Next Gen Fellows Program | Prepare Your Foundation for the Future

Next Gen Fellows Program

A seven-month fellowship program for emerging foundation leaders

The information below is for the 2024 Next Gen Fellows Program. Keep an eye out for the forthcoming details on the 2025 Next Gen Fellows Program.

The Next Gen Fellows Program is a 7-month, virtual leadership development program for dynamic leaders roughly 18–35 years old who are involved in all types of foundations as current or soon-to-be trustees or staff. The program is designed for deep learning and engagement plus peer networking to prepare you to lead both in the future and now from your current position.

Anyone in philanthropy, regardless of age, title, or specific role, has influence and some power to shape philanthropic practices. You can step into leadership in your existing context, and through the Next Gen Fellows Program, we’ll offer ideas of how to lead at your organization.

In this program, you will:

  • Be guided by fellow practitioners
  • Learn about current and emerging practices and trends
  • Try out new skills and discuss concepts in a safe and encouraging environment
  • Come away with an unmatched peer group that will provide support, ideas, and guidance
  • Reflect on learnings individually and with peers and work to identify opportunities to bring ideas and next steps to your philanthropic work.

You’ll gain the competence and confidence to lead—in your foundation, in your community, and in your field—and you’ll return to your foundation ready to ask thoughtful questions, make meaningful contributions, and strengthen your giving.

Leadership in Lean Philanthropy

A manager is handed a playbook, a leader writes the playbook. Leaders look for opportunities to solve both simple and complex challenges. In philanthropy, leadership is a mindset and practice grounded in humility, listening, and curiosity to learn and journey. These qualities empower leaders – whether staff, donors, trustees, or family members – to embrace the unique abilities and powers of small foundations, to spark systems-level change. By leveraging their resources and going beyond grantmaking, foundations, and donors that practice catalytic leadership think and act less like funders and more like agents and facilitators of change. Learn more about Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy.

During the Virtual Learning Series, we’ll explore leadership qualities on both the personal and organizational levels.

    Program Components

    Foundations 101 Virtual Seminar
    Learn the fundamentals of good governance, investments, legal basics, grantmaking strategies, and an overview of the nonprofit sector with our Foundation 101 virtual seminar. You’ll watch five recorded seminar modules at your own pace and before the virtual learning series begins on March 4. This is optional, though it’s recommended for level-setting for those with less than three years in philanthropy.

    Peer Coaching
    Your peers will support your individualized learning, work with you to engage with questions that arise from the programs’ content, and serve as a trusted resource long afterward. In addition to having opportunities to connect with all cohort members, fellows will be thoughtfully grouped in small peer coaching groups and will continue to connect in with their peer coaching groups over the summer. Exponent Philanthropy staff will meet individually with fellows in advance of the program.

    Virtual Learning Series
    The Virtual Learning Series is the core of the Next Gen Fellows Program. Together with your peers, you’ll build off the knowledge you gain in the Foundations 101 series. This series is an opportunity to gain an understanding of and grapple with nuanced topics in philanthropy today. The carefully selected themes are intended to spark dialogue and explore new possibilities in your philanthropic context.

    While Foundations 101 covers the basics of what you should consider in your work, each foundation decides, through board and/or staff conversations, how they want to move their work forward within those guardrails. As much as we want to find answers in a book, there are essential conversations for foundations that have no how-to guides. The chosen topics are what we will learn about and wrestle with together in the Virtual Learning Series. The issues are relevant for rising leaders in the sector regardless of their role within a foundation.

    You’ll engage with each other as well as the speakers. You’ll work to identify opportunities to engage in next steps in your own philanthropic work.

    All modules are scheduled from 2:00-4:00 PM ET unless otherwise noted.

