On-Ramp to Catalytic Philanthropy - Exponent Philanthropy

On-Ramp to Catalytic Philanthropy

March 7 – May 9, 2024 // A 10-week action-oriented workshop to activate your community engagement and transform your giving. This program meets virtually.

This winter, Exponent Philanthropy is hosting a 10-week hands-on experiential program to empower you to transform your philanthropy.

Our On-Ramp to Catalytic Philanthropy, the signature program of our Catalytic Leadership Academy, provides training, community, and support to venture out into your community, listen deeply, and nurture relationships. This program will build your confidence and openness to pursuing new pathways in your philanthropy. It is designed to be a meaningful, transformative experience – one that could significantly shift your view of your role and work.

Experiential Learning, Skills Practice, and Hands-on Work:

    Participants are asked to complete eight or more interviews in the stated time frame, and actively participate in six, 2-hour modules over 10 weeks devoted to skills training, coaching and support, and action planning.

    See the schedule below. We also ask registrants to sign a Program Commitment.

    In this workshop, you will:

    • Venture out into your community and field, engaging eight or more people in 30- to 60-minute conversations to listen, learn, and expand your network. We ask that you engage people in the community and those beyond the nonprofit sector who work in business, government, education, and other arenas, allowing you to expand your network.
    • Hone your skills in deep listening and asking powerful questions. Being fully present and open to new ideas takes skill and practice. The training will prepare you for your interviews.
    • Synthesize your learnings and make sense of what you heard individually and with a circle of lean funder peers, using our frameworks to assist.
    • Get guidance from peers (catalytic guides) with years of experience listening and engaging the community to tease out patterns and original ideas that offer the potential to solve problems, fill gaps, and meet community needs in creative, powerful ways that leverage all your resources – not just grants.
    • Develop two or three specific ideas for action that will open new paths for impact or further inquiry, based on what you learn and uncover. These will be specific ways your foundation can use its unique powers and position to fill gaps, address real needs, advance equity, bring people together, and nurture innovation and entrepreneurship in your community.

    Additional Outcomes:

    • Develop empathy, sensitivity, and an understanding of the challenges partners and community leaders face.
    • Recognize the many roles your foundation can play to meet needs and fill gaps beyond grantmaking.
    • Gain a community of peers for ongoing support and coaching.

    What is 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. Foundations with as little as one million in assets and no staff make catalytic change.

    Funders practicing a catalytic approach end up venturing far beyond making individual grants, to providing longer-term support, convening, looking at the systems of issues, funding grassroots and BIPOC-led groups, providing seed funding, supporting leadership development, joining coalitions, doing advocacy, and more. 

    Read more about Catalytic Philanthropy.


    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.


    Participants will meet virtually on six Thursdays over 10 weeks. All modules run from 2:00-4:00 PM ET. Participants will conduct their eight community interviews between modules #2 and #3; and modules #4 and #5.

    • Module 1, March 7: Introduction to Catalytic, Listening Skills Training
    • Module 2, March 14: Asking Powerful Questions, Prep for Interviews

    Three-week break to engage in three interviews

    • Module 3, April 4: Check-In & Opportunity to Get Guidance on Interviews, Begin Making Sense of What You’re Learning
    • Module 4, April 11: Small Group Work with Catalytic Guides

    Three-week break to conduct remaining interviews

    • Module 5, May 2: Synthesizing What You’ve Heard, Identifying Ideas for Action Steps with Catalytic Guides & Peers
    • Module 6, May 9: 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

    Platform and Accessibility

    This program uses Zoom; automated closed captioning is available. We can provide additional accommodations upon request (e.g., live captioner, ASL interpreter). Please contact Lauren Kotkin info@exponentphilanthropy.org or call 202-580-6560 by February 9 if you need accommodations.    

    Registration Information

    Participant Type Entire Series
    Member Price $395
    Non-Member Price $595


    After registering, participants will receive a request to sign this Program Commitment.

    Cancellations and Other Policies

    Each module of this series requires participants to actively participate in exercises, practice, or discussions with peers. Because of this, we will only accept substitutions before the February 16 start date. Cancellations before the start of the program on February 16, 2023, are subject to a $75 processing fee. Cancellations on or after February 16, 2023, are non-refundable. Please submit all substitutions and cancellations by e-mail to info@exponentphilanthropy.org or by calling Exponent Philanthropy at 202-580-6560.

    By registering for this program, participants are agreeing to the Exponent Philanthropy Participant Guidelines.