Leadership Grants

The Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation created the Leadership Grant program to help advance the leadership capacity and professional careers of Switzer Fellows, and to give nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and public agencies greater access to individuals with superior technical, scientific or policy expertise. Grants are awarded to organizations actively addressing environmental improvement through projects designed collaboratively with Switzer Fellows.

In recent years, as our investment in the fellowship program has increased, the Leadership Grant program has become more competitive with fewer available funds. Because of this, preference is sometimes given to early career fellows and/or particularly high-impact projects as a way to ensure our limited funds are having the greatest effect.

Leadership grant projects may address any environmental issue; however, there must be a clear partnership between the fellow and the nonprofit agency that accomplishes three things:

  • Advances the leadership skills, expertise, and professional career of a Switzer Fellow;

  • Builds the longer term capacity of a nonprofit or public agency to effectively improve environmental quality through the unique skills provided by the Switzer Fellow; and

  • Achieves measurable improvement on a specific environmental issue through the work of the Switzer Fellow.

One-year grants of up to $60,000 may be available to qualified organizations for projects which involve Switzer Fellows in a substantive leadership role. Fellows may be employed as full- or part-time staff, or on a contractual or consulting basis as long as the project is designed to utilize and advance the fellow's expertise and leadership on the issue. Funds are awarded to the organization, which is responsible for advising and mentoring the fellow toward achieving his or her professional goals.

The Leadership Grants program is most appropriate for organizations creating new project initiatives for which a Switzer Fellow's expertise can contribute to near-term impact, or proposing to add a Switzer Fellow to staff. Funds may be used to cover direct program costs, including salaries and benefits, consulting fees, travel, materials and equipment. Up to 15% of overhead recovery will be considered. At this time, the foundation is only awarding one-year grants and will not commit to subsequent years’ funding at the time of the initial grant award. In exceptional cases, a second year of funding may be sought from the Leadership Grants program; however, the applicant organization is expected to demonstrate an increasing cost-share over time and substantial progress toward project goals. Requests for successive grants will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

In some cases a leadership grant will support a project in an organization where a fellow is already employed. Such requests may be considered if the project will significantly elevate the fellow's leadership role in the organization and take his or her work in a significant new direction that will have direct environmental benefits.

For projects in which the fellow will be based at a college or university, please be advised that projects which create new institutions, centers of study, or educational programs will not be eligible for leadership grant funding. Only those projects in which fellows will make a significant contribution to research, policy or practice beyond the university will be considered. For all academic-based projects, additional criteria will apply and advance communication with foundation staff is required.

A fellow may not receive more than three years of funding through the Leadership Grant program in one or more projects. A single organization may only submit one concept letter per cycle and may not receive more than one grant per year.

Visit How to Apply to see more detailed instructions.


"Everyone is likely aware of the fact that the hardest dollars to raise can be those for salaries. Switzer by its nature runs against that grain by investing in individuals.”

Josh Donlan, 1998 Fellow, Executive Director, Advanced Conservation Strategies

"The leadership experiences I’ve had as a Switzer leadership grantee have been unique and amazing. I’ve been able to build my reputation as an intellectual leader in river management, and my status as a Switzer Fellow with American Rivers has provided me with opportunities and the confidence to work with decision makers and advance innovative approaches to flood management.”

Mark Tompkins, 2004 Fellow, Principal, Newfields River Basin Services, LLC

Spotlight on Leadership

Innovative Weatherization in Chicago
Kristen Pratt is the Program Coordinator for the Chicago Conservation Corps (C3) at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. One of the group's most successful projects has been the Community Weatherization Action Teams (CWAT) program, which helps volunteers plan weatherization events and campaigns all over the city. Over 25,000 homes have been weatherized through the city program and with their assistance.Read more >

A vibrant community of environmental leaders