Frequently Asked Questions

Career Pathways

This leadership development program is open to individuals from diverse backgrounds who are currently employed at foundations and grantmaking institutions, as well as those outside of the field of philanthropy. Each cohort includes 20-24 individuals seeking to prepare themselves as candidates for philanthropic leadership positions. 

To be eligible for the 2024 Career Pathways program, applicants MUST: 

  • Be a current employee of a grantmaking organization, foundation, or a philanthropic institution 
  • Have at least 5 to 7 years of mid- to senior-level experience 
  • Have a serious interest in a senior and/or executive-level position in the field of philanthropy 
  • Receive a recommendation from their home institution (submitted during application process) 

Please note that only one person per organization may apply each year. 

Applicants will first submit and complete the application form by Tuesday, November 7th. The application includes your answers to essays questions, your resume, and a recommendation from your current organization.  

To be considered for the Waldman scholarship, applicants must also complete the online application by Wednesday, November 8th. 

Program finalists will be invited for a brief interview. Applicants will be notified on the status of their candidacy to the program in January, 2024. If you are also awarded a scholarship, you will be notified in your acceptance letter.  

  1. What do you hope to achieve through your participation in the Career Pathways program? How would your participation and connection to Career Pathways & Council on Foundations network help you fulfill your professional goals within the next five years?  * (No more than 200 words)  
  2. Describe a mentor or leader you have worked with and admire. What did you learn about their leadership? What did you learn about yourself? * (No more than 200 words)   
  3. Describe what you consider to be a significant (positive or negative) professional learning experience. What did you learn from this experience, and how has it changed you professionally? (No more than 200 words) 
  4. What role does diversity, equity, and inclusion play in your professional career, and within the philanthropic sector? (No more than 150 words) 
  5. Describe a significant challenge facing philanthropy and/or philanthropic leadership today. How would you navigate it or work to address it as a leader? * (No more than 150 words) 
  6. Given the current social and political landscape, what is philanthropy's role in advancing racial equity and social justice? What do you think is your role in advancing racial equity and social justice? (No more than 200 words)   
  7. Career Pathways is a 9-month development program, that includes four multiple-day sessions, including two sessions that will be in person, and continuous work throughout the duration of the program. Applicants should be willing and capable of dedicating the time and effort required to successfully complete and excel in this program.  (No more than 150 words)
    1. What are some ways in which you plan on staying engaged and motivated throughout the program?
    2. What barriers or challenges do you face in being able to participate in this program fully?
    3. Are there any accommodations you may need?

Whereas a fellowship typically includes a career experience away from one’s current employer, as a Career Pathways participant, you will maintain your current full-time career. The approval and support of your home institution is a critical extension of your learning experience.   

High quality candidates will exhibit the following in their essay question responses, career history, recommendation letter, and finalist interview: 

  • Commitment to equity   
  • Awareness of self, organization, community, and sector   
  • Commitment to their own professional and personal leadership development 
  • Openness to learning about themselves and others   
  • Demonstrated commitment to making a difference in the philanthropy sector by:
    • Seeking executive level positions
    • Pursuing leadership opportunities in their own organizations  
    • Creating impact in their communities and areas of work

You’ll join a cohort of allies and a network for life. Every participant becomes part of a small group of grantmakers who share, learn, and grow together—through open conversation and focused learning sessions. Alumni often say the experience builds friends for life, the kind of people they can ping with critical questions and rely on as a safety net long after the program ends. Career Pathways develops a generation of diverse leaders who are committed to the principles of DEI within their own organizations and the broader philanthropic sector. This program will take the mystery out of the executive hiring process while providing you access to a network of peers and mentors committed to your success.

First, participants will analyze and identify their individual leadership styles and traits through a series of assessments and readings. Second, the program will introduce participants to a range of topics encompassing the major issues foundation executives face in their day-to-day work. Third, participants will gain access to a robust network of CEOs, trustees, search firm executives, and other thought leaders—all interested and engaged in your leadership preparation. Upon completion of the program, you’ll become part of our accomplished alumni network and continue to have access to unique leadership development opportunities hosted by the Council. 

