Pathways Partnership

Pathways is an 8-month Partnership that deepens nonprofit leaders’ knowledge and skills across four key areas of an organization (Board Development, Fundraising, Leadership & Management, and Program Evaluation) and provides tools and support to advance the organization’s mission, stability, and growth.

In the Partnership, the Executive Director and a member of the Board of Directors work in collaboration with a Capacity Building Specialist to:

  • cultivate a culture of continuous learning and improvement
  • explore and define elements of a strong organization
  • design and implement foundational infrastructure and processes that are well-aligned with both organizational values and individual leadership styles

Pathways Partnership Overview

  • Cohort Orientation & Workshop: The Pathways Partnership starts with a group orientation designed to prepare you for the Partnership and to learn more about Fair Chance, the other cohort partner organizations, and their Executive Directors and Board Representatives. During the Partnership, there is one workshop based on the cohort’s collective needs.
  • Leadership Development: Executive Directors participate in cohort-based leadership development activities, including a leadership style assessment and a multi-session discussion group.
  • Organizational Assessment: Using Fair Chance’s organizational assessment designed for small nonprofits, your Capacity Building Specialist develops an in-depth understanding of your organization’s strengths and challenges in Board Development, Fundraising, Leadership & Management, and Program Evaluation.
  • Partnership Work: A Partnership work plan is co-created based on the assessment results. You and your Capacity Building Specialist work together to achieve goals and objectives in two of the Pathways Partnership capacity building areas. See FAQs below to learn more about Partnership time commitments.
  • Celebration: Your hard work and capacity building accomplishments are celebrated at the end of the Partnership with the broader Fair Chance community.
  • Post-Partnership Evaluation: One year after completing the program, you will complete a survey designed to measure the Partnership’s impact.
  • Post-Partnership Support: As a Pathways Alumni, your organization will have access to resources and capacity building support through Fair Chance’s Network Services Program. You can also apply for the Praxis Partnership whenever you need to engage in another intensive capacity building effort.

Ideal Partners

Our ideal partners seek to deepen their impact; serve more children, youth, and families; and take their leadership and organizations to the next level. Now may be a good time for a Pathways Partnership if:

Pathways Partnership FAQs

What is the time commitment required to participate in the Pathways Partnership?

The Executive Director is expected to devote eight hours per week to the assessment, the leadership discussion group, and Partnership work, spending at least two of those hours meeting with the Capacity Building Specialist. The Board Representative devotes 2 hours to the assessment, and about 3 hours per week from Jan – April focusing on independent work and meeting with the Capacity Building Specialist approximately every other week to accomplish Board Development and Leadership & Management goals. Likewise, the Capacity Building Specialist devotes 8 to 10 hours per week to working with a partner organization.

How much does the Partnership cost?

The Pathways Partnership is free, but does require a significant investment of the Executive Director and a Board Member’s time and effort. Fair Chance’s DC Partnerships are free of charge in order to ensure that small nonprofits have more equitable access to quality capacity building support.

How is the Pathways Partnership different from working with a Consultant?

Traditional engagements with consultants tend to be product driven. Fair Chance’s role is to share knowledge and resources, and provide thought-partnership and coaching. We work alongside you during a Partnership, rather than producing things for you (e.g., we help you develop a fundraising plan; we do not fundraise for you). The work is held and driven by the organization’s leadership. The success of any Partnership depends on how much your Executive Director and Board put into our work together. Learn more about what makes a Fair Chance Partnership unique.

Will the Pathways Partnership be virtual or in-person?
For the past two years, the Pathways Partnership has been conducted virtually. Fair Chance is monitoring the pandemic, and may conduct the 2022 Partnership in person, virtually, or a hybrid, depending on the individual health and safety needs of our staff and partners. During Partnership, the expectation is that Executive Directors, Board Representatives, and Capacity Building Specialists will be able to see and be seen, edit and share documents to work together in real time, and be in a location where confidential or sensitive issues can be openly discussed.
How does Fair Chance's assessment work?

The Pathways Partnership assessment provides an opportunity to reflect, explore, and learn more about nonprofit management practices; helps determine the focus of the Partnership work plan; and serves as the way we measure short-term changes in organizational capacity. At the start of the Partnership, the assessment is administered over four 2-hour sessions with the Executive Director, and one 2-hour session with the Board Representative. Your Capacity Building Specialist also reviews organizational documents shared by the Executive Director. At the end of the Partnership, the Executive Director and Board Representative complete their parts of the assessment again, independently, and your Capacity Building Specialist shares and discusses the analyzed results.

Does my organization need to complete a Pathways Partnership before I can apply for other Fair Chance capacity building programs?

Completion of the Pathways Partnership is not a pre-requisite to apply for the Praxis Partnership. However, some of Fair Chance’s other capacity building services are only available to graduates of the Pathways, Praxis, or Ready for Work (Prince George’s County) programs.

I have more questions. Is there someone I can speak with directly?
Yes! Please sign up for a Partnership Consultation and you can meet by zoom or phone with a member of our DC Program Team

Application Information:

**Application Information may be revised for the 2023 Pathways Partnership Application Cycle.**


To be considered for Partnership, applicants must have:

  • A current tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • A mission, or at least one program, that addresses specific needs of children, youth, and families experiencing poverty in Washington, DC
  • A need for stronger leadership, practices, policies, or tools in at least two Pathways capacity building areas
  • At least one program that has been running for a year or longer and will continue running the year following the Partnership
  • An Executive Director (paid or unpaid) who:
    1. has held the position for at least one year prior to the application deadline and intends to remain in this position for the duration of the Partnership
    2. can commit 8 hours a week during the Partnership to capacity building work, including a weekly two-hour meeting with a Capacity Building Specialist held during Fair Chance business hours (9 am – 6 pm)
  • A Board of Directors made up of at least five members
  • A Board Representative who:
    1. has been on the Board for at least one year, and
    2. can commit to working on Board Development or Leadership & Management for approximately three hours per week for four months

Priority consideration is given to organizations:

  1. that are led by people of color (i.e., either the Executive Director or a majority of the members of the Board of Directors, including the Board Chair, self-identify as POC), and/or
  2. where at least 50% of the children, youth, and families served are Washington, DC residents who are experiencing poverty

Organizations that do not meet these priority considerations are still eligible and encouraged to apply.

