Together In Divided Times: Rural Funders Cohort

Together In Divided Times: Rural Funders Cohort

Grass green graphic with icons showing rolling hills and birds. The words read "Together in Divided Times: Rural Cohort"

Event details

Thursday, May 2, 2024
10:00am to 10:00am PDT

About this event

Many communities experience both connectedness but also increasing polarization. This has its dynamics in smaller, rural communities where people often have a very private ethos yet know each other very well and have traditionally shouldered many community tasks together. Now, many rural places are experiencing divisions that show up across ideologies, perspectives, race, gender and ethnicity. The tension can break down public processes and disrupt the work of schools, public agencies, nonprofits and philanthropic funders. Grantees in divided places can become overextended and exhausted from working on the service frontline. Rural people - including funders - can simply lose heart.

The Together in Divided Times Rural Funders Cohort is about finding our footing together as peers. Our goal is to support rural funders serving communities that are disrupted by ideological conflict and communication disconnects. The cohort’s peer learning and fellowship will help funders better position their organizations in a sustainable, productive and appropriate role to serve and participate in the communities they love. Whether you help to fund young children thrive, support elders, address food/housing insecurity or assist the arts, we welcome you to a table of peers where we will share issues, ideas and experience in community-building in rural places.

Through this cohort experience, participants will:

  • Co-create a safe space dedicated to the particular work of foundation leaders (board and executive staff) amid divisive community dynamics.
  • Dig in to learn more and share strategies for a few issues cohort members are interested in.
  • Explore how social, racial and economic disparities play into community dynamics and what this means for foundation leadership.
  • Share ideas for good rural approaches across the foundation’s funding, policy and community participation roles.
  • Uplift the joy and promise in our work as funders in the rural communities we love. 

Who Should Attend?

  • This cohort is for staff of philanthropic organizations who are rural funders. You do not need to be a Philanthropy Northwest member to participate in the cohort.  

  • The cohort is designed for senior foundation staff, each of whom will be asked to recruit one board member so that each foundation has both board and staff leadership participating.


Interested individuals will need to fill out an application to be part of the cohort. Please click on the "Register Now" button above or on this link to apply.  Applications are due April 12.


Upon acceptance into the cohort, participants will work collaboratively with facilitators to identify session dates that work best for the majority of the group.


Rosalie Sheehy Cates, Senior Advisor at The Giving Practice

Rosalie Sheehy Cates combines respect for the fiduciary role with a curious and generative approach to strategy and investing. Rosalie has helped boards investigate new strategies, make decisions and craft policies and procedures. She also trains and mentors foundation staff and investment committees, often by working through investing transactions hands-on. Rosalie has written two investment-focused reports on diversity, equity and inclusion in foundations and she works closely with foundation collaboratives, particularly around sustainability issues.

Rosalie was CEO of a $45 million nonprofit loan fund in Montana for 14 years. She lived in Wisconsin during the 1980s, where she was an organizer for family farms and sustainable agriculture and helped with her family’s small cattle operation. Rosalie lives in Missoula, Montana, where she is part of an informal investor group, reads and walks a lot and has served as vice-chairperson of the board of Headwaters Foundation.


Dawn Chirwa, Senior Advisor at The Giving Practice

Dawn brings over 20 years of expertise across the policy, corporate and philanthropic sectors. At The Giving Practice (TGP), Dawn focuses on a wide range of strategic advisory work including strategy development and refreshing business model development, sustainability planning, strategic human capital development and supportive facilitation work.

Before joining TGP, Dawn was chief of staff in the U.S. Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she helped develop education strategies and led critical implementation initiatives. Dawn also served as chief of staff to Goldman Sachs’ president and COO and helped build a Goldman Sachs capital markets public policy group.


  • Member Rate: $1800
  • Non-Member Rate: $3850 

This program is designed for senior foundation staff, each of whom will be asked to recruit one board member so that each foundation has both board and staff leadership participating. To support this we are offering the opportunity for board members to attend at no cost.

We are grateful to provide this cohort with sponsorship support from the United Philanthropy Forum.

We understand that financial constraints can sometimes pose a barrier to participation. We encourage anyone who may benefit from financial assistance to apply for a scholarship in the application form.


Philanthropy Northwest strives to make our events accessible to everyone. If you require an accommodation or service to complete the application please contact Michaela Brown

Please contact Michaela Brown with any questions.

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