Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy - Exponent Philanthropy

Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy

Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy (CLIP) is a mindset and practice that empowers lean, place-based foundations to unleash their full potential to spark transformative change on issues prioritized by local communities.

By embracing their unique abilities to act quickly, focus persistently, and nurture deep relationships, individuals who embrace CLIP go beyond typical grantmaking and become dynamic agents of progress. These funders weave networks, break through barriers, and invite new voices to the decision table, all in pursuit of reshaping systems, addressing inequities, and fostering vibrant collaborations that create lasting impact.

The Biology of CLIP

Leadership Virtues: Catalytic leaders embrace humility, passion, curiosity, and patience. These virtues, represented by the flower’s roots, help lean funders engage in CLIP throughout their philanthropic careers.

Core Practices: Catalytic leaders articulate a clear and focused purpose internally and externally, get out of the office and into their communities, center equity in their grants and operations, and make long-term, flexible grants that support nonprofits. These practices, represented by the stem, provide the structure necessary for moving forward with CLIP.

Catalytic Skills: Catalytic leaders listen deeply, build strong relationships, and understand the landscape of their work. These skills, represented by the leaves, ensure catalytic leaders deeply understand their funding areas and the communities they serve.

The Catalysts: Catalytic leaders connect grantees with each other and other funders, collaborate, champion their causes, and advocate for systems change. The catalysts, represented by the flower petals, empower funders to bring all their assets to the table in support of their mission, and help catalytic leaders make an outsized impact in their community.

Featured Resources

How to Get Started
Anyone—trustees, staff, donors, or the next generation—can learn and embrace CLIP with a few key practices and skill sets. This resource will teach you how. Download this publication »

What we mean when we talk about Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy
What is CLIP?
How do lean funders practice it?
Why is having a giving focus important?
Download this issue of Essentials »

A Call for Creative Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy
Urgency, passion, curiosity, and the desire to engage drive some lean funders to center their giving around authentic relationships with grantees and community members. This type blog invites you to join them in a type of philanthropy that will set you apart from other funders. Read the blog »

The Catalytic Philanthropy Podcast

Meet some of the most creative, resourceful, and gutsy funders leading a new kind of philanthropy throughout the country. Learn more about the podcast »


On-Ramp Cohort Program 

The On-Ramp to Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy is a meaningful and transformative experience that can significantly shift how you view your role and work. Offered annually, this program is a great way to start practicing the principles of CLIP in your own work.  Learn more »

In-person Sessions

At the Exponent Philanthropy Annual Conference, you’ll find sessions that share the how-tos of catalytic and equity-centered practices as well as the fundamentals of foundation management. This event is designed for and by lean funders, many of whom embody CLIP in their every day work.  Learn more »

Virtual, On-Demand Learning 

The Catalytic Philanthropy Learning Lab  is for lean funders of all kinds looking to lay the groundwork for letting go of the classic grantmaking paradigm of applications, cycles, and approvals, and dig into solving problems by being responsive to those closest to the issues. Recordings are available per module, or as one complete series. Learn more »


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