Application Guidelines

The 2020 Fellowship application is now closed. Sign up for our newsletter if you would like to be notified when the 2021 application is open.

Wild Gift is a nonprofit organization that supports the next generation of social and environmental entrepreneurs through a unique wilderness-based Fellowship. Over 60 Wild Gift Fellows are now working around the world in affordable housing, conservation, community development, education, energy innovation, public policy, and sustainable agriculture.

The Wild Gift Fellowship begins with a three-week wilderness trek in central Idaho. In addition to offering leadership opportunities, the trek also serves as an uninterrupted space to work on your venture. Structured workshops and unstructured conversations with your guide, facilitator and class of five Fellows follow full days outdoors and end by a fire or in a tent or yurt. The trek aims to create an enduring community and connection to place that together help sustain you and your social venture.*

After the trek, Fellows stay connected via monthly video calls, can work with a mentor, and engage the broader Wild Gift community—a group of well-connected alumni and supporters who are eager to help you with challenges from fundraising to sales and marketing.

Fellows self-organize, with support from Wild Gift, a mid-Fellowship in-person retreat. You get to design this experience (timing, place, and program) once you’ve forged deep bonds with your cohort during the trek. For example, our most recent Fellowship class gathered in the Texas Hill Country for a long weekend of fellowship, hiking, and biking with venture- and self-reflection plus plenty of good cooking in the mix!

A one-week retreat and celebration together with Wild Gift’s alumni Board of Directors concludes the Fellowship. This is an opportunity to reconvene with your class, renew connections with people and place, and just enjoy yourself!

*The wilderness trek is often a 3-week backpacking trip in August-September. Wild Gift, like all organizations, is responding and adapting to the challenges posed by Coronavirus. We are committed to offering the incoming class of fellows our classic deep wilderness experience, which may take the shape of a summer backpacking trek (August - September 2020), late fall snow-shoe trek (November 2020), or late spring ski or snow-shoe tour (April 2021). Timing is dependent on our organization’s, and our nation’s, capacity to travel and gather safely. Please indicate your availability in the application for each of these timeframes separately. Thanks for joining us in being flexible and adaptable.

 

The Fellowship »
Your Commitment »
Eligibility »
The Wild Gift Wilderness Expeditions »
Selection Criteria »
Timeline for Applicants and Selection »
Application Process Overview »
Other Tips »

 


The Fellowship

What is “Wild Gift” and what will I receive if selected?

If you are selected as a Wild Gift Fellow, your fellowship will include a:

  • Guided three-week wilderness trek in the Idaho backcountry 
  • Mid-Fellowship retreat self-organized by your fellow Fellows with support from Wild Gift
  • One-week retreat and celebration in Sun Valley together with Wild Gift’s Board of Directors at the close of your Fellowship
  • Two $500 allowances for airfare to Idaho
  • Access to entrepreneurship mentor(s) who can work with you throughout the course of your Fellowship
  • Opportunity to participate in Wild Gift alumni retreats and trips
  • Lifetime membership in the vibrant Wild Gift Network that includes alumni, mentors, and supporters
      


Your Commitment

What commitment will I be making as a Fellow?

If you accept the Fellowship, you will be agreeing to the following:

1. Participation in the Idaho Deep Wilderness Trek (timing TBD*), mid-Fellowship retreat (time and place to be designed by Fellows), and 1-week wilderness retreat and celebration at Fellowship close (September 2021)
 
2. Meeting all deadlines including communicating with Wild Gift, updating your Wild Gift Fellow profile, scheduling travel, etc.
 
3. Pay it forward. Serve as a mentor, board member, and/or donor following your Fellowship. 
 

*The wilderness trek is often a 3-week backpacking trip in August-September. Wild Gift, like all organizations, is responding and adapting to the challenges posed by Coronavirus. We are committed to offering the incoming class of fellows our classic deep wilderness experience, which may take the shape of a summer backpacking trek (August - September 2020), late fall snow-shoe trek (November 2020), or late spring ski or snow-shoe tour (April 2021). Timing is dependent on our organization’s, and our nation’s, capacity to travel and gather safely. Please indicate your availability in the application for each of these timeframes separately. Thanks for joining us in being flexible and adaptable!
  


Eligibility

I'm not a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident, or Canadian citizen. May I apply for a Wild Gift Fellowship?

No. While your venture can be located anywhere in the world, you must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident, or Canadian citizen to apply.

Is there an age limit?

Yes, you must be between the ages of 21 and 35 as of September 1, 2020.

