PSVF Seed Grants provide funding for any project that is in an early stage, innovative, and sustainable and furthers social justice.
The Selection Committee invites any Harvard Law School 3L or J.D. alumnus to apply for a seed grant to support a proposed organization that is in its initial stages and has few available funding sources. Candidates may apply individually or as a team. Teams are limited to two HLS students/graduates, with exceptions for more than two partners in rare cases. HLS students may also apply with one external partner, but funding will only be provided to the HLS team member. The HLS applicant must be the Founder or, at a minimum, Co-Founder of the proposed organization; the applicant must be running the organization. Furthermore, running the organization must be the Fellow’s full-time job. There will be a preference for funding graduating students and alumni at the early stages of their careers, but any alumnus who might otherwise have difficulty accessing early-stage funding will be eligible. Funds are restricted to candidates who hold a J.D. from HLS.
The selection committee welcomes any project that is in an early stage, innovative (does not duplicate effective existing services), sustainable (will attract further funding or be able to generate its own funds) and furthers social justice. The projects are not required to be law-related, and they may be based anywhere in the world. Seed Grant organizations must be (501)(c)(3)s, or the equivalent, during the two years they are funded by the HLS Public Service Venture Fund, but may convert to another form once no longer receiving HLS funding. Funding will not be awarded to nonprofits attached to for-profit organizations. The organization/proposed organization must be a free-standing nonprofit although it can initially have a fiscal sponsor.
It is important to note that those eligible for both the Organization-Based (Org-Based) Fellowships and the Seed Grants may apply for both, submitting a separate application for each fellowship. Moreover, those 3Ls or clerks applying for Seed Grants are strongly encouraged to apply for the Org-Based Fellowships at established organizations, if eligible, given the high level of competition for Seed Grants.
Refer to the PSVF Seed Grant application guidelines for full instructions. Requests for additional guidance on the Business Plan and all other aspects of the PSVF Seed Grant application can be directed to Judy Murciano, OPIA’s Associate Director and Director of Fellowships, at email@example.com.
The selection process will begin with an online application, followed by interviews for those selected as semifinalists. While it is highly advised to meet with a member of the OPIA staff for interviewing practice and feedback prior to one’s PSVF interview, preparedness for the interview is the responsibility of the applicant. After this round of interviews, finalists will be selected based on the strength of their proposals and application materials as well as their interviews. Finalists will receive feedback and coaching prior to the final round of interviews which will determine the Seed Grant recipients. There is no preference for work on a particular issue. Among competing applicants, the Public Service Venture Fund prioritizes projects that address the greatest need and/or possess the greatest potential for impact.
Optional Letter of Intent
3Ls are invited to submit an optional letter of intent to Deborah Valero Montijano, by November 29, 2023, at 5:00 PM to express interest and get feedback.
Submit the online application by January 12, 2024, at 5:00 PM.
First-round interviews are held in late February.
Final interviews are held in March or April.
Final award decisions are made in late April, or early May.
Seed Grant fellows will receive $80,000 per year, with the expectation of renewal for a second year. Up to $50,000 of this $80,000 is intended for personal salary and benefits, though Seed Grant recipients may supplement their salaries if they receive additional sources of funding. The reasonableness of the salary the Seed Grant Fellow pays themselves will be a factor in reviewing the Fellow for the second year of funding. Read the PSVF Seed Grant Salary and Benefits Guidelines; if the Seed Grant Fellow wishes to substantially depart from these guidelines, they will need to explain the reason for the change. For Seed Grant applicants that apply as teams of two HLS students or alumni, the joint proposal will be eligible for $125,000, covering two salaries and shared overhead funding.
Outside Funding Sources
Each year the President’s Challenge invites Harvard students and alumni to compete as individuals or in interdisciplinary teams across the university in pitching innovative social entrepreneurial projects for varying cash awards. Many of these projects are incubated in Harvard’s I-Lab. In addition, the New World Social Innovation Initiative selects students from 7 Harvard schools (including HLS) as Cheng Fellows to participate in a year-long rigorous program developing their project proposals and entrepreneurial skills. Cheng Fellows receive a $30,000 stipend at the end of their graduation year.
Questions about the PSVF Seed Grant application process should be directed to Deborah Valero Montijano. For advice about the application process, feedback on application materials, interview preparation, and additional funding sources, contact Judy Murciano.