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The 2023 Luminary Award application is now
closed, please subscribe to our mailing
list for future application updates

Luminary EligIbility

Eligibility Basics
• Black leaders in the #1 role 
(CEO, President, ED)
• Alignment with 1954 values & grantmaking areas:
    -Economic Mobility
    -Diversity in Education
    -Innovation in Teaching and Learning
• Non-profits or public sector
• Budget: range ~ $500K - $6M
• Gift history: largest: ~ $500K - $1.5M
• Future leadership continuity - (3+ years)
• Founded in 2019 or earlier

Selection Criteria Categories
• Alignment to 1954 values and grant making areas
• Leadership
• Gift history and current financial support
• Defined problem or opportunity to address a critical need
• Evidence of impact

2023 Luminary
Application Webinar

1954 Project Executive Director Acasia Wilson Feinberg provides
an overview of the Luminary application process.


The 1954 Project will continue to update this FAQ section as new questions arise.

What is the 1954 Project?
The 1954 Project is a philanthropic initiative focused on embracing Black leadership in the education sector in order to fulfill the promise of education for ALL. Led by the Black community, in partnership with allies, the 1954 project exists at the intersection of education, leadership, and giving.

How much are 1954 gifts?
In 2022 we were able to award 5 Luminaries $1M over 3 years. Next year we hope to continue to award similar transformational gifts.

How long is the application process?
The Round 1 application will take about 3-4 hours to complete.

When would I find out if I am a Luminary?
We will contact Luminaries in February.

What are the 1954 Project’s three grantmaking areas?
Economic Mobility- Strengthen pathways from education to career to increase Black students' and families' economic mobility.
Diversity in Education- Increase the number of Black educators and leaders through innovative initiatives and programs.
Innovation in Teaching and Learning- Create more effective, equitable, and culturally affirming teaching and learning models to better serve all students.

Are all Luminaries Black leaders?
Yes. Our focus is on Black leaders and we value all leaders working for educational equity and justice. We come together as a wide and inclusive community and stand together with all our allies.

Does 1954 fund organizations with a fiscal sponsor?
Yes, 1954 will fund organizations using a fiscal sponsor to carry out its work. However the holding organization must be a 501c3.

Does 1954 fund regional offices or specific programmatic
initiatives led by Black leaders?

1954 will fund leaders of regional offices in national organizations or national offices of international organizations.
1954 will NOT fund leaders of programs or divisions within an organization.

What does 1954 not fund?
Scholarships or tuition assistance for undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate studies; Annual fundraising drives;Paid advertisements; or Political activities or attempts to influence action on specific legislation.

Where do you fund?
We fund programs at the local, state, regional and national level.

Does 1954 accept applications from charter schools?
1954 is pleased to receive applications from charter schools or charter school groups. Like other applicants, we encourage making a strong connection to one or more of our grant making areas.

Does 1954 accept applications from advocacy organizations?
1954 is pleased to receive applications from advocacy organizations. Like other applicants, we encourage making a strong connection to one or more of our grant making areas.

What does "Future leadership continuity - (3+ years)" mean?
The organization leader intends to remain in their role for the duration of a Luminary award grant cycle (3+ years).

If I apply this year and don’t become a Luminary or Finalist,
can I apply again?

Yes, if you are not selected to be either you may apply again. If you are selected to be a Finalist but not a Luminary, we ask that you wait one year before applying again.

My organization’s largest gift and/or budget is just outside the eligibility criteria, can I still apply?
Organizations that fall slightly outside the budget or largest gift dollar ranges are eligible to apply. The first step in the application process includes an eligibility form submission.

My organization has a fiscal sponsor, do the budget and gift history eligibility criteria apply to the fiscal sponsor organization or the applying organization?
The budget and gift criteria are for the applying organization rather than the fiscal sponsor.

I applied last year and was not selected as a Luminary or Finalist, can The 1954 Project provide feedback on my previous application or advise on changes for my 2023 Luminary application?
The Luminary application is a wholistic process with a new applicant pool evaluated each cycle. The 1954 Project is unable to offer individualized feedback on applications.

I know a leader that might make a great Luminary, how can I nominate an organization?
Please direct potential applications to this webpage. You can also submit this short form to provide 1954 some information about promising leaders and their organizations. If you share their contact information, we will add them to our communication list for the 2023 process to help them understand their eligibility.

When is the Round 1 application due? I have seen September 9 and September 11 listed.
We extended our original deadline of September 9 to Sunday, September 11, at 11:59pm CT.

Where are the narrative questions in the application?
The first step in the application process includes an eligibility form submission. After submitting, you will receive an email for the application portal within 2 business days, indicating if your organization is eligible to submit a full Round 1 application, including the narrative questions.

Can I meet with someone at the 1954 Project to discuss my organization’s application?
The 1954 Project team is unfortunately unable to meet individually with potential applicants, please send questions to

Who can I contact with additional questions?
Please email

What is it like
to be a Luminary?

Apply to become
a 2023 luminary

The 2023 Luminary Award application is now
closed, please subscribe to our mailing
list for future application updates


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