Must I have a developed venture to apply?

We work with entrepreneurs with a germ of an idea to a fully operational social or environmental ventures. At a minimum, you should have written plans for a social or environmental venture that serves the Wild Gift mission.

My venture is based outside the US. May I apply for a Wild Gift Fellowship?

Yes, as long as you meet our other eligibility criteria.

My venture is structured as a for-profit organization. May I apply for a Wild Gift Fellowship?

Yes. Wild Gift seeks applications for innovative entrepreneurs creating high-impact social and environmental change, regardless of business structure.

If I applied for the Wild Gift Fellowship in the past, may I reapply?

Yes, as long as your social or environmental venture meets our eligibility criteria.

I am currently a full time student. May I apply for a Wild Gift Fellowship?

Yes. You may apply for our Fellowship Program while you are a full-time student. However, you must have completed your studies by the beginning of your Fellowship period. If you are awarded a Wild Gift Fellowship, you are agreeing to make your social or environmental venture your primary focus during the Fellowship.

I am working towards my doctorate degree. May I apply for a Wild Gift Fellowship to fund a research project in support of my degree requirements?

No. Unfortunately Wild Gift does not provide scholarship money or fund research.

I am working on a book or film that I believe will have significant social impact. Am I eligible?

Not as a general rule. Wild Gift funds ideas for creating sustainable social and environmental ventures; we do not fund discrete projects.

I currently have a full time job and have been running my venture on the side. Am I eligible to apply for a Wild Gift Fellowship?

Yes. If your venture meets all eligibility criteria and you are prepared to make it your primary focus, you may apply. Please note that if you are awarded a Wild Gift Fellowship, you are expected to commit no less than 20 hours per week to your venture.

If my venture is a nonprofit, do I need to have 501(c)(3) status before I can apply for a Fellowship?

No, you do not need to establish 501(c)(3) status or register your organization before you apply.

I have never run a social enterprise before. May I still apply for your program?

Yes. Wild Gift believes in identifying and supporting talented, yet unproven social and environmental entrepreneurs.

My organization was founded by several people. Can we all apply for the Wild Gift Fellowship?

No. Only one founder may apply per organization. As a result, please choose only one individual to represent your organization for this fellowship application. However, this does not require you to change your internal leadership structure. Even if only one founder can be a Wild Gift Fellow, you can have as many people leading your organization as you see fit.

Do you give preference to diverse applicants?

Preference will be given to applicants who come from diverse personal, professional, and cultural backgrounds and experiences including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education level, culture, religion, venture-focus, disability, physical appearance, or other differences.

 


The Wild Gift Wilderness Expeditions

The Fellowship year includes three wilderness experiences: The Deep Wilderness Trek at the beginning, the mid-Fellowship retreat, and the 1-week retreat and celebration close after successfully completing all requirements of the Fellowship.

Why wilderness?

In the uncharted field of social innovation, character, courage, and grit – the ability to persevere amid challenges and setbacks – are as important as the ability to write a good business plan.

Lessons learned in the challenging, unpredictable environment of a wilderness expedition have direct applications to today’s business world. The Wild Gift—an extended wilderness expedition in the Idaho backcountry—challenges Fellows physically and emotionally, takes them out of their comfort zone, and connects them to the natural world on a very personal level. Fellows unplug, incubate ideas, envision their work and lives, and gain the courage, resilience, balance and grit critical to effective leadership. This experience has a bonding effect, inspiring a collaborative spirit and a holistic worldview.

Wild Gift’s program values include: 

Awareness of Interconnectivity. Changing part of any system has consequences. Experiencing first hand the ecosystems of wild nature, the delicate balance of all things and how change of one thing impacts another is a powerful way to consider how everything fits together.
 
Leadership Development.​ In the wilderness, today’s leader is tomorrow’s follower, and yesterday’s follower is today’s leader. Each fellow must step outside titles like CEO to meet the challenges of the environment, such as crossing a fast-moving river or setting up a tent in high winds. The trek offers opportunities to practice making decisions, then reflect on and learn from the outcomes. 
 
Teamwork​. In an expedition group, or in an organization, you can play a variety of roles, often simultaneously: designated leader, active follower, peer leader, and self-leader. Effective teamwork rests on knowing how and when to step into each role. Leadership means getting along in a diverse group, cooperating with teammates, effectively resolving conflict, and keeping yourself and others motivated and forward thinking. This is tested over and over on the trek.
 
