Rachel’s Network
Catalyst Award

The Rachel’s Network Catalyst Award celebrates mid-career women of color who are building a healthier, safer, and more just world. 2024 applications are now closed. Stay tuned to learn about awardees and finalists in September.

Illustration by Sophie Sarkar

About the Award

Each year, the Rachel’s Network Catalyst Award provides mid-career women environmental leaders of color with: a personal prize ($10,000); a well-being stipend ($5,000); an organizational grant ($10,000, if applicable); wraparound leadership services; and public recognition. Read our Five Year Impact Report (2023) to learn about the history of the program.

2024 Award Timeline

Who is this Award For?

Women of color from all kinds of professional and advocacy backgrounds are encouraged to apply, but we will be prioritizing women at the midpoint of their career. While the list below is not exclusive, potential awardees might be:

  • Writers and poets documenting the beauty of our natural world
  • Organizers defending their communities, neighborhoods, and land
  • Educators nurturing young advocates
  • Farmers creating a just food system
  • Documentarians and journalists covering environmental injustice
  • Faith leaders communicating the moral imperative for change
  • Lawyers working to protect our air, lands, water, and wildlife
  • Champions of good nutrition, wellness, and health
  • Scientists, researchers, and academics helping us better understand our planet
  • Entrepreneurs creating social and economic change


How are you defining “women of color”?

We trust the self-identification of applicants regarding their gender, race, ethnicity, and heritage. Our definition of “women” is spacious and includes those who identify as non-binary. We hope that candidates can see themselves in this award and we trust them to engage if they do.

We acknowledge the painful ways individuals have been excluded, devalued, or inhibited in the mainstream environmental movement due to their race and gender, and we strive to balance our aspiration for inclusivity with the understanding that the experiences of people of color are not the same. We may never complete our understanding of the unique, nuanced, and intersecting ways race and gender shape us and our systems, but we commit to the journey of growth and support.

I applied before. Can I reapply?

Yes! As long as you still meet our eligibility requirements, go for it.

I've been nominated. Do I still need to apply?

Yes. All candidates must apply to the award to be considered.

I’m not a US citizen. Can I apply?

Yes, however, you must be a resident of the United States*, American Indian and Alaska Native areas, or US Territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands).

*The United States is comprised of contemporary and ancestral lands and territories, much of which has been forcibly stolen from Indigenous people through colonization. We acknowledge that the traditional custodians of this land have endured many legacies of displacement, migration, settlement, and trauma that have shaped where we are today.


I’m an elected official. Can I apply?

We are so grateful for your commitment to environmental stewardship through your public service. But, as a 501(c)(3), Rachel’s Network cannot provide prizes to those currently running for an elected position or serving as an elected official. Please consider connecting with our c4 organization, Rachel’s Action Network.

Who will be evaluating my application?

A committee of former Catalyst Awardees selects our awardees. Your application will also be reviewed by Rachel’s Network advisors, members, staff, and vetted friends of the network with expertise in equity and environmental justice (speakers, consultants). Everyone involved in the award process must abide by our award’s guiding principles.

Why focus on mid-career women?

Our network elevates women leaders at all stages, but we are prioritizing the award to women at the midpoint of their careers, generally defined as an individual with at least ten years expertise and experience. These individuals are beyond entry level, but with significant opportunities to grow before the end of one’s career. We found no formal pathways for mid-career women of color to advance to leadership positions. Many are overlooked for promotions, hitting a “green ceiling.” Many leave the environmental movement entirely. Many have their work not considered “environmental.” As funders, we want as many people as possible working to protect our planet and we want to help women of color feel like they can thrive and so, preference for this award will be given to candidates whose career could benefit from receiving this award.

What types of affiliated organizations are eligible for funding?

Eligible organizations include: 501(c)(3) nonprofits, organizations fiscally sponsored by 501(c)(3)s, and tribal governments.

If I leave my job with a 501(c)(3) during my award period, where would the organizational funding go?

During the award period, organizational funding follows the awardee, as long as the affiliated organization is eligible to receive funds. So, if they start a new job at X, the grant that year would be sent to X. Organizational funding can also be used to launch new nonprofits or initiatives, as long as they are eligible.

Are there limitations for how I use my prize money?

There are no restrictions on how the personal funds may be used, however organizational grants are subject to 501(c)(3) rules.

Are there expectations for award winners?

There are no expectations, but awardees are encouraged to engage in cohort programming (e.g., events, retreats, webinars). We also hope awardees will serve as members of our award selection committee and participate in program evaluation, to improve the experience and impact of this award.

Are there other award programs I can apply to?

Yes! Check out our list of other BIPOC Environmental Funding Resources.

How can I support this program?

Thank you for supporting our program and awardees. Email catalyst@rachelsnetwork.org for information on getting involved, or give directly through our website.


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