Career Pathways engages executives and thought leaders with deep experience in the field of philanthropy. You’ll hear from program alumni, executive search firms, leadership coaches, sector veterans, and Council on Foundations staff.  

Travel is designed into the 2024 program. The first Learning Session will be held in Washington, DC March 20-22. Learning Session 4 will be hosted in-person November 13-15 at a location to be announced. Your travel expenses are not covered by your tuition. 

Yes. Please note that Career Pathways will not be able to arrange a visa to visit the U.S. for Learning Sessions 1 and 4.

Career Pathways is an investment in philanthropic leadership, today and tomorrow. Your home institution will benefit from your participation through your increased effectiveness, your expanded networks, and your (and your foundation’s) recognition as a leader in the field. Your home institution will be invited to take an active role as appropriate in identifying leadership opportunities for you during the program. Your home institution is a vital and integral component of the program—both in its support of you as an individual and as an example of a foundation investing in philanthropic leadership.

Yes. One reference in the form of a written recommendation letter is required from your home institution. It should be submitted by your current CEO or supervisor to whom you report.

The purpose of the recommendation letter is to learn more about you, better understand your journey with your organization, and get a sense of your organization’s commitment to your leadership development journey. Here are a few guiding questions you can provide your recommender to address in the letter: 

  1. What has their experience working with you been like? 
  2. How has the institution seen your leadership journey developing? Where do they see you in the next five years? 
  3. Why do they believe you would be a strong fit for Career Pathways? 
  4. How will the institution support you to succeed in the participation of this program?

You can submit your recommendation letter by uploading a PDF or Word document into the application form, or you or your recommender can email the letter to by the application deadline, Tuesday, November 7th.

Yes. All applicants will be eligible for our Waldman Scholars scholarship program. Visit our Waldman Scholarship page for more information. 

The 2024 cohort will include 20-24 cohort members.

Selections will be based primarily upon the leadership potential of applicants, rooted in five criteria: 

  • Personal leadership goals 
  • Professional leadership experience 
  • Community and volunteer leadership experience 
  • Quality of applicant’s responses to essay questions 
  • Quality of nominations 

A panel of grantmakers, philanthropic leaders, and Council staff will review all applications. They will provide recommendations to the Council's leadership development team for the 2024 Career Pathways program.

Career Pathways is designed to benefit both individual participants and their home institutions while maximizing the leadership capacity of staff in their current as well as future roles. Full-time employment, with all attendant responsibilities, has been assumed by the program designers for all participants. 

Nevertheless, the support of participants’ home institutions will be paramount, as group learning sessions and other activities will require brief absences from participants’ home institutions. Participants should be prepared to work with their current supervisors to ensure that work obligations are met.  

As with any professional development activity, individual applicants will need to assess the timing of participation in this program in relation to other obligations. Confidential professional career coaching and mentoring services led by executive coaches are included in the program. 

No. While Career Pathways cannot guarantee participants will be appointed to leadership positions, it will empower individuals to become the best leaders they can be by cultivating philanthropic acumen, confidence, and networks. Participation in Career Pathways will build participants’ capacity to become even more effective in their current roles and more intentional in their contributions to the field of philanthropy, more broadly. 



Only one person per organization may apply each year.

Program Schedule

  • Program Orientation – Virtual: March 11-13
  • Learning Session 1 – Washington, DC: March 20-22
  • Learning Session 2 – Virtual: May 15-17
  • Learning Session 3 – Virtual: August 13, 20, 27
  • Learning Session 4 – In person location TBA: November 13-15

Cost of Program

  • Council Member: $5,950
  • Nonmember: $7,850

Need financial support? The Waldman Scholarship covers Career Pathways tuition and other program costs in full or in part as allocated by need.


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