Our Fellowship Program

THE WILD GIFT DIFFERENCE - WE BUILD GRIT

In the field of social innovation, the road to success is often long and lonely — brutal hours, massive amounts of stress, and a huge amount of personal sacrifice. Research on social entrepreneurs and our own experience of funding 52 Fellows over the last fifteen years reveal that character, resilience and grit - the ability to persevere amid challenges and setbacks - are as important (if not more) to eventual success as the ability to write a good business plan. 

We know it isn’t easy to change the world, but we have over a decade of success at finding those who want to…and do.  We know it takes more than money to get a great idea off the ground.  It takes persistence, ingenuity, courage, and moxie. Being a social entrepreneur means believing in “YES”, even when you mostly hear “No”.  It means clearly seeing your goal, while flexibly charting an unknown path to get there. It means consistently having the courage to follow your convictions in the face of many obstacles – expected and unexpected.

Our unique Wild Gift leadership development experience affirms the “wildness” of spirit needed to change the world and instills in each Fellow a lasting belief in the importance of their own courage, integrity, resilience, and audacity as change-makers.  We bundle this character-building focus with critical technical assistance from dedicated professional mentors who assist Fellows with a wide variety of issues from fundraising strategy to marketing to growth plans.  Our experience and track record prove that coupling unique personal growth support with professional technical assistance makes all the difference in lifting these ventures off the ground and successfully retaining these individuals as social change agents.

THE WILD GIFT PROGRAM

Through vigorous outreach and an intensive selection process, each year we successfully  recruit impressive visionaries (ages 21-35) with break-through ideas who demonstrate the ability to grow a sustainable enterprise, bring diversity of background, and will make a significant impact on the problem they are trying to solve. 

Each class of Fellows embarks on a 16-month Fellowship program, commencing with the “Wild Gift”- a 20-day expedition in the Idaho wilderness. The expedition challenges each Fellow physically and emotionally, removes them from their comfort zone, and connects them to the natural world on a very personal level. They are able to unplug, gain clarity, incubate ideas, and envision the true scope of their work and lives, and build life long bonds with peers tackling similar challenges. We draw connections between the challenges of surviving in the wild to those confronted on the ground when launching a social venture - the willingness to embrace risk, seeing obtacles as opportunities, perseverance, humility, the interconnectness of all things, and fragility of the natural world. We incorporate a platform where authenticity, collaboration and sustainability are revered, personal relationships and life balance matter, and failure is viewed as a necessary step to success.

Post-expedition, each Wild Gift Fellow is:

  • Provided with a seed grant of $10,000
  • Provided with technical assistance and dedicated mentors to help them launch their initiative
  • Networked into a tight-knit cadre of other Wild Gift social entrepreneurs working all over the world, including sponsorship to attend annual Fellowship retreats
  • Provided exposure to a growing pool of potential angel investors interested in socially impactful businesses
  • Supported beyond the official sponsorship term of their Fellowship through ongoing networking opportunities, knowledge sharing, speaking invitations, and continued inclusion in Wild Gift’s national and international outreach.

THE WILD GIFT IMPACTTHE RIPPLE EFFECT

Since its founding 15 years ago, Wild Gift has supported 52 social entrepreneurs working around the world in education, sustainable agriculture, affordable housing, energy efficiency and innovation, community development, public policy, wetland conservation and stewardship. Wild Gift ventures currently enhance local economies as well as the natural environment in 8 countries on 4 continents (including Haiti, Canada, Nigeria, Kenya, Chile, India, Samoa, Nepal) and in 15 states including Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon and California. Many of our Fellows go on to receive national and international recognition for their innovative ideas and work[i] and many return to Wild Gift as mentors, board members and supporters.

Here's a glimpse of some of our Fellows' accomplishments

  • $16 Million+ raised in campus sustainability funds. –Rachel Barge '09
  • $1.1 Million+ square feet of energy efficient real estate. –Brian Salazar '08
  • 90,000+ students learning about the North American wilderness. –Amy Freeman '10
  • 10,000+ clean energy cookstoves distributed in Nigeria. –Monica Samec '08
  • 12,000+ square miles of Canadian wilderness protected. –David Sone '10
  • 6+ Solar powered buildings built in rural India. –Viraj Puri '05
  • $500,000+ local artisan goods sold in online marketplace. –Cody Hopkins '08
  • 100+ websites built for environmental initiatives, reaching thousands of people around the world. –Pete Land '03
  • 1000+ guests annually connected to people and places making real food in Vermont. –Chris Howell '10
  • 30 athletes are supporting 15 nonprofits through sale of healthy products produced by Play Hard Give Back - Spencer Brendel, '12
  • 5 different moringa based products sold in 1000+ US stores generating $300,000 in capital going back into West African women's co-ops –Lisa Curtis '13
“Our young leaders are part of a growing movement that is fundamentally changing the way society organizes itself and the ways we approach social problems.”
-Ted Angle, Former Wild Gift President

“My life has changed because of this trip. I not only feel re-charged, I have more clarity in my personal purpose and vision, and how this aligns with my goals for a better world.” 
-Josh Arnold, Wild Gift Fellow '11

“To work with these inspirational leaders, knowing they will bring the spirit of the wilderness back into society through their projects, makes guiding the Wild Gift trek one of the most rewarding and interesting trips we run.”
-Francie St. Onge, Sun Valley Trekking

“Times of great challenge present unexpected opportunities. There is a growing awareness about the urgent need for enlightened leadership and meaningful solutions. These young social entrepreneurs are so smart and tenacious, just spending time with them is invigorating.  I am thrilled to be a part of this visionary organization.” 
-Deborah Knapp, Wild Gift Executive Director
Wild GIft is a IRS 501(c)(3) Organization: Tax ID #: 82-50375401