Application Process

  • Application: Nonprofits interested in a Pathways Partnership must complete an online application providing information about the organization and its capacity building needs. The Board Chair must also complete a one page form that articulates the board’s vision for growth. The form also identifies a Board Representative who will actively participate in the Partnership. When submitting an application, organizations are asked to select and save the date for potential interviews. Applications are available in the spring and due July 1.
  • Interviews: Organizations that advance to the second stage in the partner selection process participate in two interviews. In the first interview, the Executive Director and Board Representative meet with at least two members of Fair Chance’s Partnership selection team for two hours. The second interview is a one hour phone interview for the Executive Director and members of the selection team.
  • Notification & Feedback: Applicants are notified by mid-September. All applicants that do not receive a Partnership will be given the opportunity to get feedback on their application and some applicants also will be offered a two-hour capacity building session to receive coaching, thought partnership, and resources related to a specific organizational challenge.

Application FAQs

If I don’t meet the priority considerations, can I still get a Partnership?

Yes, you can still be selected as a partner even if you don’t meet our priority considerations. Meeting a priority consideration does not guarantee a Partnership. Our priority considerations reflect our commitment to our mission and to advancing racial equity in DC’s nonprofit sector. We consider a number of variables when selecting partners, including your capacity building needs; your programs; your availability to engage in Partnership work; and our staffing capacity and expertise.

Which Board Member should be the Board Representative during the Pathways Partnership?
Board Representatives take active roles in the orientation and assessment. Also, they play a critical role in Partnership work if we focus on Board Development and/or Leadership & Management. Therefore, the Board Representative needs to be:

  • someone who is familiar with how the Board currently does its work and the Board’s strengths and challenges
  • has the time [3 hours/week for 4 months (Jan – April)] to do independent work and meet with your Capacity Building Specialist approximately every other week
  • has the authority to create tools, processes, and systems for the Board to use in doing its work.

Often the Board Representative is the Board Chair, but if another Board Member best meets the requirements of the role, then a plan to keep the Board Chair informed throughout the Partnership will be devised.

If my organization completed a Fair Chance Partnership in the past, can we apply for a Pathways Partnership?

No, Pathways Partnerships are only available to organizations that have not previously received capacity building support through Fair Chance’s Pathways, Praxis, Partnerships or Ready for Work programs. If you don’t know if your organization has completed one of these programs in the past, please review this list of our Alumni Partners.

I have more questions. Is there someone I can speak with directly?

Yes! Please sign up for a Partnership Consultation and you can meet by zoom or phone with a member of our DC Program Team

Application Tips FAQs

Can I save the application as a draft or do I need to complete it all at once?
On each page on the top right corner, select “save my progress and resume later” to ensure any work is saved. This enables you to revisit your partially completed application later rather than needing to complete it all in one go.
My organization does not keep track of how many children, youth, and families in our program(s) are experiencing poverty. Can we still apply?

Yes, however, alignment with our mission is important. Therefore, make sure that your application speaks to:

  1. how your programs are or will be specifically addressing the needs and transforming the lives of children, youth, and families experiencing poverty in Washington, DC.
  2. your intention to start collecting this information within the next year.
We do not have an organizational budget. How should I answer the questions in the Finances section?
We are looking to get a realistic understanding of how much money your organization plans to have and how much money you intend to spend during your current fiscal year. Please provide us with your best estimates in the Finances section based on your previous financial history or anticipated, realistic fundraising plans for the current fiscal year.
How much detail are you looking for in the Capacity Building Needs section?

The Capacity Building Needs section is a critical part of the application; please take time to reflect on your capacity building needs. Describing how you and your organization would like to grow and develop during the Partnership will strengthen your application. It may help to think of the structures, policies, and procedures that you would like to create or refine. Alternatively, you could share what you would like to change or what is not working at your organization. For example, “We need a better process for recruiting new board members” or you can say, “We have not added any new members to the board in two years and we want to change this.”

“Don’t be afraid to acknowledge where your organization needs a lot of work. You can be a lot more transparent with Fair Chance and it really allows them to dig a lot deeper into how they can support you…it is not about evaluating you, but instead asking to figure out what needs to get done so you leave this Partnership with the right tools. We may not solve it completely right here, but you know that leaving this you’ll have everything in place to help you get where you’re trying to go. Transparency is key.” – 2020 Partner Executive Director

My organization does not have one or more of the requested attachments. Are they required? Do the attachments that I have need to be formatted in a specific way?
Some attachments are required and some are not. Required attachments are marked with the asterisk and the system will not let you submit your application without attaching a document. For required attachments: you can submit attachments that you have used for other applications, but please make sure they have all the requested, up-to-date information. PDF attachments are preferred, but we will also accept attachments in Word or Excel.
I have more questions. Is there someone I can speak with directly?

Yes! Please sign up for a Partnership Consultation and you can meet by zoom or phone with a member of our DC Program Team