The Lone Star Prize Looks to Award $10 million for a Texas-Sized Solution

Story by Mary Martin. Photos courtesy of Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

For the past several years, the team at Lyda Hill Philanthropies has been researching and planning for something big. Ten million dollars big. With inspiration and guidance from the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition, Lyda Hill Philanthropies and a team of innovative partners have launched The Lone Star Prize, aimed at funding an innovative and scalable idea that will help strengthen Texans.

Nicole Small, CEO of Lyda Hill Philanthropies

Nicole Small, CEO of Lyda Hill Philanthropies

The Lone Star Prize is focused on finding solutions in three categories: Improving Health Outcomes, Protecting the Environment, and Boosting the Workforce. And while the news of changing circumstances due to COVID-19 is currently dominating the news, the Lone Star Prize is designed to take all factors into consideration for long-term problem solving. “Obviously we couldn’t have foreseen this crisis but the timing couldn’t be better,” says Nicole Small, CEO of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “We were already focused on workforce, environment, and health care and I think people across our nation and across the world, and particularly in Texas, are realizing that these are some of our most important issues. We’re excited that we were able to launch the Lone Star Prize during a time when we think it can be even more helpful.” Applications for the prize are due in mid-July, and evaluation will take place during the fall by a judging panel that is a veritable who’s who of Texas foundation leadership. The grand prize will be awarded in May 2021.

Nicole has led Lyda Hill Philanthropy for more than six years, collaborating with other forward-thinking leaders and organizations along the way, such as Texas 2036. the Lone Star Prize is the result of a particular passion for the state of Texas and a clear vision of what needs to be improved as the state grows in population. “Texas as a state is a thought leader–how Texas goes is how much of the nation will go,” says Nicole. “Many things we are facing here are things that other states across the country will face. And if we can solve some of these issues in a big, thoughtful, and innovative way, then we hope that we will be a model for the rest of the country.” To make the most of the ideas submitted, strategic partners Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation will be reviewing the finalists for potential investment beyond the Lone Star Prize. Other projects will be featured in the Bold Solutions Network by the John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation.

The winning proposal must come from an organization with an existing operating presence in Texas, and be a proven concept that is ready to execute and scale at a statewide level. “Overall, the Lone Star Prize is looking for the best idea to reach the most amount of people and make the most change,” explains Nicole. “That might be something brand new or it might be something someone’s already piloted. We want to be the catalytic capital to actually make change.”

Outside of the Lone Star Prize, the Lyda Hill team has its current focus on ensuring that the causes it supports are prepared for the shift in virtual technology, and looking to offer help where it is needed most in the community. Lyda Hill supported educational programs like Mission Unstoppable have seen a surge in growth, and projects like the Texas Trees Cool Schools program have been given a boost as socially-isolated people place a new value on parks and green space in the city.

As Lyda Hill Philanthropy leverages its resources and partnerships for the future of Texas, there is a deep hope in the innovation and creativity of the nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and thought leaders in our state. Crisis related pressures may be mounting, but these local social-good investors are counting on smart and scalable solutions appearing as a result.

If your organization is interested in applying for the Lonestar Prize, you can start with their Readiness Tool to ensure you meet the criteria.

If this story has inspired you to support the North Texas nonprofit community, visit our Support Nonprofits During COVID-19 page to learn how you can get involved!