The New Voices National Fellowship Program is a leadership development and capacity-building grant program that supports U.S.-based nonprofit organizations in bringing new professionals into the fields of human rights and international cooperation. New Voices Fellows work in seven sponsored program areas: international human rights, women's rights, racial justice/civil rights, migrant and refugee rights, peace and security, foreign policy, and international economic policy. The program is administered by the Academy for Educational Development, with funding from the Ford Foundation.
New Voices was conceived at a staff retreat of Ford Foundation program officers. The three program associates who later developed New Voices identified a lack of substantive jobs for talented professionals at the beginning stages of their careers in the sponsored program areas. The program associates also recognized that small nonprofits did not have the resources or systems in place to take advantage of the contributions and perspectives of new talent.
New Voices funds nonprofit organizations based in the U.S. with budgets between $75,000 and $5 million; priority is given to organizations with budgets between $75,000 and $2 million. The program fosters effective leadership, innovative work, and organizational development by providing salary-support, training, and technical assistance. Nonprofits selected to participate in the program receive grants to cover the salary and benefits of a professional with strong leadership potential who is either beginning a career or transitioning from another sector.
The prospective fellow and host organization identify each other and submit a joint application to AED to ensure that the candidate fits well with the organizations' goals, needs, and values. A national selection committee each year selects fifteen fellows, who typically have college degrees and are new to the field and host organization.
New Voices covers the fellow's full salary and benefits for the first year of employment and 75 percent in the second year. Fellows also receive support for professional development activities, student loans, and other expenses. In addition to an internal mentor based at the fellow's host organization, each fellow selects an external mentor, who is an expert in the fellow's field of work, a coach for a particular skill, a leadership development expert, or executive coach. Other benefits for fellows include coaching in public speaking and writing for the general public, meeting with other fellows using online live chats, and attending the annual New Voices summer conference and winter retreat.
The focus of New Voices is not only on the fellows. Nonprofits gain access to consultants and resources related to organizational capacity-building and effectiveness. New Voices also offers training to senior staff members in effective mentoring, strategic nonprofit management, and fundraising.
New Voices has produced a broad-based social justice curriculum with both domestic and international content in dialogue with national experts and fellows. New Voices fellows designate one day per month for reading, reflection, and other leadership development exercises sponsored by AED.
Several fellows have garnered media attention or awards for their work. For example, Alicia Contreras of Whirlwind Women International recently received the prestigious Paul Hearne Award for leadership in the disability community.
Housed on the AED site, the New Voices Web site provides information on components of its program, how prospective fellows and organizations apply, and descriptive information about participating fellows, mentors, and their organizations. New Voices...Speak!, the biannual newsletter of the program, is also available on the Web site in PDF format. But perhaps the best feature on the site is the Resources page, which provides users with a searchable database of resources — Web sites, list-servs, audio-visuals, newsletters, journals, articles, books, and more — covering topics in seven social justice program areas, nonprofit leadership, and organizational effectiveness.
The New Voices program is made possible with funding from the Ford Foundation, which has provided support to the program since its inception in 1999. New Voices staff members are currently searching for additional donors to expand the program.