J.M. Kaplan Fund Announces Open Call for Applications to 2019 Innovation Prize

J.M.K. Innovation Prize Seeks Early-Stage Ideas with Potential for Large-Scale, Transformative Results in Environment, Social Justice and Heritage Conservation

New York City – On January 29, The J.M. Kaplan Fund announced an open call for ideas and first-round applications to the J.M.K. Innovation Prize, which will award up to ten prizes of $175,000 each to catalytic social change organizations across the United States. First-round applications are due April 30, 2019.

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize is open to non-profit and mission-driven for-profit organizations tackling America’s most pressing challenges through social innovation – defined as those pilot projects, new organizations or nascent initiatives that involve a certain amount of measured risk but which may ultimately lead to large-scale, transformative results. 

“There is a scarcity of funding for untested ideas being piloted by bold innovators,” says Amy L. Freitag, Executive Director of The J.M. Kaplan Fund. “The Prize is designed to fill this gap in innovation philanthropy, supporting ideas that others may deem too risky or too early-stage.”

The Prize’s unrestricted funding offers flexibility, letting awardees deploy resources where they are most needed, whether investing in core projects, hiring staff or just keeping the lights on. 

In 2019, the Fund will award up to ten Prizes, each including a cash award of $150,000 over three years, plus $25,000 for project expenses, for a total award of $175,000. Awardees also receive guidance through the Fund and its resource network. The Prize will be awarded to projects or ideas that:

  • Represent a game-changing answer to a clearly identified need
  • Are innovative within one or more of the Fund’s three program areas
  • Demonstrate the potential to develop an actionable pilot or prototype with Prize funding
  • Hold out the promise to benefit multiple individuals, communities or sectors through a clearly articulated theory of change

Over the three-year Prize term, the Fund brings awardees together for two convenings each year.  Each meeting offers opportunities for peer learning and mentoring from experts in organizational development, board cultivation, media coaching, leadership training and more. 

“Many early-stage prizes in the innovation field are focused on speed, scale and markets at the expense of depth and connection,” said Michelle Miller of Coworker.org, a 2015 Innovation Prize winner. “What we so appreciated about the J.M.K. Innovation Prize is that we were part of a cohort of people who approach their work from a community-centered perspective, and who are working on longer, more lasting time frames.”

Application to the 2019 Innovation Prize is a two-step process. The first-round application, available on the JMKFund.org site, must be completed by April 30. Select applicants will be invited to submit a more detailed second-round application in late spring. Finalists will be invited to New York City in the fall to present their ideas to the trustees of The J.M. Kaplan Fund. Awardees will be formally announced in November 2019.

Launched in 2015, the Prize leverages The J.M. Kaplan Fund’s legacy of catalytic grant-making in the field of social innovation. Currently on a biennial schedule, the Prize has to date funded twenty wildly creative solutions to social and environmental challenges, ranging from high-tech efforts to restore imperiled coral reefs, to the nation’s first farm labor trust.

About The J.M. Kaplan Fund

Established in 1945 by philanthropist and businessman Jacob Merrill Kaplan, the Fund has since its inception been committed to visionary innovation. Over its 72-year history, the Fund has devoted $250 million to propel fledgling efforts concerning civil liberties, human rights, the arts, and the conservation and enhancement of the built and natural worlds. The J.M.K. Innovation Prize continues the Fund’s legacy of catalytic giving, reaching across America to provide early-stage support for entrepreneurs with twenty-first-century solutions to urgent social and environmental challenges.