Sabbatical Program

Nonprofit leaders in North Carolina work tirelessly to improve their communities and often face burnout. To continue their critical work, leaders need a chance to rest, restore their energy and find renewed inspiration. Our sabbatical program offers $40,000 to up to five nonprofit leaders for three- to six-month sabbaticals for the purpose of personal rejuvenation. 

Since 1990, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) has awarded sabbaticals to honor North Carolina’s nonprofit leaders for their dedicated service and commitment. Our sabbatical program offers leaders time away from work to re-energize, allowing them to return with fresh ideas and momentum. Sabbaticals also encourage leaders to share leadership across their organizations during their absence, which can enhance organizations’ capacity in the long term. We offer up to five sabbaticals every other year.

A total of $40,000 is awarded for each sabbatical: $30,000 goes to the awardee so they can reflect or renew in whatever manner they propose, and $10,000* goes 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. 

Applications are currently closed. The next round of awards will be in 2026, and applications will open in late 2025.

Meet the 2024 Sabbatical Program awardees.


Individual candidates for this program should: 

  • Be in paid, full-time, executive-level positions at a North Carolina nonprofit. 
  • Have served their North Carolina nonprofit organization for at least three years, two of which in an executive level position. Preference is given to individuals with at least five years of service with their organization.  

This program is not intended for public school, college, university or government employees; hospital administrators; or full-time clergy. 

Selection Criteria

Up to five sabbatical recipients are selected based on criteria including: 

  • The applicant’s professional accomplishments, 
  • Evidence of the need for a sabbatical, 
  • Potential for future contributions in their chosen field of work, and 
  • The difficulty of their work environment.

Selection Process

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.  

Ten finalists will be selected to meet with the Committee in February 2024, and up to five awards will be announced in late February.  

Recipients must begin their sabbaticals before April 2025. 

Before applying, please review the Sabbatical Program FAQs and sample application

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