    • Cohort Gathering (Wed 2/28). Get to know the fellows in your cohort. We’ll mix and match small groups during this gathering based on your pre-selected interests so you can begin making connections with those in similar roles and grantmaking focus, as well as with your peer coaching group.
      1. Meet the Fellows
    • WEEK 1: Build Healthy Relationships (Mon 3/4 & Wed 3/6). We’ll continue learning about the cohort this first week. And in light of our getting to know each other, learn how to build a healthy culture based on trust at your foundation. Deeper relationships can lead to honest conversations among board, staff, and grantee partners – and more effective grantmaking.
      1. Lean Funders as Leaders
      2. Building Trust and Deepening Relationships
    • WEEK 2: Learn about Your Community (Mon 3/11 & Wed 3/13). Impact means something different for every grantmaker as each funder has different goals. How do funders learn about the community issues and then evaluate their work and impact on the community and for grantees?
      1. Connecting in Your Community
      2. Assessing Your Impact
    • WEEK 3: Understand Your Power (Mon 3/18 & Wed 3/20). Explore how foundations can use their power to create transformative change in their communities. Transformative change comes about when funders understand their community and leverage their non-grant assets to support social change.
      1. Using All Tools in the Toolbox: Non-Grant Assets
      2. Managing Power Dynamics
    • WEEK 4: Engage in Equity Conversations (Mon 3/25 & Wed 3/27) Funders are rethinking barriers to entry and, knowing the strains and constraints on their grantees, these grantmakers are also streamlining grant requirements, collaborating with other funders, engaging constituents in the grantmaking process, and providing financial support to grantees for evaluation. How do you start these conversations and what does it look like in practice?
      1. Working Outward: Equity & Inclusion Practices
      2. Looking Inward: Implicit Bias Note: This module meets from 1:00-3:00 PM ET
    • WEEK 5: Change Management & Owning Your Leadership (Mon 4/1 & Wed 4/3). Next gen staff and trustees in philanthropy have power and influence regardless of professional title. Let’s talk about making change – the key to the implementation of decisions and moving forward. Learn tactical ways to maximize your leadership potential and step into your power at your foundation or in the field.
      1. Change Management
      2. Owning Your Leadership
    • WEEK 6: Moving Forward (Mon 4/8). Today we’ll have an opportunity to examine where we’ve been and how you want to explore your leadership further. We’ll also discuss Summer Peer Coaching.
      1. Moving Forward

    Summer Peer Coaching (May, June, July)

    After the Virtual Learning Series has concluded, you will continue to meet monthly with your peer coaching groups through the summer at mutually agreed upon times. You’ll revisit content, resources, and stories, and guide each other through challenges while considering opportunities for leadership. You’ll receive specific instructions for structuring your time together at the conclusion on Module #12.

    Closing Circle: Reconnect & Recommit (Wed 9/18, 2:00-4:00 PM ET)

    The 2024 Next Gen Fellows Program concludes in September with a final gathering. What are your observations and ideas about the content in relation to your work? What are the intersections and where are the opportunities?


    This 2024 Next Gen Fellows Program will be facilitated by Kerry McHugh, a Next Gen Fellow alumna, and Exponent Philanthropy board member.

    Kerry is a seasoned facilitator and serves as a program officer and board member at The Helen J. Serini Foundation, named after her grandmother. She previously worked in communications with a variety of government and nonprofit clients. Kerry is an avid reader and book reviewer and has volunteered with various local nonprofits and philanthropic institutions in her hometown of Frederick, MD, where she lives with her husband and young son.


    Our speakers are selected for their rich experience with philanthropy and nonprofits, as well as their accessibility and presentation styles. Fellowship speakers are philanthropy practitioners, nonprofit leaders, researchers, and keen observers of the field of lean philanthropy.

    Afia Amobeaa-Sakyi, Director of Equity & Inclusion, Exponent Philanthropy. Afia serves as a change agent to foster the integration of strategies that will cultivate and sustain a culture that advances diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within our organization, among our community of lean funders, and external stakeholders.

    Andy Carroll, Senior Advisor, Exponent Philanthropy. Andy advises foundations in the areas of leadership, advocacy, and catalytic philanthropy. He works to empower more foundations and donors to leverage their unique position and assets.

    Gali Cooks, founding CEO, Leading Edge. Leading Edge influences, inspires, and enables Jewish organizations to continuously improve performance through culture and leadership. To Leading Edge, Gali brings extensive professional experience in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors.

