Sindhu Knotz, Partner, The Giving Practice
Nine accomplished individuals from incredibly diverse backgrounds are coming together at Philanthropy Northwest this week for the first cohort meeting of our Momentum Fellowship.
What began as a conversation in one of our peer learning cohorts on diversity, equity and inclusion is now becoming reality: a program that prepares professionals from underrepresented communities, particularly communities of color, for successful careers in the philanthropic sector through mentoring, networking and professional development opportunities.
We know that relationships and networks are critical for career advancement, but in the field of philanthropy, these networks are especially important. A recent study commissioned by D5, "Philanthropic Paths: An Exploratory Study of the Career Pathways of Professionals of Color in Philanthropy," found that the most significant barriers to career advancement in philanthropy are limited vacancies and low rates of turnover, and a lack of access to hiring and developmental networks for people of color.
Taking the First Steps
From the beginning, our colleagues at the Minnesota Council of Foundations, Proteus Fund, Council on Foundations and others advised us that starting this type of fellowship “will be more effort than you think." They were definitely right! After several months of recruiting and placing eight fellows at six different foundations in three states, we now realize that we cannot anticipate how this work will evolve, and we have to be flexible enough to adapt to shifting priorities.
We designed the Momentum Fellowship to provide learning opportunities and expand networks. Each fellow is placed in a term-limited, full-time role at one of the following host foundations: Marguerite Casey Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Northwest Health Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Pride Foundation and Rasmuson Foundation. Fellows will work within programmatic or operational teams to implement strategies that achieve each foundation’s mission. At the same time, they will periodically come together as a learning cohort though Philanthropy Northwest, where they will be able to share experiences, discuss issues related to equity and inclusion, and expand their professional skill sets and networks.
As we interviewed candidates for the nine fellow positions, we continually heard positive feedback about the “intentionality” of the program, and that “there just aren’t opportunities like this in the sector.” While this is not the only program of this kind, we realized after talking to dozens of talented individuals from diverse backgrounds that there still are few opportunities like this and we wish we could do more to support the incredible pool of individuals out there.
Full Speed Ahead
Our journey to this point has already been fascinating, and we are just getting started. Our cohort experience begins this week with a full day of learning sessions and networking opportunities, including a chance for our fellows to meet the Philanthropy Northwest board of directors and staff on Friday. In November, all fellows will have the opportunity to join Best Practices: Essential Skills & Strategies for New Grantmakers, one of our signature training programs. We will also host monthly learning calls, which will be guided by the priorities of fellows as they transition into their new roles. I am sure we will learn much more as we continue to develop this pilot program. For now, please join me in welcoming our new class of Momentum Fellows!