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 improves our city, and what you need to get it done, 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 outside of established pathways and projects.
You might be a David Prize winner if you can say yes to the following:
You’re a New Yorker.
You love and live in New York’s five boroughs. Your work is focused on this special place, even if you have a vision to scale beyond it someday. (We can be a tiny bit flexible on this — if you live in the tri-state area but you’re all about the Big Apple, you can still submit an idea, as long as it’s NYC-specific.)
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.
We won’t fund individuals…
…are focused outside NYC
We’re serious when we say The David Prize is for individuals seeking to transform 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 New Yorkers for the better. If it’s a 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. If you’ve raised more than $200K in the past year, the Prize is probably not a good fit for you.
…who represent a team-generated effort
We know great work happens in groups, but The David Prize is looking for individuals whose vision, dreams, and leadership are the key drivers of change. That said, we won’t monitor or ask about how Prize funding is used, so winners can divide and distribute the Prize monies however they’d like.
…who only need brick and mortar space to succeed
The David Prize is a one-time prize for an individual with ideas. We won’t fund a plan that is strictly to acquire, build out, and / or lease a physical space. Getting space can be part of the vision, but it can’t be the whole enchilada.
Yes! We actually mean it when we say that The David Prize is open to anyone who loves, works for, and lives in one of New York’s five boroughs. We’re excited to hear from New Yorkers regardless of age, profession, status, etc.
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, homeslessness, and/or youth development.
No. Candidates can propose existing / start-up / dream programs, services, products, businesses, performances, curricula, etc. We’ll look at ideas both that exist on paper and out in the real world.
No catch. No kidding. Prize winners will each receive $200K, distributed over a 2-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). We’ll want to know what happened as a result of The David Prize, but we won’t require any reports or achievement metrics. Instead, we look forward to seeing our winners’ work out in the world.
Note that David Prize awards are counted as income, so winners will need to report receiving a cash prize on their tax forms.
Because we’re investing in people, our process is all about getting to know promising individuals and their work. It includes four required steps, with an optional nomination step:
Nomination (not required)
Anyone can nominate someone they know. And nominators can put forward one or several individuals they think should win. An individual does not need to be nominated to go for The David Prize; self-nominations are fine! Similarly, the number of nominations a person receives does not impact their evaluation or probability of winning. Please note that a nomination is not the same thing as a submission. The David Prize will notify each nominee so that they can start the David Prize process.
Step 1 Survey
All interested individuals – nominated or self-nominated – must complete the Step 1 Survey. This is a short form to collect information about candidates and their ideas for The David Prize. It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes (we really mean this). Only those that are a good fit will move onto the next step — called the Step 2 Survey. The Prize team reviews entries on a rolling basis; therefore, individuals will move on at different times throughout the Open Call period. The deadline to submit a Step 1 Survey (i.e. enter the process for this year’s David Prize) is November 30, 2020. All individuals who submit a Step 1 Survey will hear back from The David Prize by December 15, 2020.
Step 2 Survey
Individuals invited to complete a Step 2 Survey will receive an email notification. The Step 2 Survey is intended to collect more detailed information about candidates’ ideas and stories. All Step 2 Surveys will be due early January. No late submissions will be accepted. Individuals will be notified of their status by March 1, 2021.
This is where we get to know our fantastic candidates! Once we’ve reviewed all the Step 2 Surveys, we’ll meet selected folks in person, have conversations, ask for references, check with experts in relevant sectors, and explore intriguing ideas further. Because of volume, we can only do extensive diligence for a smaller group of candidates.
After a further narrowing of the field to our David Prize finalists, we’ll ask them to do one more round of meetings with a small group of decision-makers.
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 nominate an individual for consideration, submit their contact information here. We’ll send them a note letting them know someone nominated them for The David Prize and ask them to complete the first step in the process – the Step 1 Survey – which will re-open in fall 2020. If you would like to self-nominate, you can start the process with the Step 1 Survey directly as soon as it reopens.
Please note that The David Prize accepts outside and self nominations, but we don’t favor one over the other. Similarly, we don’t care how many nominations an individual receives or whether they come to the Prize with zero outside help – all candidates are reviewed equally.
The David Prize is all about individuals with the grit and vision to make New York’s future better for more of us. We don’t want cookie cutter applications, so we don’t provide templates. Be creative, think out of the box, surprise us. We can’t wait to hear from you.
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. For this year, the COVID-19 outbreak slowed us down and our priority is to keep the Prize community and all New Yorkers safe. We’ll announce 2020 winners in the fall before launching next year’s open call.
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.