Reflections from Our Cohort Three Momentum Fellows

Reflections from Our Cohort Three Momentum Fellows

Group photo of Philanthropy Northwest's Cohort 3 of Momentum Fellows

The Momentum Fellowship is a program that supports professionals of color in philanthropy who bring their cultural backgrounds, identities and lived experiences into their workplace. During the 18-month program, fellows join a cohort of peers and engage in facilitated learning, networking and professional development opportunities. To learn more about the fellowship, visit our webpage.

Our third cohort of the Momentum Fellowship, which was our largest class of fellows since the program’s inception in 2015, experienced many changes throughout their 18-month fellowship. Some of these changes were intentional, like including fellows who have been in the sector for less than three years as well as new hires. Other changes were unexpected, like the pandemic pushing our in-person program to a virtual model. Despite the switch to a virtual space, the fellows found ways to connect with one another, embark on their own professional and personal development journeys, and share deep conversations on what true racial equity looks like in philanthropy.

As we officially close out our third cohort, we reflect on some lessons learned and persistent questions that other philanthropy professionals may benefit from:

  • Diversity can only get us so far and is not a substitute for equity. Having Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) folks in the room is great, but we must ensure that we value their perspectives and the experience they are bringing into the work. We must also make sure they are in leadership positions and have decision-making authority in the work they are doing.
  • How do we as BIPOC professionals in philanthropy learn new practices so we’re not perpetuating the same cycles of racism and white supremacy we’re fighting against?
  • What ways are you already supporting BIPOC individuals in your organizations? What ways can you increase that support?
  • What concrete policy and culture changes can you make in your organization to not only bring folks of color into your organization, but ensure they have the space to grow in their work and their leadership?
  • How do we bring true culture change into philanthropy? In Jodi-Ann Burey’s Ted Talk titled “The myth of bringing your full, authentic self to work,” she says “one person, or even a few people coming just as we are, cannot change company culture. How would change happen alongside rewards for coded definitions of ‘fit’? What difference would it make to allege a value for diversity without sustaining evidence of that value in any meaningful way?”
  • We cannot depend on one or a few BIPOC folks in philanthropy to change the culture of this sector. It is everyone’s responsibility to change the culture.
“We cannot depend on one or a few BIPOC folks in philanthropy to change the culture of this sector. It is everyone’s responsibility to change the culture.”

We continue to learn more and more through facilitating this program and we are so appreciative of the fellows and hosts who have participated, given us feedback and helped us improve the fellowship. While we know the inequities in philanthropy were built over many decades and it will take all of us to continue pushing this work forward, programs like the Momentum Fellowship excite us about the future of the sector. This cohort is full of dynamic leaders, and we are eager to see the great work these fellows continue to do in philanthropy. Though fellows took their own learnings from the program, each of their foundations, as well as our own organization, also benefitted immensely from their perspectives and contributions. Diversity, racial equity and inclusion work is a continual learning journey. We hope the questions and takeaways listed above challenge you and your organization to think about how to better support BIPOC professionals in the field.   

“...each one of us is here because somebody before us did something to make it possible.” - Audre Lorde.

Want to take action but unsure what to do?

Philanthropy Northwest invites foundations and corporate philanthropies to become a fellowship program sponsor for future Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) professionals in philanthropy who are Momentum Fellows. You can directly support BIPOC leaders in this sector. Reach out to me, Mares Asfaha, if you would like to learn more.