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Rising Leaders Cohort

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Are you a rising leader in philanthropy, someone looking for ways to expand your impact within the sector and advance your career? Are you looking for ways to connect with foundation peers and create long-lasting professional relationships? Would the support and mentoring from those peers boost your professional development? If you answered yes to these questions, the 2020 Rising Leaders Cohort offers you a unique opportunity to focus on your leadership journey within the field and build hard skills that will take you to your next level. 

The future of philanthropy lies in the hands of emerging leaders. In the Rising Leaders Cohort, our intention is to support the individuals who have a deep-seated passion for their own effectiveness in their work, and the effectiveness of the field as well. We hope you will join us.

Our Guiding Questions

  • How do I develop as a leader from the position I hold in my foundation?
  • How can I advance my career in philanthropy? 
  • How can I stay focused on my personal mission while balancing the always demanding to-do list?
  • How do I build a sustainable career out of my current and past experiences?
  • What skills do I need to build in order to be an effective philanthropy leader, in the face of our current political, environmental, and social realities? 
  • How do I manage relationships to excel in my work and take full advantage of opportunities to learn and grow? 
  • How can I deepen my personal and professional practice towards equity and social justice?

Headshot of Vanice DunnVanice Dunn, Director of Equity, Provoc

Vanice hails from years of experience working directly with members of various non-profits, so she’s all about participation and collaboration. Vanice began to hone her skills in social justice advocacy in an organic way — as a young girl of color in a small southern town, her existence itself became a political statement.  Those experiences gave Vanice practice in being critical of assumptions, dissecting polarizing arguments, and ultimately standing strong in her convictions. Her passion led her to the Provoc team, where she strives to make an impact by building partnerships with visionary clients and serving as lead strategist for brand and communications projects. By rooting her work in a womanist lens, Vanice has a particular passion for projects that combat the ‘isms’ — including racism, classism, and sexism.

Headshot of Chris MurchisonChris Murchison, Workplace Connection and Community Consultant

Chris Marcell Murchison is a passionate advocate for positive workplace culture. In his broad career spanning the higher education, for-profit, not-for-profit, and foundation sectors he has focused his energy on developing creative means to build community at work and practices that support an employee experience of respect, connection, joy, and generative learning.

In 2014, Chris was named the first Visiting Leader at the Center for Positive Organizations in the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where he advises, connects and convenes faculty and students to explore practical applications of Positive Organizational Scholarship. In January of 2018 Chris was additionally appointed to the Advisory Board of the International Positive Psychology Association’s Work & Organizations Division.

Chris currently works as an independent creative thought-partner, experience designer, and advisor to organizations ready to re-imagine the possibilities of their cultures.

Headshot of Kate SeelyKate Seely, Leadership, Culture, and Community Director, Northern California Grantmakers

I support and encourage the leadership and cultures that are needed for communities to thrive. As leadership is about harnessing energy so that we can accomplish what we set ourselves to do, in my work I aim to create spaces that fuel co-creation, engagement, and impact, so that we are creating the future that we want to inhabit together. Those spaces also honor trust, courage, and risk-taking, allowing for innovation and creativity to emerge.

In my role at NCG, I lead our professional and leadership development work, and guide our focus on organizational culture as a leverage point for impact. Before working in philanthropy, I co-founded the nonprofit Puente a la Salud Comunitaria in Oaxaca, Mexico, a community development organization focused on public health, economic development, and sustainable agriculture. I spent a transformative year completing a Master's in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability, where I deepened my own understanding of the leadership and organizational culture that are needed to achieve both environmental and social sustainability. I am a fierce advocate for bringing our whole selves to our work environments, for awareness of self and the systems we exist in, and for slowing down.

Headshot of Adam WolpertAdam Wolpert, Co-founder and Course Instructor, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
Email: | LinkedIn >

Adam Wolpert is a professional facilitator, educator, fine artist and co-founder of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. He leads workshops in group process and has worked as a facilitator and organizational consultant with many institutes, organizations and small foundations for over two decades. Since its inception, Adam has been a contributing teacher in a wide array of courses at OAEC including, permaculture, facilitation, school garden teacher trainings and classes in landscape painting. Over the last 10 years in many california venues, he has designed and led trainings in creative collaborative leadership, facilitation, and systems thinking as it relates to group work. As a painter ( Wolpert employs a range of motifs that reflect a lifelong engagement with nature. Currently he is painting a cycle of portraits of ancient oak trees. His last major project focused on depicting one view of a willow tree by the OAEC pond for a year, through all the seasonal changes. What resulted was the 70 painting “Pond Series,” an exploration of change and repetition, deep observation and relationship to place.  In addition to course instruction at OAEC, Adam chairs the Exectutive Council and participates in design of new developments. He lives at OAEC with his daughter Sabine and wife Katy Mamen.

Program Associate, Education, Arts and Creative Work Fund

Walter & Elise Haas Fund

Program Associate

van Loben Sels/RembeRock Foundation

Program Associate

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Program Officer

Community Foundation Sonoma County

Operations Coordinator

David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Program and Grants Manager

Silver Giving Foundation

Special Initiatives and Communications Associate

Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund


Arabella Advisors

Communications Manager

Neighborhood Funders Group


GreenLight Fund Bay Area

Senior Political Strategist

California Donor Table

Associate Program Manager


National Programs Assistant

Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees

Program Associate, Philanthropic Services

RSF Social Finance

Project Manager for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development

City and County of San Francisco

Grants Manager

Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies

Immigrant Rights and Education Equity Program Associate

Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

Individual Artist Program Officer

San Francisco Arts Commission

Grants Manager

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Head of Programs

Full Circle Fund

The information below breaks down the curriculum for participants in the 2020 Rising leaders Cohort. Stay tuned in Fall 2020 to hear more about how to apply for the 2021 Rising Leaders Cohort. 

