Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellowship Program

Nathan Cummings Foundation

Grant amount: Up to US $150,000

Anticipated deadline: Oct 1, 2018

Applicant type: Postdoctoral Researcher Faculty Unaffiliated Researcher Working Professional

Funding uses: Conference, Research, Fellowship

Location of project: United States

Location of residency: United States

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The Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellowship Program provides three individuals with up to $150,000 each to pursue a visionary social justice, economic justice and/ or climate change objective for up to 18 months.

The methodology must be rooted in at least one of the Foundation’s approaches:
  • Arts and Culture
  • Constituency Building
  • Disruptive Ideas
  • Religious Traditions and Contemplative Practice
Fellows' projects will be expected to push NCF beyond its boundaries and open productive new lines of inquiry; ask provocative questions; challenge conventional wisdom; and develop new ideas, approaches, and strategies. 

Fellows will have access to NCF staff and a network of NCF grantees and advisors, both during and after their fellowship year to provide strategic advice on ways to achieve their project goals.   

In evaluating each application, the selection committee will base their determinations on the following criteria: the applicant, the topic of the project, the project's alignment with the foundation's DNA, focus areas, and approaches, the potential to forge a breakthrough solution, and the applicant's ability to carry out the proposed work.

Focus area:
The Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellowship supports innovative individuals who share our vision of a society that measures its success by how it treats those who have the least, and that works to close the gap between America’s promise and its imperfect practice.  Specifically, we seek to make progress on two pressing and interconnected problems that must be resolved if our vision is to be realized:  inequality and climate change.

In order to address inequality, we will invest in work with strong potential to catalyze new and effective pathways to economic opportunity, particularly for women and people of color, and that takes seriously the need to: 
  • Improve quality of life for the poor;
  • Move toward greater equality of opportunity, meaning that where someone is born on the income distribution would not limit their chances to move up; and
  • Challenge structures and ideas that allow a vastly disproportionate share of the nation’s wealth to be concentrated in the hands of a few.

Climate Change
We will address climate change as a consequence of progress in human development and economic prosperity, and will fund promising work that helps activate American ingenuity in pursuit of three interrelated goals:
  • Increasing access to modern energy for the world’s poor; and
  • Stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a low level; and
  • Improving resilience for those most vulnerable to the negative consequences of climate variability and change.

Our Approach
All of the Foundation’s grants will reflect its values, legacy and interests, as captured in our DNA Statement.  Consequently, priority will be given to four approaches that have worked well in our experience, precisely because they help people make sense of the world, see new possibilities, and gain power and agency in their own lives. They are:
  • Disruptive Ideas – Asking difficult questions and applying disruptive ideas to challenge, and when appropriate, move beyond conventional thinking    and traditional divides; 
  • Arts and Culture – Illuminating the human condition, nurturing empathy and expanding a vision of what’s possible;
  • Constituency Building – Achieving greater influence and leadership for individuals and communities through sustained organizing, coalition building and advocacy; and  
  • Religious Traditions and Contemplative Practices – Cultivating the power of religious traditions to anchor, connect and inspire us, and contemplative practices to bring awareness, fresh insights and creativity.

The topic of a Fellow's project should support the work of the areas of focus and at least one of the four strategic approaches.  The Foundation is also particularly interested in innovative efforts that cut across our issue areas or impact multiple approaches.  Successful projects will challenge conventional thinking and present an innovative idea that has the potential to revolutionize the way the foundation approaches social and economic justice 

Project Outcomes and Products

While the products may be as diverse as the problems that applicants seek to remedy, the projects should be clear, concrete, actionable and inspiring. The Fellow's work for the year might include the creation of a product such as a book or report, white paper, blog, video, public hearing, presentation, the launch of an initiative, campaign or nonprofit organization, or other creative work product.

Applicants should have a clear idea of the audience they would like to reach and the impact the project will have on the desired community. Projects should be creative and identify activities and communication strategies that will reach the target audiences. Effective projects will include lessons that can be applied to a broad range of settings.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • To be eligible:
    • the proposed projects must be innovative, demonstrate exceptional vision, and relate to at least one of the Foundation's two focus areas: ( see Overview)
      • Inequality
      • Climate Change
    • the methodology must be rooted in at least one of the Foundation's approaches:
      • Arts and Culture;
      • Constituency Building;
      • Disruptive Ideas;
      • Religious Traditions and Contemplative Practices.
  • The NCF Fellowship welcomes a diverse pool of applicants representing practitioners in a variety of fields.
  • The fellowship stipend covers living expenses, travel, research and conference fees. NCF will also provide a modest budget for project related expenses.


  • Preference will be given to proposals that address NCF's DNA commitments. 


  • The fellowship does not fund enrollment for degree or non-degree study at academic institutions, including dissertation research.  
  • The fellowship program does not cover the fellows’ health benefits and does not account for taxes owed to the IRS for the grant award, The Nathan Cummings Foundation is a private foundation. 
  • As a private foundation, NCF cannot support lobbying activities.
  • Projects that include lobbying activities will not be funded.