Frequently Asked Questions

Career Pathways

Career Pathways is a highly selective pipeline expansion program for those committed to assuming leadership roles in philanthropy. This five-month leadership preparation 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 24-28 individuals seeking to prepare themselves as candidates for philanthropic leadership positions. 

The 2022 Program will be held entirely online and offered in two cohorts: Spring (February – June) & Fall (August -December). Each cohort will include 24-28 individuals from various backgrounds seeking to prepare themselves as candidates for philanthropic leadership positions. The program will continue to provide its foundational programming, plus new modules on digital leadership and philanthropic practice in virtual settings. This digital format lowers the cost for program participation, limits work disruption due to travel, and accounts for coronavirus safety concerns.  

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.

Applications for 2023 open on August 22, 2022 and are due by October 17, 2022.

The 2022 Spring Cohort will kick off the week of February 14 and conclude June 9, 2022, and the Fall Cohort will kick off August 15, and conclude December 9, 2022. 

The 2022 Career Pathways program includes two cohorts, each covering a five-month period. Alumni convening opportunities are planned throughout the year. 

The program cost for participants representing Council member organizations is $4,500, and the cost for non-members is $6,300. 

The 2022 program will be entirely virtual, hosted chiefly over Zoom for live sessions, 1:1 virtual coaching sessions, mentorship circles, and self-study via our learning platform.  

The Council on Foundations has suspended all in-person events and programs until further notice. This means that the 2022 Career Pathways program will be entirely virtual. If public health circumstances allow us to meet in person for any learning sessions, we will be in communication with the cohort well in advance of the planned event.  


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.

We will invite 24-28 participants to participate in each cohort. 2022 will feature two cohorts, one in the winter/spring, and one in the summer/fall, for a total of 48-56 participants.

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 2022 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?

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



Program Schedule

Spring Cohort Program Dates

  • Kickoff - Week of February 14
  • Learning Session 1 — February 23-25*
  • Learning Session 2 — March 23-25*
  • Learning Session 3 — April 20-22*
  • Learning Session 4 — June 6-10*

Fall Cohort Program Dates

  • Kickoff — Week of August 8
  • Learning Session 1 — August 24-26*
  • Learning Session 2 — September 28-30*
  • Learning Session 3 — October 26-28*
  • Learning Session 4 — December 5-9*

*Attendance Required

Cost of Program

  • Council Member: $4,500
  • Nonmember: $6,300

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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