Career Pathways

A Talent Pipeline Expansion Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Program Schedule
  • Application Deadline - October 10, 2019
  • Cohort Selected - Late November 2019
  • Learning Session #1 in San Antonio, Texas - January 29-31, 2020
  • Learning Session #2 in Atlanta, Georgia - April 15-17, 2020
  • Learning Session #3 in Detroit, Michigan - July 22-24, 2020
  • Learning Session #4 in Los Angeles, California - October 27-29, 2020

What is the Career Pathways Program?

The Career Pathways program is a highly selective pipeline expansion program. Further, it is a year-long leadership preparation program, open to individuals from diverse backgrounds who are currently employed in foundations and grantmaking institutions as well as those outside of the field of philanthropy. Each cohort includes 24 individuals from diverse backgrounds seeking to prepare themselves as candidates for philanthropic leadership positions.

Career Pathways is a program for mid-career professionals. It was developed in response to the field’s growing commitment to advancing inclusive practices and diversity in philanthropic decision-making. Council research, Career Pathways to Philanthropic Leadership: Baseline Report (2009), highlighted and confirmed no obvious—but, in some cases, inscrutable—route to executive roles in philanthropy for most individuals, especially for those already working in the field.

How is this program similar/dissimilar to a fellowship?

Career Pathways is a leadership preparation program, whereas a fellowship program typically includes a part-time or full-time career experience away from one’s current employer. You will maintain your current employment and foster a close linkage with your home institution’s CEO or senior leaders, which is a very important extension of the learning experience.

Who is eligible to participate in the program?

There is a broad range of individuals who are eligible. For more information, see the eligibility requirements and selection criteria for the program.

Why should I participate?

If your goal is to advance to a top appointment in the philanthropic field, this program provides an exciting and educational 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.

How will this program help me to improve my leadership skills?

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 many of the major issues foundation executives face in their day-to-day work. Third, participants will gain unprecedented access to a robust network of CEOs, trustees, search firm executives, and other thought leaders—all interested and engaged in your leadership preparation.

Who are the instructors/trainers/presenters?

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

When does the program begin?

Applications open August 1st, 2019 and are due by October 10, 2019. Decisions will be made and announced November 2019. The 2020 cohort will launch its first convening in January, 2020 in San Antonio, TX. 

What is the duration of the program?

Career Pathways is a year-long program. Alumni activities, involving one’s own and future cohorts, are planned to coincide with Council conferences and other events.

What is the cost of the program?

The tuition cost, once selected, varies based on your organizations membership status. The cost for current Council members is $5,500. The cost for non-members is $7,000. The Career Pathways program has received generous support from our grantors, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Duke Endowment. Most meals are covered by the program, but participants are responsible for their individual air travel, lodging, and ground transportation costs.

Where will the learning sessions be held?

Learning Session 1: San Antonio, TX. Learning Session 2:  Atlanta, GA. Learning Session 3: Detroit, MI. 

Will I have to travel?

Yes, you will have to travel to four in-person convenings. Other site visits may be required.

Is the program open to non-U.S. citizens?


Are references required for me to enter the program?

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 sumbitted during the online application process.

Will I receive a stipend?


Will I have a career interruption?

Minimal. 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.

What about family and work-life balance?

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 will be provided.

When I successfully complete the program, will I be guaranteed a promotion?

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.

How many participants are invited?

We will invite 24 participants to join the 2020 cohort.

What are the selection criteria?

Selections will be based primarily upon the leadership potential of applicants, rooted in five (5) 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
What is the selection process?

A volunteer panel of grantmaking and philanthropic leaders will review all applications, narrow the field, and make recommendations to the Council on Foundations.

What is the incentive for my home institution and my supervisor?

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.

If I leave my home institution during the program, may I continue in the 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.

If I cannot complete the program for any reason, am I responsible for reimbursing the Council on Foundations for the cost of my participation in the program?


Can more than one participant from the same institution apply to the program?



Career Pathways is made possible thanks to generous funding support from:

CDC FoundationConrad N. Hilton Foundation LogoThe Kresge Foundation David & Lucile Packard Foundation
Robert Wood Johnson FoundationSan Antonio Area FoundationSkillman Foundation