Update to Fellowship Program

Alumni Fellows at 2018 Grants Awards

Since its founding, The Philanthropy Connection has provided Fellowships for women between the ages of 21 and 35 in order to support and encourage the next generation of philanthropists. We are writing to share an exciting next step in TPC’s journey leading the nation in elevating Young Philanthropists (YPs). TPC had the first YP program of any women’s collective giving group in the country, and other groups continue look to us as they develop their own programs, so we are proud that our program is continuing to evolve and lead the way.

Where We Came From
When TPC was founded, the Fellowship was created to bring extraordinary young women into the movement by removing financial barriers to participation. In that first year, virtually all (five out of six) YPs were Fellows, receiving free (underwritten) membership and a cohort of peers.

Where We Are
Since then, the YP program has blossomed, and now almost a third of all TPC members are YPs! We have a YP co-president, young women hold an outsize number of leadership positions on the Board and as Grant Team leaders, and YPs have led the charge on strategic initiatives including our robust Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts.

The Fellowship has been an important part of that success, removing financial barriers, providing more structured support navigating TPC’s myriad opportunities, and helping foster relationship-building – and TPC has gotten at least as much from the Fellows as the Fellows have gotten from TPC. However, the Fellowship still supports only five new women each year. At our inception, that covered most of the YPs, but now it barely scratches the surface.

Where We’re Going
The Fellowship has been a massive success, and now we want to take the spirit of what has worked and bring it to the rest of YPs – and to the larger membership. To that end, over the course of this year we will be trying some new things that attempt to remove financial barriers and better connect members with TPC opportunities and with each other, but on a much larger scale. It may take some trial and error to learn what works, but the intent is to scale the principles of the Fellowship to any woman who decides for herself that she could benefit from it, rather than limiting benefits to an exclusive group.

To accomplish this, during 2021, we will:

  • Reduce financial barriers to access by creating a tiered donation structure, making participation accessible to women with a wider range of economic means, regardless of age.
  • Foster connection by: 1) piloting mixed-tenure cohorts that help new members quickly build relationships and learn how to get plugged into committee roles, grant teams, and more; and 2) exploring affinity groups to help members meet others with common experiences or interests.
  • Learn what else is needed by gathering feedback from members and completing an audit of opportunities and programming. As YPs have grown into a larger proportion of membership, their needs, voices, and leadership have been increasingly integrated into core programming, making YP-specific programming less necessary in many cases. To ensure we have capacity to continue to grow the organization and the share of YPs, we want to cut down on YP-only initiatives where they are no longer additive, while still ensuring that nothing important gets overlooked as YPs continue to be integrated.

To allow us to scale these benefits to a larger number of people, we will not be selecting five new Fellows in 2021. Instead, we hope to reinvest the energy we spend on the lengthy Fellowship interview process by focusing on the initiatives listed above so we can gain a much larger number of new YPs – and seasoned members – who will have the choice to opt into the benefits Fellows have historically enjoyed: more accessible membership entry levels and more structured connection.