No strings attached.
Director / Curator
Comedian, Writer, Activist,
Board of Trustees at Brooklyn Public Libraries
Food Designer, Creative
Founding Artistic Director
Blue Ridge Labs at the Robin Hood Foundation
Red Hook Initiative
Founder and CEO
Harlem Capital Partners
New Visions for Public Schools
Mott Hall Bridges Academy
Founder and CEO
Made in Brownsville
New York Harbor School Billion Oyster Project
Frequently Asked Questions
The David Prize celebrates extraordinary individuals with ideas, projects, products, and passions that are making (or will make) New York City a better place for more of us. As long as you have a clear idea of how your work impacts the city, and what you need to execute it, we’ll consider it. Individuals that win The David Prize can be affiliated with organizations or companies, but the focus is on great people doing great things.
You might be a David Prize winner if you can say yes to the following:
You’re a New Yorker.
You love, work for, and live in one of New York’s five boroughs.
You have serious plans to contribute.
Whether socially, economically, culturally, environmentally (or otherwise), you have a divergent and unique vision for how to make NYC a place where people yearn to live, and concrete ideas about how to achieve it.
You’re a visionary.
You take risks and have the grit to make something out of nothing. You see long-term benefits where others see short-term obstacles.
You get things done.
You’re already a contributor. You have demonstrated capacity and have a track record of extraordinary work, but you haven’t done it all…yet.
You truly need the prize.
Funding and visibility could change the trajectory of your work and life, not to mention your block, your borough, and maybe even our city.
Focused outside NYC
We’re serious when we say The David Prize is for individuals contributing to New York City. We want to hear about the direct connection between a candidate’s work and this singular place – the NYC-centric problem it solves, the local inspiration, and how it will impact NYC. If it’s a great project that’s already scaled beyond New York, it’s probably not a good fit for The David Prize.
Who have already ‘done it’
David Prize winners are individuals with experience that suggests they can carry out their vision. They’re already doing amazing work, and people will vouch for it. But they are also people with potential to do more amazing work to improve NYC and the drive to get it done. The best is yet to come!
That already have funding and glory
There are a number of foundations, investors, and grantmakers that fund ideas with long-proven results, product/market fit, and potential to scale to the moon and back. We’re not one of them. We won’t fund folks that have raised money from large foundations, received major government grants, or regularly show up on ’30 under 30′ lists.
Groups or organizations
The David Prize awards individuals for outstanding work and ideas – their track records and their potential to do more. Candidates may be employed by or affiliated with groups or organizations, but any work presented for David Prize consideration should be their own.
Great work doesn’t happen in silos and most problems are interconnected, so we don’t fund based on particular labels or disciplines. Rather, The David Prize seeks individuals that focus on New York City and harness uniquely NYC opportunities to make the city a better place for more New Yorkers. Winners may come from fields as diverse as the arts and creative expression, workforce and economic development, civic engagement, environment and sustainability, immigrant rights, food and nutrition, homelessness, and/or youth development.
No catch. No kidding. Prize winners will each receive $200K, distributed over a two year period (unless there’s a good reason to distribute in one lump sum) – in other words, $100K per year, per winner, for two years. We won’t bother our winners with meetings and calls during the award period, unless we think there’s someone they really, really should meet (like another funder who wants to support the work). The David Prize does not require any reports or achievement metrics. Instead, we look forward to seeing our winners’ work out in the world.
The good news is that you can refer or nominate people you think should win. The better news is that you don’t need a referral to enter the process. We want to hear from you if you have a vision for New York and are making it real.
If you want to refer or nominate an individual for consideration, submit information here and tell us why you think your candidate is perfect for The David Prize. If we agree, we’ll get in touch with that person directly and send them next steps.
If you would like to self-nominate, you can start the process with the Eligibility Survey here.
Please note that The David Prize accepts third party and self nominations, but one is not better than the other. Similarly, the number of nominations does not matter – all candidates are reviewed equally regardless of the way you enter the process.
Because we’re investing in people, our process is all about getting to know promising individuals and their work. The process will run from September 2019 to February 2020 and includes a few steps:
We start with an online survey that asks some basic questions; it should take no more than 30 minutes to complete and will be open from September 3, 2019 – December 1, 2019.
Step 2 Survey
A second online survey (available by invitation only, after the Eligibility Survey) goes much deeper to find out more about candidates and their ideas. There will be ways to submit pictures, video, and multimedia materials as well, understanding that the best candidates might not be the best wordsmiths. We’ll accept full surveys until December 15, 2019.
We’ll meet promising candidates in person and, if it makes sense, visit projects / spaces / shows / classes / etc. We’ll also make connections to folks that know them, in order to get a full picture of how NYC will be improved and broadened by their work. This will happen on a rolling basis from September 2019 – February 2020. Note that because the process is rolling, we’ll meet with some sooner than others. You’ll hear from The David Prize regarding your status, so don’t worry if you hear of others at a different point in the process.
In the final round, each finalist will have the chance to share their story with a small group of folks that will help decide the five winners.
With our winners, near-winners, and the army of nominators and friends that have built The David Prize, we will honor the glorious arc of diverse and delightful ideas we’ve seen throughout the Prize process. We’ll celebrate together, some way, somehow, TBD.
We review each and every submission, and that takes a lot of time. We’ll be in touch with nominees throughout winter and spring 2020. The latest a nominee will hear from us is April 1, 2020 regarding their status for this cycle of The David Prize.
The David Prize has been designed, advised, and amplified by a group of individuals that exemplify the breadth of what it means to be a New Yorker. With representation from all sectors, from education to affordable housing, arts to emerging tech, our Prize Committee and advisors bring range and depth that mimic the heterogeneity of New York City itself.
Yes, this is an annual prize. The process will open early fall of each year and close before the holidays. We’ll announce winners late spring.
The David Prize is an initiative of The Walentas Family Foundation. The Prize is inspired by David Walentas, but this isn’t a vanity project or a branding effort; it’s a mechanism for celebrating our city and the people who make it great.
–Maybe $1M can’t change a city, but we think investing that amount each year in a few individuals with extraordinary ideas will yield a wildly outsized dividend.
–New York City is complex and delightful; we want to make it work for and serve more of us, better. We’re betting on David Prize winners to do just that.
–Funding can be hard and cumbersome to find, particularly to support ideas and people that don’t fit into neat boxes. The David Prize wants to reach untapped sources of awesomeness.
It’s our first year. We’ll talk later about impact, metrics, and outcomes. Maybe.
We’ll share news about The David Prize every so often, we promise. You can check back on this site or sign up below for updates on The David Prize.