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Activist Fellowship Program

Activist Fellowship Program


Activist Fellowship Program

Activist Fellowship Program

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Program Goal

To strengthen and build social justice movements by developing activists’ skills and capacities in the Hudson Valley. The Foundation hopes to identify and support the work of people from the grassroots (local movement building) and/or frontline communities (those hardest hit by injustice and inequality). This includes, but is not limited to, individuals who self-define as low-income, people of color, indigenous, immigrant, women, trans, gender nonconforming, LGBT and/or queer, youth, working class and disabled.


The Elias Foundation’s Activist Fellowship Program is an outgrowth of its past support for leadership development using an informal advisory process with nominators. These relationships developed through the Foundation’s 20 years of grantmaking work supporting local projects and organizations. At the end of 2018, Elias convened an Advisory Committee to develop a structured and impactful Fellowship program that follows the guidelines listed below.

Fellowship Guidelines

Fellowship Guidelines

Fellowship Guidelines

Fellowship Guidelines

 Criteria for Applicants

Consistent with the Foundation’s mission and history of grantmaking, and mindful that this Fellowship should be accessible to individuals from communities that do not usually have access to this kind of support, the following are criteria for applying:

  • Activists and other individuals working for social change to improve lives and empower under-represented communities

  • Applicants will be considered from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds who may have specialized skills, knowledge, experience along with a commitment to social change

  • Entry-level or seasoned activists who are accountable to their community

  • People with deep roots in the Hudson Valley, including Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan, Columbia and Greene counties.


The Fellowship support spans 5 years.  For the first three years, the Fellowship award is $25,000 per year, then $10,000 for the fourth year and $5,000 for the final fifth year (five years of support totaling $90,000). Award recipients will be selected in late spring.


Elias Fellows will be responsible for the following:

  • Attendance at Elias Fellows cohort meetings (two per year)

  • Participation in the knowledge exchange among Fellows

  • Self-defined self-care (in order to do movement work for the long haul)

  • Reporting

    • Year 1: 6-month in person meeting and cohort presentation

    • Year 1: 12-month annual report

    • Years 2-5: one-on-one in-person check-in

    • Years 2-5: Annual report

Application Process

Application Process

Application Process

Application Process

Everyone who meets the above criteria is encouraged to submit a letter of intent (LOI), which may be submitted using the form below or video, which describes their activism, community and interests.  Alternatively, an activist may apply through a nominator, who would provide a short testimonial describing the work of the applicant.

After the initial LOI screening, Elias will provide qualifying applicants with an application form that should be completed and returned by the application deadline. These applications will be reviewed by the Elias Board and Advisory Committee. The Foundation may request additional information from finalists. Below is the schedule for our next season for submissions.

We are accepting Letters of Intent (LOI) in August and September 2019

September 30th - Deadline for submitting LOIs

If you have submitted a LOI, you will hear back from us by October 15, 2019.

November 5th - Deadline for submitting full applications

Five Fellows will be awarded mid-December, 2019, with a cohort meeting to be determined in March 2020.

You may use the following form to submit your Letter of Intent or email Polly Withers,

Name *
If submitting a video in addition to or instead of a written letter, please past the link to your video here.
Please write or paste your intent of interest to be considered for an application. 600 words or less.

Using the Fellowship

Using The Fellowship

Using the Fellowship

Using The Fellowship

The Foundation values self-directed change.  After consultation with staff, mentors and Advisory Committee members, Fellows will be responsible for determining how best to use the funds.  In all cases, grant funds are to be used for the Fellows’ development as activist leaders. Such uses may include, but are not limited to, pursuit of education and educational experiences, training, study, research, writing or to produce creative works (not for a profit motive).

Some examples of potential use of grant funds:

  • Participating in trainings to develop capacities including non-profit management, fundraising, sustainability and other related skills

  • Attending conferences and workshops

  • Shadowing successful leaders

  • Traveling to meet with peers to network and collaborate on projects

  • Purchasing materials and equipment for use towards educational or other permitted purposes

  • Attending activist and/or other events that relate to the activist’s growth as a grassroots leader  

  • Developing or launching a new project that has a social justice frame

  • Pursuing education

  • Taking time from work for reflection, writing or self-care

  • Receiving leadership coaching/mentoring

Additional information can be requested from

2019 Cohort of Activist Fellows

Alumni of Activist Fellowship program

Enlarging the Pool of Activists

Elias is enlarging the pool and creating a pipeline of emerging activists by consulting active leaders in the community who will nominate members in their network.

For more information about this program and nominating a candidate, contact Polly Withers,

Advisory Committee

Advisory Committee

Advisory Committee

Advisory Committee

The Fellowship Program has been designed by an Advisory Committee, whose role is to evaluate the Fellowship program on an ongoing basis. The Advisory Committee combines the wisdom of multi-racial, cross-generational, multi-issue, seasoned leaders.  All members are engaged in movement building and have deep experience in the Hudson Valley.   

Advisory Committee members help determine grant guidelines, share them with their networks, refine application procedures and annually assist in the selection of awardees.  In some cases, Advisory Committee members will act as mentors for Fellows.