Next Gen Voices  

By Nathaniel James, Exponent Philanthropy

Over the years, participants in our Next Gen Fellows Program have contributed significantly to their home philanthropies’ work through strategic, programmatic, technological, and communications efforts.

Many fellows go beyond that by contributing expertise, ideas, and observations to Exponent Philanthropy’s community and to the field at large. Next gen leaders have written and been featured in multiple media since we launched our Next Gen Fellows Program in 2013, including over a dozen posts on this blog alone.

We want to share just some of pieces written by our fellows over the years that we feel are just as valuable today as when they were published.

Learn about the 2017 Next Gen Fellows Program and apply by April 10 >>

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How to Spot a Next Gen Fellow

By Nathaniel James, Exponent Philanthropy

How do you know if Exponent Philanthropy’s Next Gen Fellows Program is right for you or someone at your foundation?

As we note in the program details, the 6-month training fellowship is designed for “dynamic leaders roughly 18–35 years old who are involved in all types of foundations as current or soon-to-be trustees or staff.”

Given that many applications and even more queries are rolling in as the April 10 application deadline approaches, I thought it may be helpful to go deeper in describing characteristics that make for a good match between the program and a prospective applicant. This might be especially helpful for foundations that have several 18- to 35-year-olds who might be interested.

Although the characteristics below are not comprehensive, and not every applicant will share all of them, we are looking to build a group of participants who demonstrate a good balance of these. We hope this will help you make decisions about applying and, if ready, meet the April 10 application deadline.

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You Talk With Your Mentor About What Exactly?

By Nathaniel James, Exponent Philanthropy

mentoringMentorship is an elusive idea. Magazines are full of advice on building and maintaining most kinds of relationships (employment, marriage, parenting), but there are few road maps for finding and nurturing mentorships. This despite the fact that most, if not all, leaders will include the support they received from mentors as part of their recipes for success.

Recently I was at a dinner party with at least 10 people roughly my age, and I was expressing gratitude for one of my mentors. The other guests looked at me a little awkwardly. When I asked if anyone else had an important mentor in their lives, not a single one said yes.

No wonder, then, that when matched with a mentor in a formal setting like our Next Gen Fellowship Program, young people can feel a little lost. As leader of the fellowship, the mentor matches I make are the most opaque part of the program—meaning I’m not always in-the-know about exactly how mentors and mentees are approaching the relationship.

This past month, I set out to discover what makes this component productive and effective. I talked to 22 participants, both mentors and mentees.

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Youth Philanthropy: Collaborative From the Start

By Nathaniel James, Exponent Philanthropy

Originally featured on GMNsight, a professional journal written for and by the members of Grants Managers Network

In philanthropy, it seems everyone is talking about collaboration. The more we aspire to work together, the more we find that effective collaborations require patience, practice, and sometimes teach hard lessons. Earlier this year, Michael Moody wrote that aspiring collaborative donors “face distinct challenges related to their own capacity and power [and] their tolerance for risk and transparency.”

So, whereas we understand the rewards of collaboration to be high, collaboration is still hard. But what if this is just a phase for philanthropy?

This summer, I participated in the international Youth Philanthropy Connect Conference, aptly titled “Building Tomorrow, Together: The Future of Philanthropy,” and I observed an ease of relationship-building that could one day transform our field. There I saw the future of philanthropy, those in the 8- to 21-year-old set for whom collaboration is a central part of who they are and how their first experiences unfold.

Over five years, the conference has grown to 58 participating organizations and 180 participants. During the launch presentation on the new site, we learned that the global youth philanthropy field has distributed over $15 million in grants since 2001, making it a distinct new entrant into the larger nonprofit sector and one whose influence is just starting to be felt.

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