How to Apply

Stanton Fellowship

We are seeking the most knowledgeable, inquisitive, ambitious, influential and highly networked leaders – the ones who are best positioned to identify and make headway on a big question, if they could just clear the decks.

The big questions we’re seeking are about how to solve the most complex challenges in LA — cleaning the air we breathe, housing the homeless, increasing school graduation rates, or promoting job growth in the creative industries, for example. We favor adaptive strategies, not technical fixes. We assume that the Stanton journey may not be linear, will likely involve both known stakeholders and new partners, and that it will require patience, perseverance and flexibility. Whether or not the problem is solved, we expect Stanton Fellows to share their lessons learned with colleagues in the field, so others can build upon that knowledge.

Each fellow designs his or her own inquiry and plan. We are looking for proposals that build on the fellow’s expertise and allow him or her to reach in new directions. Fellows should present plans that they would not otherwise be able to pursue in the course of their day-to-day work, if not for the Stanton Fellowship.

Possible use of the funds might include domestic or international travel, attending conferences, hiring research assistants or consultants, or a writing retreat. The goal is to enable fellows to expand knowledge, hone professional skills, form strategic alliances, and advance their work to the next level. It is presumed that the project will require the fellow’s release from regular responsibilities for planned segments of time, for a total of three months in blocks of two weeks or longer.


Individual candidates for this program should:
  • Be working full-time in a senior leadership position at a public benefit organization in Los Angeles county – nonprofit, government or social enterprise (faculty and staff at educational institutions are not eligible)
  • Be an outstanding thought leader with a demonstrated track record of contribution to the community
  • Be in a position to influence policymakers and peers
  • Desire to participate in a cross-disciplinary network of leaders
  • Present a clearly articulated proposal to work on a complex challenge in his or her field over a two-year period
  • Develop a plan for devoting a minimum of three months over the two year fellowship period to the project, in increments of no less than two weeks at a time
  • Need financial assistance to underwrite the project
  • Be able to participate in three overnight retreats and quarterly day-long meetings over a two-year period
The candidate’s employing organization should:
  • Be located in and serve Los Angeles County
  • Be recognized by the community for its programs
  • Have at least three full-time paid staff
  • Offer its endorsement of the fellowship proposal

Review Criteria

The Stanton review panel will consider each application in light of these questions:

Is this the right person?
  • Is the candidate in a full-time, paid leadership position at an agency? In a leadership role for at least five years?
  • Is the candidate a thought leader in his/her field and widely recognized?
  • Is this the right person to be tackling this issue?
  • Would the candidate be an engaged participant in the peer cohort, interested in sharing information, and learning from others?
Is this the right project?
  • Has the candidate clearly articulated an inquiry that addresses a complex challenge?
  • Does the proposed inquiry break new ground and advance a solution?
  • Will the proposed inquiry have direct impact on Los Angeles?
  • Is the work plan sufficiently sketched out to be feasible in the Stanton time frame?
  • Has the candidate clearly articulated how s/he will track progress?
  • Has the candidate given adequate thought to how s/he will expend Stanton resources and his/her time?
Is this the right host agency?
  • Is it a public benefit agency – nonprofit, governmental or social enterprise?
  • Will this agency provide the right platform for this project?
  • Based on the agency’s mission and reach, is it a logical host for the project?
  • Does the agency have a reputation for effectiveness and collegiality?
  • Will the organization be able to maintain regular operations with the applicant absent for periods of time to work on the Stanton inquiry?
  •  Is the organization stable enough to manage the funds and the project?
Is this the right time?
  • Is the applicant at the right point in his/her career for a Stanton inquiry?
  • Are there factors that suggest that this is the optimal time to pursue this project because of the political climate, events at the host agency, or other reasons?

Program Timeline

The 2018-19 cohort has been selected. Applications will re-open for the 2020 program in Spring 2019.

View Sample Application
(Have you read the review criteria and FAQs?)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an example of a Stanton Fellowship inquiry?

Stanton Fellowship projects vary depending on the subject area on which they are focused, so there is no one model. However, the Stanton Program presumes that the inquiry will be substantially different from the day-to-day work of the applicant’s organization, and that the goal of the inquiry is to advance the needs of the field, rather than the needs solely of the applicant’s organization. Strategic planning for your organization, evaluations of existing programs or supporting the launch of a pilot program that has already been designed are not appropriate activities for a Stanton proposal.

Do I have to work at a nonprofit to be a Stanton Fellow?

No. Stanton Fellowships are not limited to applicants from the nonprofit sector, and past Stanton Fellows have come from government and social enterprise in addition to nonprofits. One of the purposes of the program is to cross-pollinate ideas and approaches from different arenas.

Why aren’t applicants who work in post-secondary education eligible?

The purpose of the Stanton Fellowship is to provide time for research, travel and thinking to leaders who do not usually have the opportunity to pursue these activities because they are immersed in the day-to-day operations of their agencies. There are very few opportunities for leaders in the non-academic sectors to obtain grants to think deeply about the issues they work on.

Are only Executive Directors eligible?

No. We are looking for thought leaders in a variety of public benefit fields; titles are not as important as an applicant’s standing and ideas. Ultimately, we are looking for those individuals who are best positioned to tackle an issue, based on their expert knowledge, collegial networks and sphere of influence.

I work part-time for one organization, and am a volunteer board member at another. Can I apply?

The Stanton Fellowship is limited to full-time staff at eligible organizations. The reason for this is that the fellowship was designed to provide time for deep thought to prominent leaders who are otherwise burdened by overseeing the operations of their agencies.

Why do you set a minimum of three full-time staff at the sponsoring organization? Why does organizational size matter?

Stanton Fellowships are designed for leaders representing organizations that provide a voice and a platform in their field. There are small organizations that have outsized impact, and we encourage their leaders to apply. However, we set the minimum staff size because we have found that it is difficult for small-staffed organizations to carry on normal operations while releasing their leaders to the fellowship for three months over two years. 

How are the Stanton Fellows selected?

The Fellows are selected by a review panel of past Stanton Fellows, and Durfee trustees and staff.  They are guided by the review criteria and seek to create a vibrant, cross-sector cohort of Fellows.

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