • Strive for diversity in program topic, presenters, area and level of expertise, as well as platform. Think outside the box on who you’re reaching out to and the format of your presentations. Ask participants for feedback and program ideas.
  • Be creative, innovate, experiment and have fun!


Please email Meghan at meghan@journalists.org information about your events before and after you host them. We’ll need a link to your event page on Meetup.com or the basic what, when and where to add to the ONA Local event archive. After your events, we want a general summary of how the event went, how many people attended and feedback from any partners or sponsors.