Sabbatical Program FAQs

What is a sabbatical?
A sabbatical is a three- to six-month period during which nonprofit leaders take a leave of absence from the organizations at which they work. Sabbatical recipients use this time to engage in non-professional development activities of their own choosing to aid in personal renewal and growth. While on sabbatical, award recipients travel, study, read, reflect, rest, and/or explore interests unrelated to their field of work. Sabbatical funds may be spent in any way that leads to the rejuvenation and self-revitalization of the nonprofit leaders who participate in the program. 
What is the purpose of the Sabbatical Program?
Sabbaticals offer individuals the opportunity to primarily focus on their personal needs and solely devote themselves to self-revitalization. The awarded compensation provides the financial support necessary to temporarily leave one’s place of employment. It is the Foundation’s hope that sabbatical recipients return recommitted to the challenges and rewards of public service and thus prolong their tenure in the not-for-profit sector. 
Who should apply?
Individuals in paid, full-time executive level positions, who have served their North Carolina nonprofit organizations for at least three years (two of which in an executive level position), are eligible to apply for a sabbatical. Preference is given to individuals with at least five years of experience with their organization. This program is not intended for public school, college, university or government employees, hospital administrators or full-time clergy. 
Am I eligible for a sabbatical if my organization is based in North Carolina, but serves multiple areas?
If the organization serves the people of North Carolina (even if it also serves people of other states), and is based in this state, you are eligible for a sabbatical.
How many sabbaticals are offered?
The Foundation currently awards up to five sabbaticals every other year, though numbers may vary from year to year.
When do I have to start my sabbatical?
If you are awarded a sabbatical in 2024, the sabbatical must begin before April 2025. 
How much financial support is included with each sabbatical award?
ZSR provides a total of $40,000 to each sabbatical awardee: $30,000 is paid to the awardee so they can reflect or renew in whatever manner they propose, and $10,000* is paid to their organization to help prepare for the sabbatical recipient to take time away.
*Of the $10,000, at least $5,000 must go toward activities that will enhance the recipient’s entire organization, e.g., staff retreats, team building exercises, mentoring opportunities, and/or other activities to support the staff. 
What are the requirements for receipt of the award?

Requirements are as follows: 

  • The sabbatical must begin before April of the year after selection and last for one continuous period of three to six months.  
  • Recipients are expected to be released completely from their organizational obligations during their sabbatical and to return to their organizations for at least the same length of time as their sabbatical.  
  • Awards are subject to federal and state income taxes.  
  • Recipient organizations decide whether to continue to keep sabbatical recipients on their payroll during their time away. Regardless of this decision, a total of $40,000 will be awarded for each sabbatical: $30,000 to the awardee and $10,000* to the organization. *Of the $10,000, at least $5,000 must go toward activities that will enhance the recipient’s entire organization, e.g., staff retreats, team building exercises, mentoring opportunities, and/or other activities to support the staff. 
  • Those selected must attend a pre-sabbatical and post-sabbatical retreat. Each retreat lasts for one and a half days.  
  • Recipients are expected to write a two- to three-page typed final report, describing their sabbatical experience, by one month after completion of the sabbatical.  
How does an organizational leader apply?
Applications are available online only. Check here for more information. 
How are selections made?

Initial applications are screened by a Selection Committee composed of representatives of ZSR’s Board of Trustees, staff, former Advisory Panel members and former sabbatical recipients.  

The Committee considers the following criteria when reviewing applications:  

  • The applicant’s professional accomplishments, 
  • The applicant’s years of service in the same position and organization, 
  • The difficulty of the applicant’s profession and work environment, 
  • Evidence of the applicant’s need for a sabbatical, 
  • The applicant’s sabbatical description as it relates to their personal renewal, 
  • Feasibility of the applicant accomplishing their sabbatical plans within the proposed budget, 
  • Strong plan of action for staff and board of the applicant’s organization, 
  • Potential for the applicant to return to work and make future contributions in their chosen field. 

Ten finalists will be selected to meet with the Committee in February, and up to five awards will be announced in late February.  

Recipients must begin their sabbaticals before April after the year of selection. 

Applicants who are not selected for a sabbatical are eligible to reapply in subsequent years. 

Is the budget I submit with my application binding?
Budgets submitted with sabbatical applications are not binding but should represent your planned sabbatical activities as accurately as possible.
What should I do if I cannot determine exact costs for budget items?
Please estimate the costs of individual budget items as best as you can.
What should I do if I am having technical difficulties with the online application?
Please contact Beth Priddy at or call 336-725-7541, ext. 109.
Updated August 2023