Frequently Asked Questions – J.M.K. Innovation Prize


Q: Can I be both an applicant and a volunteer reviewer?

Yes! We welcome applicants to the J.M.K. Innovation Prize to also volunteer as a reviewer.


Q: If I applied in a previous Prize cycle, may I apply again in 2023?  

Yes, past applicants are welcome to apply again for the J.M.K. Innovation Prize.


Q: Do you accept international applications? 

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize is focused on impact within the United States. That said, an internationally-based organization may apply if the proposal submitted focuses on work to be done within the U.S. or its territories.


Q: Can I apply if my organization is not a 501(c)(3)-classified nonprofit?

501(c)(3)-classified nonprofits and mission-driven for-profits are eligible for the J.M.K. Innovation Prize. Fiscally-sponsored organizations are also welcome to apply.

You may apply to the Prize as an individual, too, but would need to be associated with an eligible entity prior to being named an awardee. The Fund cannot make grant payments to individuals.

Please note, 501(c)(4)-classified organizations are ineligible for funding through the Prize. All other types of nonprofit classifications are encouraged to email us at prior to submitting an application.

Q: Is an established organization eligible for the Prize?  

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize oftentimes, but not always, plays the role of “first foundation dollars in” to early-stage organizations. That said, if there is a project being incubated within your organization that is intended to spin out as its own organizational entity, then we would encourage a submission focused on that project.


Q: What is the timeline for fund disbursement? Is this restricted funding?

The $150,000 award is paid over three years, $50,000 per year. This funding is unrestricted (“general operating support”), allowing awardees to deploy resources where they are needed most.

An additional $25,000 of technical assistance is offered to reimburse organizations for strategic expenses that are otherwise difficult to fundraise for; technical assistance funds are not meant to plug a gap in an operating budget. These T.A. funds may be deployed at any time over the three-year Prize term, in consultation with Fund staff.


Q: What does the Fund mean by “innovative?”

Good question! Our review process recognizes “innovative” as unique or clever, while emphasizing context. For example, a program might be innovative in a rural setting, but not so in an urban one. Or it might be innovative because it’s bringing an established service or technology to a new target population.

Because this is the fourth time we’ve run the J.M.K. Innovation Prize, we’ve seen a lot of amazing ideas…many, many times. Be sure to clearly articulate what sets your idea apart from similar initiatives.


Q: What does the Fund mean by “early-stage?”  

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize recognizes that “early-stage” can look very different across sectors, content areas, geographies, and more. The best way to define this term relative to the Prize is asking whether $175,000 of funding over three years, as well as significant organizational and professional development coaching, would make a meaningful difference to the organization’s start and forward trajectory. This typically translates to a project being less than four years old.


Q: Can I speak with a member of the Fund staff about my idea?   

Because of our small staff size and the thousands of applications received to this open-call grantmaking initiative, we’re sorry to be unable to accommodate requests for phone calls from prospective applicants.

That said, please do email with your questions and we’ll aim to get back to you within a couple business days.


Q: How will my first-round application be scored? 

All eligible applications will be evaluated based on the following equally-weighted selection criteria:

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

The first round of our Prize’s selection process is conducted by 500+ volunteer reviewers, meaning your application will be read by numerous “smart generalists.” We average these scores to identify the top 20% of scoring applicants, who are invited to submit a second-round application that will be read by 30+ subject matter experts.


Q: Are there benefits to applicants who do not ultimately win the Prize?  

We are acutely aware of the need for more funding for social and environmental innovation. While the Prize will only award ten Prizes in 2023, the Fund occasionally funds high-quality applicants outside of the Prize and we share promising applicant information with select colleague funders per the Prize’s Terms & Conditions.


Q: Can I apply for other grants from the J.M. Kaplan Fund?   

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize is currently the only open-call grantmaking initiative of the J.M. Kaplan Fund. All other grantmaking made by the Fund, both domestic and international, is by invitation only.