The curriculum follows four main threads:

  • Emotional intelligence and leadership development
  • “Hard” skills development
  • Equity, inclusion, social justice, and power
  • Career development

Topics within these threads include: values (personal and organizational); facilitation, collaboration, and decision-making; self-awareness; listening and inquiry skills; conflict management; power mapping; managing up.

The Cohort features:

  • Six cohort sessions, held every six weeks for six hours 
  • All sessions will be held at NCG’s offices in downtown San Francisco
  • Approximately 15-20 cohort participants
  • Presentations and activities from expert faculty
  • Opportunities to practice what you are learning in real-time and through homework assignments
  • Opportunities for peer-to-peer coaching between sessions
  • Access to tools, templates, resources, and shared learning


Session 1 | Managing Self: Building Self-Awareness and Capacity

Our world is becoming increasingly complex. Philanthropy, in particular, is facing unprecedented challenges as the global community and our planet struggle to sustain resilience. We need leaders who lead with skill, consciousness, and integrity in order to tackle this volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.  This first session of the Rising Leaders cohort will lay the framework for the program and launch this journey with an exploration of the self. Self-awareness is a key cornerstone of effective leadership. With the assumption that the skills that got you to this point in your career are not the same skills required to succeed at the next level, we will explore your career journey to date and help you name your future narrative and identify the learning that will get you there.

Session 2 | Managing Relationships: Working Collaboratively and Addressing Conflict

As you rise within your career, the requirements demanded of you don’t just scale they evolve. At higher levels of an organization your ability to see systems, create and execute strategy, rally and coach others towards collective goals, and more, will define your success. Doing all of this well requires skill and emotional intelligence. In this session we will tackle one of the most difficult dimensions of relationships, conflict. In the soup of disagreements, the capacity to understand your own story, to see and illuminate the stories of others, and the ability to co-create solutions with integrity divide average and remarkable leaders.

Session 3 | Managing Relationships: Navigating and Influencing Power 

We each have power, and this power is experienced by us and others in multi-dimensional ways. In this session we will explore the power we each hold, from the varying intersections of our identity, and learn how that power can be leveraged for greater self-awareness and to lift up the power of others. We will also explore the inherent power in hierarchy and how you can manage and influence those in higher organizational positions. We will explore concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as accountability.

Session 4 | Hard Skills: Facilitation and Collaborative Leadership with a Systems Lens 

Skillful collaboration is facilitated by an open mind and heart, keen powers of observation of self and others, compassionate communication, a whole-systems view and a willingness to witness and experience emergence and transformation. This module will promote these qualities while seeking to enhance leadership skills, self-awareness and a capacity to contribute to positive change at any scale. By practicing presence, expanding our awareness of self and others and unlocking our creativity, we can realize our potential as inspired and skillful facilitators or participants in any group system. Participants will be introduced to a variety of group work and collaborative leadership tools which will help improve our practical facilitative tools for decision–making and conflict resolution, as well as develop the courage to imaginatively embrace emergence.

Session 5 | Hard Skills: Topic To Be Determined by Group

Leadership development is a broad territory. We have established a foundation of learning offered in Sessions 1 through 4. The cohort will have the opportunity to determine the content of Session 5, based on the group’s collective interests.

Session 6 | Closing

In this last session of the Rising Leaders Cohort we will step back and reflect on the learning experience and create space for participants to finalize and share their leadership aspirations and refined goals.

The information below shows the requirements to be a accepted as a participant in the 2020 Rising leaders Cohort. Stay tuned in Fall 2020 to hear more about how to apply for the 2021 Rising Leaders Cohort. 


The cost for the Rising Leaders Cohort is $1500 if you are an NCG member or an EPIP member. If you are not a member of either NCG or EPIP, the cost is $2000. 

Limited scholarships are available on an as-needed basis. To discuss scholarship options, please get in touch with Kate Seely ( 

Target Audience

Entry to mid-level foundation staff with 3-8 years of experience in the the working world.
(You can be new to the philanthropic sector, and we also hope that you will have some experience in the working world to ground your learning and your experience.)


There are six, six-hour sessions required as a part of the Cohort. There are an additional five, 90-minute group coaching sessions offered that are recommended but not required. Application Process

Submission of the application is an acknowledgment that you or your organization are able to commit to payment of the cohort; you are able to attend all sessions; and you are committed to completing all pre and post-work assignments given during the program.

What You’ll Get

  • Continue building a network of grantmakers who feel supported and empowered to create change and advance as leaders in their philanthropic roles
  • In 6 in-person sessions, learn from faculty and other participants, practice approaches that we are learning together, and engage in reflection
  • Build a career development plan 
  • Build a toolbox of both hard and soft skills that you can call upon as you build your career in the sector
  • Five group coaching opportunities to deepen your career advancement
  • Lunch at each session