On-Ramp to Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy - Exponent Philanthropy

On-Ramp to Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy

A ten-week, action-oriented, virtual workshop to transform your giving, this program is offered annually. Check the program calendar for upcoming dates, or contact us to learn more.

The On-Ramp to Catalytic Philanthropy provides training, community, and support to lean funders interested developing their Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy skills. This program will build your confidence in pursuing new pathways in your philanthropy through experiential learning, skills practice, and hands-on work. It is designed to be a meaningful, transformative experience – one that could significantly shift your view of your role and work.

Participants are asked to complete eight or more interviews, and actively participate in six, 2-hour modules devoted to skills training, coaching, and action planning. Throughout the program, participants:

  • Hone their skills in deep listening and asking powerful questions. Being present and open to new ideas takes skill and practice.
  • Venture into their community or field to listen, learn, and expand their networks by interviewing people within and beyond the nonprofit sector.
  • Use our framework to synthesize their interviews and make sense of what they heard individually and with a circle of lean-funder peers.
  • Learn from peer catalytic guides who have years of experience practicing Catalytic Leadership in Philanthropy.
  • Develop two or three actionable ways their foundations can use their unique power and position to fill gaps, address real needs, advance equity, unite people, and nurture innovation and entrepreneurship in their communities.

Additionally, participants leave the program:

  • With deeper empathy, sensitivity, and a understanding of their community’s challenges.
  • Recognizing the many roles their foundation can play to meet needs and fill gaps beyond grantmaking.
  • Part of a shared community of peers that offer ongoing support and coaching.


      We welcome any foundation staff, trustee, or donor who wants to shift their work from transactional to transformational. This program provides training and support to lean funders as they begin venturing into the community to understand needs, opportunities, and gaps where they can make a difference.

      Program Overview

      Participants meet virtually six times over 10 weeks.

          Module 1: Introduction to Catalytic, Listening Skills Training
          Module 2: Asking Powerful Questions, Prep for Interviews

      Three-week break to engage in three interviews

          Module 3: Check-In & Opportunity to Get Guidance on Interviews, Begin Making Sense of What You’re Learning
          Module 4: Small Group Work with Catalytic Guides

      Three-week break to conduct remaining interviews

          Module 5: Synthesizing What You’ve Heard, Identifying Ideas for Action Steps with Catalytic Guides & Peers
          Module 6: Refine & Share Ideas for Action Steps, Connect to Community of Support, Map Out Next Steps

      Catalytic Guides

      Exponent Philanthropy members with deep experience listening, building relationships, and understanding systems will serve as catalytic guides. These guides will offer insights on interviewing partners and community members, and they will facilitate sense-making sessions, provide coaching, and help tease out ideas and opportunities for action.


      Laura Gale is a leadership coach, facilitator, and change consultant. She has spent her career designing and leading transformative change processes for individuals and groups. Laura brings an explicit anti-racist lens to her work and expertise in the areas of group facilitation, leadership development, change management, team dynamics, culture change and cohort-development. Laura currently runs a leadership development consultancy called Nightingale Coaching & Consulting.

      What Participants Say

      “The On-Ramp process has been invaluable. Reaching out, scheduling, listening, puzzling, synthesizing the calls and meetings has taken more dedicated and focused time than I anticipated. The fruits have been far more valuable than anyone could have imagined. They really point to a new and energizing way of doing things around here at the Bissell Foundation.”— Sarah Anthony

      “This catalytic philanthropy process of listening, developing relationships, and being able to see gaps, enriches the work already being done in communities, by creating stronger partnerships between funders and grantees. We are better able to work together to focus on community priorities.”– 2023 Participant