The Catalyst Fund

At a time in which a billion children live in poverty, 1 in 10 of us don’t have access to clean water, and 1 million species face extinction we are in dire need of new and better ways to support individuals who are taking the initiative to make a difference.

We created the Catalyst Fund because we believe that philanthropists, and foundations in particular, need to take more risks. As a field we need to do more to encourage experimentation, creativity, and innovation from each other and from those organizations and individuals we support. The Catalyst Fund is one of several new TRF initiatives designed to make riskier bets in early-stage ideas that have great potential. In doing so, we hope to hold ourselves more accountable while leveling the playing field in terms of who, how, and where the next game- changing ideas comes from.

How does the Catalyst Fund work?
The Catalyst Fund makes grants between $2,500- $15,000. We don’t limit ourselves to any one issue, rather we search across issues to identify opportunities where innovation is needed to address an urgent challenge.

The Fund accepts applications on a continuous basis with no deadlines. There is no limit to the number of projects we’ll support in any given year. From time to time we will post a request for proposals for a specific problem we find particularly compelling or underfunded.
Who can apply to the Catalyst Fund?
Anyone. No one has a lock on a great idea. The Catalyst Fund has been created to source ideas from all corners of the globe.

We are looking for individuals or teams who are unbound by convention; whose projects challenge our thinking; who compel us to see a problem in a new light; and whose creativity and imagination redefine notions of what can be done and how.

You can be a seasoned social entrepreneur or a first- time changemaker. There are no disqualifiers. No prerequisites.
What do we mean by big, bold ideas?
Bold ideas depart from the status-quo and require us to look at a problem and its solution in a new light. Big ideas have a high potential for large-scale impact and sustainable change. Combined, ideas that are big and bold hold the promise of substantively improving the conditions for those in need in new and unheralded ways. That doesn’t mean we’re looking for the fantastical or sensational. Even big and bold ideas need to be achievable and informed by relevant facts. Nor are we looking for one single path or “magic” solution. No one idea will solve poverty, income inequality, or hunger. Complex problems require novel approaches that can be scaled to meet the needs of the many. That is what we we’re looking for.
How can $5k change
the world?
We know that $5k, $10k, or $15k won’t necessarily be enough to launch a new product, build a great program, or even form a new organization. We also know that social change is messy and that there are no silver bullets.

The goal of the Catalyst Fund is to help those of you who have an innovative idea for real change to take the first step in doing so. We want to find ideas from non-traditional sources that can be brought to light and given a chance to succeed. In an environment where ideas, even far-out ones, are valued and the unconventional is seen as the new normal, we believe we can foster the type of risk-taking, creative thinking necessary to tackle today's most critical problems.
What ideas are a good fit?
We are interested in innovative ideas that make a difference. A cutting-edge product, an experimental program, a new service, an invention, or an original game are all in our wheelhouse. The idea has to improve on what’s already out there and it has to have the potential for tangible, measurable impact. Ideas that can be replicated, taken to scale, or leverage existing infrastructure are a good fit. We also favor ideas that inspire others, build on partnerships (public and private), and that are inclusive of those they are intended to benefit.
What ideas aren’t a good fit?
Projects that are small in scope, limited in scale, or are not innovative in some way are unlikely to be funded. If the problem you’re trying to address is too narrowly defined or if it’s not clear how your solution will lead to measurable change we’re going to pass. Movie scripts, TV shows, video projects, webisodes, or podcasts are not likely to be considered. Projects that are well on their way to completion are also not a good fit. Remember, we are looking to kick-start early stage ideas, pilot projects, prototypes, or establish proof of concept that with our support will be better positioned to receive additional funding, attract partners, and raise public interest in what you’re doing.
What is the process?
1. In the first stage, we screen all applications to ensure that they meet the criteria for a Catalyst Grant. Proposals in this stage will be evaluated on a variety of factors including innovativeness, clarity, scalability, capability, and impact.

2. Applicants whose proposals pass the first stage of evaluation will be invited to participate in a brief phone call with one of our team members.

3. Proposals that pass the second stage of evaluation will be sent to a TRF committee for review. That's it! If offered a grant, awardees will be required to sign a Grant agreement that includes timelines and deliverables.