What is UNUM Fellows? Why was this program established?

Our research has taught us that people place a great deal of hope in their local political leadership. We want to empower southern local political leadership to act on issues of race and class in new ways. The UNUM Fellows program will give local leaders in southern communities the tools and resources they need to tear down the barriers that separate us by race and class.

How has COVID-19 changed the focus of the UNUM Fellows program?

It is clear that support for local elected officials is more critical than ever before as they navigate the COVID-19 recovery process and work to ensure greater equity and resilience in their communities moving forward. In light of that, we welcome applications for projects that speak to the impacts of COVID-19 in their communities.

How is UNUM Fellows different than other fellowship programs for elected officials?

The UNUM Fellows program is focused on creating diverse learning opportunities and capacity-building that results in equitable change for communities. 

When you talk about racial and economic equity, what do you mean? How do you define racial and economic equity?

EPU defines racial and economic equity as the fair opportunity for everyone to reach their full potential regardless of demographic, social, economic or geographic status.


Why are you only accepting elected officials?

Political leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone on discussions of race, economic opportunity and equity because of their ability, by virtue of their position to change inequitable or discriminatory policies.

What kind of elected officials are you accepting?

Elected officials must represent a local municipality or county/parish. We’re looking for mayors, county commissioners, parish presidents, city councilmembers, school board members or law enforcement officials in one of the 13 Southern states listed below.

Why do elected officials need to be in office through the end of 2021? How firm is that rule?

The fellowship concludes in December 2021, so participating elected officials must still be in office in November or December 2021 in order to have adequate time for project implementation.

How do you define the American South? 

EPU is focused on the following Southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Are there any requirements in terms of population of the municipality/county represented? What if I’m from a smaller community, suburb, or rural area?

There are no population requirements for the community you represent. We welcome applicants from all kinds and sizes of municipalities and counties.

Are there any requirements about the number of staff that an elected official is required to have? Will my staff be required to participate?  If so, how?

There is no minimum staff requirement. Fellows will engage their senior staff, as needed to support the implementation of strategic plans and projects that are borne in the fellowship program.

 Who is this fellowship a good fit for?

This fellowship is a good fit for local elected officials who see challenges in their community that disparately impact people of color and/or people living in poverty and want to begin building solutions. You may not yet have a deep knowledge of equity, but you are interested in developing your knowledge and taking action.

What would I be committing to do by accepting this fellowship?

You will be committing to participate in two convenings: one in November 2020 and the other in Summer 2021, to participate virtually in monthly fellowship activities and to design and implement a project.

How much time should I expect to dedicate to this fellowship?

Due to the increased demand on the time of many of our elected leaders because of the current pandemic, we seek to host a fellowship program that brings maximum value to cohort members, through the participant experience. The total amount of time you will dedicate depends on the project that you have designed.

Fellowship Funding Questions:

How much funding is available for projects?

Project funding will be scaled to the needs of each individual project, up to a maximum of $75,000 for a single project. Projects may seek to address COVID-19 related issues or those unrelated to the pandemic.

Why is a fiscal agent required?

A fiscal agent is required both to facilitate the disbursement of funds and to strengthen and deepen community partnerships.

What are the requirements for the fiscal agent?

Fiscal agents must be a 501(c)(3) organization.

What are the restrictions on funding?

Funding may only be used on your UNUM Fellows project. You and your fiscal agent will be required to report on your expenditures.

  • Are there any match requirements?

There are no cash or in-kind match requirements.

  • Is it possible to extend funding past December 2021?

All project funds must be expended by December 2021.

Skill-Building/TA Questions:

What kind of skill-building will you be providing? What can I expect to learn?

EPU has designed a participant experience for fellows that is intended to bring maximum value to their time spent in the program. Opportunities offered to fellows will include: project planning assistance, informational learning opportunities, coaching, trainings & technical assistance, public opinion research, customized data analysis and more. 

You should expect to learn equity fundamentals as well as practical tools for how to im
prove racial and socioeconomic equity in your community. Core learning themes will ensure that fellows:  

  • Gain perspective on the systemic and structural nature of racism;

  • Gain skills for creating equitable organizations and systems;

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the economic benefits of equity;

  • Learn how to design and implement effective equity-driven policy;

  • Learn how to use data and research to develop strategies for equitable systems change;

  • Identify and engage core stakeholders from multiple sectors to craft solutions;

  • Develop strategies to build public will for equitable policy & practice;

  • Examine successful strategies to navigate political levers at both the local and state level, and

  • Enhance communications opportunities to advance new narratives on race and class.

 How much and what kind of technical assistance will you be providing?

The amount and kind of technical assistance you receive will depend on the identified problem in your community and the project you design. It may include things like supplemental training or expert analysis, depending on your needs.

Project Questions:

What kind of projects are you looking to fund?

We are open to funding a variety of projects that are focused on addressing issues related to racial and economic equity in communities.  We welcome applications for projects that speak to the impacts of COVID-19 in their communities as well as those unrelated to the pandemic.  

How much of the project will be developed through the fellowship? Do I need a fully fleshed out project idea and plan now?

You do not need to have a fully developed project plan at this time. We expect that you will refine your project ideas through the fellowship.

Submission & Notification Questions:

When is the application due?

The application is due July 31, 2020 by 11:59 p.m. EST.

What should an application demonstrate to be successful?

The successful application should demonstrate:

  • a strong commitment to learning about and advancing equity,

  • openness to continued learning and self-reflection,

  • an awareness of disparities in your community, and

  • the will to meaningfully engage with community partners when building solutions.

Will I receive a notification confirming that my application was received?

Yes, you will receive an email confirmation of your application submission.

If I have difficulty submitting the application by the deadline, who should I contact?

If you encounter any difficulties with submitting your application, please email before the deadline on July 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Are there supplemental application steps (such as an interview) that will be required?

There are no additional general application steps, although we may reach out to you with follow-up questions about your application and or schedule a virtual visit to your community.

When will I be notified about whether or not I was accepted into the program?

We will be notifying applicants of whether their applications were successful in September 2020.