Keep Calm.​ Starting a company is very tricky; there is no blueprint, no road map, and no well-established track you follow. On expeditions and in business, people often become paralyzed when they find they must scrap not only Plan A but also Plan B. Leadership involves planning for things you can control, letting go of things you can’t, preparing for the unexpected, and maintaining composure when unforeseen circumstances arise. Problems are best solved with calm deliberation. 
 
Disconnect to Connect.​ The fast-paced, high-tech world of work wreaks havoc on our ability to engage in careful, strategic thinking. Getting out into nature achieves what has been referred to as “attention restoration.” Being in the outdoors effectively resets our brains, allowing us to analyze problems, map strategies, and dream big.
 
Personal Development.​ Living in the unfamiliar conditions of a wild place away from the distractions of modern civilization fosters self-reliance, judgment, respect, and a sense of responsibility for our actions. ​Nothing stays the same, and wilderness often challenges us to come back with a greater, better version of ourselves.
 
Self Confidence, Humility and Grit​. Negotiating an unfamiliar environment is physically and mentally challenging and it tests our personal boundaries, fears, insecurities and inner strength. The wilderness makes us deal with our aversion to change and overcome challenges. ​The trek requires resourcefulness, pushing our boundaries, working together and a renewed sense of self from accomplishing what seemed impossible.

Resilience​, Perspective and Vision​. Wilderness responds to and recovers from stress and change, and it demands the same of its visitors. Like regrowth following a wildfire, new ideas often grow from difficult experiences. We re-examine where we are now and where we want to go. Change requires awareness of our interconnectivity and an enduring personal vision.

If accepted, do I really need to go on these Wilderness Experiences?

Yes. The Deep Wilderness Trek, mid-Fellowship retreat, and September 2021 wilderness retreat and celebration are mandatory for Fellows as they represent the heart of our wilderness curriculum.

Coronavirus is top of mind for me; how will we manage a wilderness trip?

Wild Gift will run the trek when all of the following are true: the outfitter we partner with to guide the trek is open and operational, national forests are open and wilderness adventures are encouraged, backcountry rescue resources are available, and interstate and air travel are safe.

The wilderness trek is often a 3-week backpacking trip in August-September. Wild Gift, like all organizations, is responding and adapting to the challenges posed by Coronavirus. We are committed to offering the incoming class of fellows our classic deep wilderness experience, which may take the shape of a summer backpacking trek (August - September 2020), late fall snow-shoe trek (November 2020), or late spring ski or snow-shoe tour (April 2021). Timing is dependent on our organization’s, and our nation’s, capacity to travel and gather safely. Please indicate your availability in the application for each of these timeframes.

Flexibility and fluidity are two of the core skills required for entrepreneurship; here at Wild Gift we are practicing them as an organization now and appreciate your willingness to practice them with us.

In line with safety recommendations, Wild Gift reserves the right to utilize or request that selected Fellows utilize forthcoming Coronavirus-related antibody testing, vaccines and/or other emerging technology to help keep our trip participants and guides safe. By submitting an application via this portal, you agree to comply with these requests. 

Where will we go?

The Wild Gift basecamp in Sun Valley, Idaho is the gateway to the largest wilderness and roadless areas in the lower 48 US states. Far from major population centers, this remote wilderness is the domain of abundant wildlife flora and fauna, a blank canvas for engagement in one of nature’s most dynamic mediums.

The route follows a gentle progression from rolling sub-alpine terrain to the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountain ranges. No prior backpacking, snowshoeing, or skiing experience is required. Fellows will quickly develop the skills to travel safely, proficiently and joyfully. The adventure starts in a backcountry “hut” and progresses out into the wilderness traveling over several mountain ranges over a distance of 40 miles with close to 14,000’ of elevation gains and loss.

Each Wild Gift group is unique, and we’ll adapt to meet each other’s personal goals in a safe, supportive environment while challenging ourselves daily in the mountains. The core group will consist of an experience guide, one or two Wild Gift facilitators, and five Wild Gift Fellows. 

Who will guide us?

Wild Gift partners with Sun Valley Guides, an established outfitter and guide service for over 40 years. SVG is responsible for all the trip logistics and safety and will guide accepted fellows through selecting the gear and clothing appropriate for your trek. Guides are licensed and certified with extensive avalanche forecasting, rescue training, and years of teaching experience in the outdoors.

What level of physical fitness is required?

