February 20, 2019

Should I apply to the Catalyst Fund? What you need to know

​Submissions for the 3rd annual Catalyst Fund will be accepted from February 23 until March 27, 2020. Keep reading for our tips and insights.

If you’re applying for either the McNulty Prize or for the Catalyst Fund, you’re already in inspiring company among leaders from all walks of life and industries, who have launched ventures to make a meaningful impact on their communities and the world. Supporting your work is the mission of the McNulty Foundation—we aim to amplify your impact so that it can reach more lives, and inspire and galvanize others into action.

After 10 years of awarding the McNulty Prize, we launched the Catalyst Fund for developing ventures alongside the Aspen Institute, to support and encourage those with promising models at earlier stages of development. Awarding its first grants in 2018, the Catalyst Fund recognizes ventures at critical junctures and with critical need, where support and recognition will make a real difference on their path to impact. The Catalyst Fund supplements the McNulty Prize, intended for ventures at an earlier stage—receiving a Catalyst Fund grant will not affect your eligibility for the Prize in future years.

How do you know if your venture is a good fit for the Catalyst Fund?

*We recognize that not all ventures are alike. These are insights based on typical scenarios we have seen, and not requirements. If you have questions, reach out to info@mcnultyprize.org.

1. You meet the eligibility requirements.

There are a few requirements that apply to both the McNulty Prize and the Catalyst Fund, so please make sure you meet these first.

  • You are an AGLN Fellow, and your work is the result of your leadership venture, Action Pledge, or meaningfully stemmed from your experience in the Fellowship.
  • Your venture has been active for at least two years.
  • Your organization can be structured as a nonprofit, for-profit or hybrid, as long as social impact is the highest priority.
2. Your organization is at a critical juncture.

There are many types of critical junctures that organizations go through on their path to growth. It’s up to you to show us where that is for your organization.

  • Have you experienced key growth milestones in the last year, and do you anticipate further milestones in the next?
  • Are you at a key inflection point on your venture's journey?

If so, you probably are experiencing what we call ‘significant momentum’ which is an indicator that you could be a good fit for the Catalyst Fund.

2018 Catalyst Fund Recipient: Las Claras, founded by CALI Fellow Gisela Alvarez de Porras

Former Finance Minister Gisela Porras began Las Claras to tackle the issue of teen pregnancy, not just through education, but to break its role in the cycle of poverty. Since starting in 2014 in a red light community, Las Claras has improved the lives of more than 100 teen mothers and their families.

In 2017, Las Claras realized that in order to deepen and sustain their impact, they needed to impact society beyond the young women. They joined other organizations working on sports and youth development, gang demobilization, and job training, and launched Santa Ana Lidera, a collective impact partnership to holistically tackle poverty in the community. They plan to expand the program to other communities once they solidify the methodology and further measure impact.

This was the critical juncture for Las Claras — poised to transform its efforts into something bigger through the new collective impact model.

3. Your model is tested but not yet at scale. You’re recognized as ‘one to watch’.
  • You have some evidence that your model is working as predicted, and can sense the impact of the organization even if there are not concrete, longer-term measurements just yet (but even better if there are!).
  • You are working to refine your model based on your experience, and looking into expanding beyond your initial scope of audience or needs.
  • You have gained attention from your peers or your sector, and are recognized as ‘one to watch’.
  • While not always true, in general, we find that Catalyst Fund organizations have been working already for 2 to 4 years, whereas McNulty Prize Laureates have usually been in operation for over 4 years.

2018 Catalyst Fund Recipient: Student DREAMers Alliance, founded by Liberty Fellow Adela Mendoza

Adela Mendoza made an Action Pledge in 2015 to fight against the exclusion facing young undocumented students, and prepare them with the tools to lead. In 2016, she started the Student DREAMer’s Alliance (SDA), and when they applied for the inaugural Catalyst Fund in 2018, they had 39 students actively involved. Even with its initial numbers, it was easy to sense SDA's impact.

SDA gathered these teens in groups to conduct leadership seminars, and then put them in the same room as state legislators and Congressional representatives—where they could persuasively and effectively communicate the reality of their situation, leading already to major changes in the decision-makers’ actions.

With the majority of SDA’s impact yet to come—it was before we could see the impact of these students graduating college or entering the workforce—the time was right for SDA to get its story in front of people, and build support. Watch the film on the Student Dreamers Alliance.

4. Your organization has critical need for funding and support.

Would additional funding and visibility make a meaningful impact on your ability to reach the next stage of development?

For Student DREAMers Alliance, support not only helped build credibility to reach out to new partners, but it also enabled them to grow dramatically: “Funding would give us the capacity to double, at a minimum, the number of youth we send on a life-changing trajectory out of uncertainty and into higher education and a self-determined life.”

Review our 'cheat sheet' to determine whether your venture is a better fit for the Catalyst Fund or the McNulty Prize.

If your venture is more mature, with an effective model for change that’s now focused on scaling, deepening or institutionalizing, you are probably ready to apply to the McNulty Prize. Follow these resources to learn more and apply to the Prize:

Is your venture ready to apply for the McNulty Prize? A 4 point checklist

5 things you should know about the McNulty Prize

Read the application guidelines and apply to the McNulty Prize

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