    Bari Katz. Bari is an NYC-based social justice educator, coach, and facilitator working to build relationships where everyone’s humanity is honored and oppressive systems and dynamics are disrupted.

    Lauren Kotkin, Senior Director, Education, Exponent Philanthropy. Lauren blends creativity and detail to develop and deliver educational programs. She is the leader of the Educational Programs team and collaborates with Andy Carroll on programming for the Catalytic Leadership Academy.

    Brendan McCormick, Associate Director of Research & Publications, Exponent Philanthropy. Brendan leads our efforts to learn more about our community of lean funders, focusing his research on how foundations approach impact and evaluation, investments, operations, demographics, and equity practices.

    Practitioners: We recognize that learning directly from those doing the work and leading changes within their foundations and communities is invaluable. Additional speakers will be Next Gen Fellowship alumni and Exponent Philanthropy members who are engaging the these leadership practices. They will share their practices, challenges, and how they are working toward organization’s mission and community change.


    The 2024 Next Gen Fellows Program is open to those who are roughly ages 18–35 and currently or soon-to-be trustees or staff at a foundation. The fellowship content, resources, and discussions are geared toward staff and trustees at lean foundations, that is, those foundations operating with few or no staff. If you have a question as to the program’s fit for your particular role or goals, please contact Lauren Kotkin at Participant guidelines for all Exponent programs are here.

    Application Procedure

    Act now to invest in yourself and the future of your foundation. Applications will be reviewed to ensure that participants meet age guidelines and are current or soon-to-be trustees or staff at foundations. As we fill the cohort, we will assess all applications to ensure a diverse range of personal backgrounds, experiences, foundation types, and geography. We will also consider the fit between applicants’ learning objectives and program design.

    The deadline to apply is December 7, 2023. Participants will be notified of their participation status (i.e. accepted, waitlisted, or denied) before the end of the year.

    Registration Fees

    Fellows have two options: join for the Virtual Learning Series only, or add on the 2024 Annual Conference at a deep discount. The conference is scheduled for November 14-16, 2024, in Austin, TX, after the fellowship has concluded.

    Option 1: Virtual Learning Series Only (February through September)

    Exponent Philanthropy Member Program Fee: $1,995
    Non-Member Program Fee: $2,495

    Option 2: Virtual Learning Series plus 2024 Annual Conference Registration (at a reduced rate)

    Exponent Philanthropy Member Program Fee: $2,895

    Non-Member Program Fee: $3,395

    About the 2024 Annual Conference Add-On: Fellows who choose to add on the 2024 Annual Conference will deepen their knowledge through conference sessions exploring a wide range of topics. There will be time set aside daily to connect with the cohort. Fellows are responsible for their own travel and accommodations.

    Participants accepted to the program pay one of the above program fees and are expected to complete any pre-work associated with the program and attend all modules of the program. Recordings of each module are available to watch in the event of a health or family emergency during the Virtual Learning Series. Canceled registrants are welcome to reapply for a future cohort.

    Registration fees associated with trainings like this cohort program may be counted towards your foundation’s five percent distribution requirement. Consult your professional advisor to discuss your specific circumstances.


    By applying for this program, participants are agreeing to the Exponent Philanthropy Participant Guidelines. Cancellations (especially those close to the event date) can negatively impact the cost-effectiveness and quality of our programs. However, we understand that situations may arise that prevent your participation in the cohort. Written cancellation requests received at least 15 days before the program starts will be approved only under extreme circumstances and will be subject to a $100 processing fee; your spot will not carry over to future cohorts and you will need to reapply. No refunds will be issued for cancellations received within 15 days of the program start date or if you leave the fellowship once the program has commenced. Please submit all cancellations by e-mail to

    If you choose the Annual Conference Add-On option but can no longer attend the conference, we will accept substitutions only. No refunds will be given.

    Platform and Accessibility

    The virtual program uses Zoom; automated closed captioning will be available. We can provide additional accommodations upon request (e.g., live captioner, ASL interpreter). Please contact or call 202-580-6560 by February 1 if you need any accommodations.