All that’s required is a good level of physical fitness and desire to learn and participate in all aspects of expeditionary life. We recommend preparing for the trek with long walks, hill hiking or running. Participants will be expected to carry a backpack weighing approximately 30-40 pounds for 3-6 hours a day in mountainous terrain. The more fit you arrive, the more fun you will have!

Do I need special experience to participate in the Wilderness Trek?

No prior experience in backcountry trekking is required. 

What will I learn?

The immersion in deep wilderness provides the opportunity for participants to unplug from the distractions of daily life, relate in a new and more intimate way with the wilderness environment and gain deeper insight into natural resource issues on both a local and global scale. You will receive in-depth experience in backcountry trekking, expedition planning, route finding, terrain selection and management, decision-making and wilderness survival throughout the trek. In addition, there will be plenty of time to work on individual social and environmental venture business plans with the benefit of group feedback.
  


Selection Criteria

We select social and environmental entrepreneurs who not only have a breakthrough idea but also demonstrate the ability to grow a sustainable enterprise, execute a business plan, and make a significant impact on the problem they are trying to solve. The selection committee considers various criteria including:

1.  The Applicant

  • What are your background and credentials?
  • Do you have passion and vision around this issue?
  • What is your approach to leadership and collaboration?
  • Do you have the ability to bring the venture to fruition?

2.  The Venture Itself

  • How innovative is your proposed solution?
  • What challenge does it address?
  • How measurable are the goals?
  • What is the potential social, environmental and economic impact of this venture?
  • Is the venture potentially system-changing?

3.  The Plan Behind The Idea

  • How realistic is the plan?
  • What’s the timeframe for action?
  • Is the plan sustainable?

4.  The Ripple Effect

  • Will this idea leverage resources from other sources?
  • Will it generate excitement and energy within a broader community?
  • If successful, can the venture be scaled for even greater impact?

5.  Benefit from Wild Gift Fellowship

  • Will the Wilderness Trek and wilderness retreats contribute to your growth?
  • Will mentoring contribute to your growth?
  • Will collaboration within the Wild Gift Network contribute to your growth?

What kind of ventures are you looking for?

The Fellowship is intentionally broad and social and environmental ventures are considered on a case-by-case basis. We want to generate interest and creative thinking among young visionaries about what can make our world better. Our intention is to give resources to talented innovators with groundbreaking ideas.

May I attach supplemental materials to my application or submit them to your office?

No. Any extraneous materials submitted will not be reviewed.

Instead of using your format, may I mail you my business plan?

No. In order to be considered, you must complete Wild Gift’s online application. You can attach a business plan or a pitch deck to the online application.

When will decisions be made?

We expect to announce the Fellows in early July.

Will Wild Gift share the names and ideas of all the applicants?

We celebrate selected Fellows on our website, in our newsletters and on social media platforms.

Does the Selection Committee provide applicants with individualized feedback?

Unfortunately, due to the volume of applications, the Selection Committee is not able to provide feedback to individual applicants.
  


Timeline for Applicants and Selection

April 27, 2020: Application goes live

May 24, 2020: Applications due at 5pm Pacific Time

Late June 2020: Finalists notified and interviews scheduled

Early July 2020: New class announced 
  


Application Process Overview

Before applying for a Wild Gift Fellowship, go to our website and take a look at what our Fellows are doing.

Do your research, consider your timing for applying and in particular whether you are ready to make a commitment to our program (including the Wilderness Experience) requirements and the launch of your social venture.

Your application must be fully completed and uploaded to our website no later than 5pm Pacific Time on May 24, 2020. You will receive an email acknowledgment when we receive the full application. Incomplete or late submissions will not be considered.

Completed applications will be submitted to our selection committee, which is made up of Wild Gift board members, alumni and friends. You will be notified if further information is required.

Interviews are granted by invitation only. The interview plays a central part in our final selection process. Once you contact us accepting an interview, we will arrange a day that is convenient for both parties. Where possible, they will be conducted by Skype or Google Hangout.

References for finalists will also be contacted by members of the Selection Committee.

The selection committee will announce the new class of fellows in early July.
 


Other Tips

Proofread, Review and Revise: Often, you are too close to your application. We recommend that you ask a colleague or partner to review your full application before its submitted.

Give Yourself Ample Time: Given the number of applications, we cannot give extensions for application submissions.

Keep It Simple: Write in plain language for someone who does not know anything about your work or field.

Follow Directions: Be sure to keep within the character count and font requirements and all deadlines. NOTE: character counts include spaces. All short answer questions on the application have a character limit provided after each question. These limits are inclusive of spaces.