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 22-25 individuals seeking to prepare themselves as candidates for philanthropic leadership positions.

  1. What would you seek 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 500 words)
  2. Describe a mentor or leader you have worked with that you 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 250 words)
  4. What is your definition of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging? What role does diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging play in your professional career, and within the philanthropic sector? How have you advocated for individuals who have identified as being from marginalized communities? (No more than 250 words)
  5. Given the current context, how do you see philanthropy’s role in this movement of anti-black violence, anti-racism, xenophobia, etc.? (No more than 250 words)
  6. Describe a significant challenge facing philanthropy and/or philanthropic leadership today. How would you as a leader navigate or rectify it? (No more than 250 words)
  7. Career Pathways is a 5-month development program, that includes four multiple-day in-person sessions, 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. What are some ways in which you plan on staying engaged and motivated throughout the program? (No more than 150 words)
  8. Please comment on why you selected to apply for the 5-month or 9-month cohort. (No more than 150 words)

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

A broad range of individuals are eligible for participation. For more information, see the eligibility requirements and selection criteria for the program.

If your goal is to advance to a top appointment in the philanthropic field, this program provides an exciting opportunity to participate in, learn from, and contribute to an incredible network of leading CEOs, trustees, and senior leaders in service to philanthropy. Additionally, Career Pathways seeks to develop a generation of diverse leaders who are committed to the principles of DEI within their own organizations and the broader philanthropic sector. Career Pathways will take the mystery out of the executive hiring process while providing you access to a network of peers and experts 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. 

Career Pathways engages philanthropic executives and thought leaders inside and outside the field of philanthropy.

Travel is designed into our 2023 program. A Learning Session listed as “In-Person” will require you to travel to the destination city. In 2023, there will be two in-person sessions, the first (March 15-17, 2023) and the last learning session (November 15-17, 2023). Your travel expenses are not included in your tuition cost.


Yes. A reference/nomination is required from your home institution and must be from the current CEO or the supervisor to whom you report. References should be submitted during the online application process.

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

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 foundation executives 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.

Each 2023 cohort will include 18-24 cohort members.

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

  1. Personal leadership goals
  2. Professional leadership experience
  3. Community and volunteer leadership experience
  4. Quality of applicant’s responses to essay questions
  5. 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 2023 Career Pathways program.

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.

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

In most instances, the answer is yes—you may remain in the program. However, requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.


Only one person per organization may apply each year.

Applications for the 2024 cohort will open late August of 2023. You can complete the interest form to be notified when we're accepting applications.

2024 Cohort interest form

Program Schedule

  • Welcome Week (Virtual): March 6-9
  • Learning Session 1 (In Person): March 15-17
  • Learning Session 2 (Virtual): May 17-19
  • Learning Session 3 (Virtual): August 23-25
  • Learning Session 4 (In-Person): November 15-17

Cost of Program

  • Council Member: $5,650
  • Nonmember: $7,750

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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