SPIN AcademyInfo and FAQ

1. What are the guidelines for applying for SPIN Academy?

The SPIN Academy strengthens the strategic communications capacity and progressive leadership skills of participants, their organizations, and the progressive movement.  The Academy is ideal for social change activists who handle communications and media relations for their organization but may lack any training in these areas.

We carefully evaluate all applicants for appropriate placement at the Academy and accept applicants who work on a wide range of progressive causes, with priority given to organizations working to create concrete systemic social change in:

  • Civil Rights and Liberties
  • Disability Rights Advocacy
  • Economic Justice
  • Education
  • Electoral Reform
  • Environmental Conservation
  • Environmental Justice
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Globalization and Human Rights
  • Health Care Policy
  • Immigrant and Refugee Rights
  • Immigration Reform
  • Labor Rights and Justice
  • LGBTQ Issues
  • Media Justice
  • Media Reform
  • Prison Reform and Criminal Justice
  • Racial Justice
  • Reproductive Rights

Acceptance to the SPIN Academy is also contingent upon:

  • Strategic positioning of the organization, specifically its ability to develop the leadership and media skills in colleagues and allies to build a stronger progressive movement.
  • Organizational capacity to turn Academy training into substantive organizational change and cause-related activities.
  • The organization’s clarity of focus on its specific media-related needs and challenges.
  • Timeliness of the organization’s issues, relative to other groups in the applicant pool.
  • Amount of applicant’s work time spent on communications.
  • Diversity of our participant group in terms of demographics, geographics, experience in communications work, and organizational size, structure and focus.

From year to year, we evaluate each applicant pool independently and thus do not give priority to previously declined applicants.

We also cannot guarantee acceptance of multiple applicants from one organization. However, the application does allow organizations to indicate which applicants are their first priority. 

2. How do I apply for SPIN Academy?

Applications to the 2018 SPIN open on May 22 and close on June 15, 2018. 

Participants will be notified of their status beginning June 23. 

Click here to apply.

3. Where is SPIN Academy held?

The Academy will take place at Walker Creek Ranch, a beautiful, casual retreat setting amid rolling hills and pastures, with nearby hiking trails and a small lake for swimming and canoeing.

Walker Creek Ranch is nestled between Petaluma and Tomales Bay in a secluded and peaceful area.

The weather should be quite warm during the day, breezy or foggy in the afternoon, and chilly at night. The chance of rain is very, very slight. (New visitors to Northern California, do take note: it will get cold at night!) Please bring a sweater or jacket, and remember, layers are your friend!

A small store on site carries basic sundries and snack items, but it does not carry cigarettes. Smoking in this high-fire-risk area is restricted to specially designated smoking areas only.

4. How much does it cost to attend SPIN Academy?

Thanks to our generous supporters, we are able to offer a sliding scale registration fee based on your organization’s budget, reduced from the $3,500 actual participant cost. We also offer a limited number of scholarships each year, based on availability.

2018 Sliding Scale Registration Fees:

  • Organizations with budgets under $500,000 pay a registration fee of $500
  • Organizations with budgets between $500,000 and $1,000,000 pay a registration fee of $700
  • Organizations with budgets over $1,000,000 pay a registration fee of $900

Registration fees for the SPIN Academy cover the cost of all training and materials, plus room and board. We also offer free ground transportation from San Francisco International Airport and downtown San Francisco to and from the event in Petaluma.

Unfortunately, the SPIN Academy is not able to provide air transportation to the event.

Please note, we never want money to be the reason you can’t attend the SPIN Academy. Please let us know if the reduced sliding-scale fee would cause a hardship for your organization and prevent your attendance as we have a small pool of scholarship money available to qualified participants.

5. Can you share a sample program agenda?


Each year, we tailor the agenda to meet the needs of both participants and current events. 

To see a sample agenda, click here

6. I have been accepted to SPIN Academy! How do I pay registration fees?

Applicants who are accepted to SPIN Academy can by personal or business check. 

Unfortunately, we are not able to accept credit cards.

Once accepted, checks should be made out and mailed to:

Community Initiatives – SPIN Academy

1000 Broadway Suite 480
     Oakland, CA 94607


7. I was not accepted to SPIN Academy this year. What's next?

Many folks wonder if there a waiting list for SPIN and the answer is YES

While we are not always able to accept all applicants to SPIN, we do have a waiting list. You will be notified if you are placed on the waitlist.

Nuper quisque evolvit praebebat turba hunc viseret foret vultus.

9. What should I bring?

Please know that packing appropriately for this rustic environment will help you be comfortable and have more fun.

We want your time at SPIN Academy to be as comfortable and productive as possible!  Sheets, towels and blankets will be provided, but you may wish to bring a sleeping bag or extra towel for your comfort.

We recommend bringing the following items with you to the Academy:

  • Samples of your organization’s communications materials (e.g., brochures, annual reports, fact sheets) to share with other participants
  • Directions to the site
  • Flashlight - very important!
  • All toiletries (e.g., shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, soap)
  • Other personal or medical items, such as prescription medicine, allergy medicine, contact lens solution and case, eye drops
  • Clothes for hot days and cool evenings (a windbreaker and sweater are ideal)
  • Walking shoes – comfortable, sturdy footwear such as tennis shoes or hiking boots
  • Bathing suit and towel
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Daypack
  • Earplugs
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Camera
  • Calling card
  • Sleeping bag  

10. Is there wifi/cell service at Walker Creek Ranch?

Cell phones do not work at the site. Participants have access to two pay phones on the property, plus computers equipped with Skype for participant use. To make a call on the pay phones, you will need a calling card with a toll-free access number.

The ranch also takes urgent messages for participants, which are delivered to the dining room at each mealtime. The phone number for the ranch is 415-491-6603.

WiFi access is available in our two largest meeting rooms, which have T1 lines. However, the connection is not always strong.

What are the accommodations and meals like at Walker Creek?

SPIN Academy registration fees cover the cost of all meals and accommodations for the duration of the SPIN Academy. Vegetarian and vegan options are available at all meals.

Housing is shared dormitory style, with each room housing two to three participants. Please expect to share a room.

While neither the food nor lodging could be described as luxurious, both have a certain rustic charm, and the site is both comfortable and beautiful!

11. I can't make it to SPIN. Do you have resources that can help me?


The SPIN Academy offers the following free resources to grow the communications capacity of your organization, regardless of whether you can attend SPIN Academy.

SPIN Works! is an activist-friendly media guidebook. It’s full of tips, tactics and strategies that empower advocates with a vast array of skills for shaping public opinion on their issues through the press. First published in 2000, and updated in 2005, the book is currently out of print, but this PDF is free for you to download.

Since your nonprofit is likely the publisher managing your own communications channels, an editorial calendar can be a great way to manage your content pipeline. LightBox Collaborative's 2017 editorial calendar is presented as a Google spreadsheet. Each month has its own tab containing the group's ideas on opportunities for your organization to share ideas and information and generate conversation. They’ve included red-letter dates to help spark your creativity on the conversations that will advance your cause via new media and traditional media opportunities.  

Rather than tying this year's calendar to the specific dates of 2017, they have included the events that happen every year in the same months, so that you can keep using this version in perpetuity.

Download a copy and customize with calendar hooks, program dates, events and other important dates that your organization can leverage for successful communications.

12. I still have questions! Who should I contact?

If you still have questions, email us at:

info (at) spinacademy.org

We'll take care of you!