Career Pathways

A Talent Pipeline Expansion Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Important Dates
  • Information Session with Council Staff — January 26, 2021 | 3 p.m. EST
  • 2021 Program Application Submission Deadline — EXTENSION: February 22, 2021
  • Waldman Scholarship Application Submission Deadline — EXTENSION: March 1, 2021
  • Career Pathways 2021 Cohorts Announcement — April 2021
Program Schedule
Blue Cohort Program Dates
  • Learning Session 1: Kick Off Month — August 3, August 10, August 17, August 24, August 31
  • Learning Session 2 — September 22-24
  • Learning Session 3 — October 13-15
  • Learning Session 4 — December 6-8*
Green Cohort Program Dates
  • Learning Session 1: Kick Off Month — August 5, August 12, August 19, August 26, September 2
  • Learning Session 2 — September 29-October 1
  • Learning Session 3 — October 20-22
  • Learning Session 4 — December 8-10*

*We will be planning for a virtual and in person convening session in Washington DC if health and safety guidelines of COVID-19 allow to convene in person.

2021 Cohort FAQs

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.

What's different about the 2021 Cohort of Career Pathways?

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 Career Pathways program will be divided into two cohorts and be entirely virtual. Each cohort will include 24 individuals from various backgrounds seeking to prepare themselves as candidates for philanthropic leadership positions. Career Pathways will continue to provide foundational program elements and look to add new curriculum modules around leadership needs and skills specific to virtual workspaces. Participants in the Career Pathways program will leave better prepared to judge and enhance their philanthropic leadership profile, in addition to increasing their own potential.

Four-Part Virtual Learning Sessions for 2021 Cohort

1. Individual Leadership: This leadership development session will assist in outlining the steps that you need to take in order to be a better leader.
2. Field Leadership: This course will provide a combination of on-the-job experience, networking, and mentorship to assist with your personal and professional growth.
3. Organizational Leadership: Learn management approach and strategic goals for organizations, while grasping how to motivate individuals to successfully carry out tasks in service to those goals.
4. Culminating Presentation: Pick up best practices, find natural eloquence and master the art of public speaking by improving your presentation skills.

    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 January 8, 2021 and are due by EXTENSION: February 22, 2021. Decisions will be made and announced April 2021. The 2021 virtual program will have two cohorts running parallel from August to December 2021. Both cohorts will launch in August 2021 virtual kickoff month. For specific dates, view program schedule above.  

    What is the duration of the program?

    Career Pathways 2021 program has two virtual cohort during a 6-month period. Alumni convening opportunities, involving one’s own and future cohorts, are planned throughout the year.

    What is the cost of the program?

    The tuition cost, if selected, varies based on your organization’s membership status. The cost for current Council members is $3,200. The cost for non-members is $4,500. For any in-person meetings 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?

    The 2021 program will be a virtual program, the Council Career Pathways team is planning for an in-person learning session 4 in Washington, DC. However, we cannot guarantee an official in person learning session until we have more information about health and safety of the country regarding COVID 19. As of right now all session will be virtual sessions.

    Will I have to travel?

    Participants will only need to travel if national health and safety requirement allows for an in-person convening for learning session 4 in December. If learning session 4 is in-person, participants will not be required to travel, as there will be a virtual and in person joining options.

    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.

    Is there a scholarship or financial aid support?

    Yes, we have our Waldman Scholars scholarship program. Applications for the scholarship is available starting January 15, 2021. Visit Scholarship page for more information.

    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. As well as access to the Career Pathways Alumni network of executive philanthropic leaders.

    How many participants are invited?

    We will invite 24 participants in each cohort. This year we will host 2 cohorts for a total of 48 participants to join the 2021 program.

    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 panel of grantmakers, philanthropic leaders, and council staff will review all applications, narrow the field to select, and provide recommendations to the Council's programming and leadership development team for the 2021 Career Pathways program.

    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: