On-Ramp to Catalytic Philanthropy - Exponent Philanthropy

On-Ramp to Catalytic Philanthropy

This winter, Exponent Philanthropy is hosting a 10-week hands-on experiential program to start transforming 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 promise for creativity and innovation.
    • 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

    About Catalytic Philanthropy

    Catalytic philanthropy is a mindset and approach to philanthropy where lean funders center knowledge and relationships to make systems change on a focused issue prioritized by the community. Catalytic funders build connections and long-term capacity in organizations and communities, often working across different sectors. They convene people, commission research, raise public awareness, address inequities, and often engage in advocacy. 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 a 10-week period. 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, Thu 2/16: Introduction to Catalytic, Listening Skills Training
    • Module 2, Thu 2/23: Asking Powerful Questions, Prep for Interviews

    Three-week break to engage in three interviews

    • Module 3, Thu 3/16: Check-In & Opportunity to Get Guidance on Interviews, Begin Making Sense of What You’re Learning
    • Module 4, Thu 3/23: Small Group Work with Catalytic Guides

    Four-week break to conduct remaining interviews

    • Module 5, Thu 4/20: Synthesizing What You’ve Heard, Identifying Ideas for Action Steps with Catalytic Guides & Peers
    • Module 6, Thu 4/27: 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

    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.

    Registration Fees

    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.

    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.    

    Recordings will only be provided to registrants for 30 days after the program.