Application Guidelines

The 2019-20 Fellowship application is now closed. Finalists will be notified by May 21.

Wild Gift is a nonprofit organization that supports the next generation of social entrepreneurs through a unique wilderness-based Fellowship. Over 50 Wild Gift Fellows are now working around the world in education, sustainable agriculture, affordable housing, energy innovation, community development, public policy, and conservation.

The 12-month 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 social venture. Structured workshops and unstructured conversations with your guides and class of five Fellows follow full-day hikes and end by a fire or in a tent or yurt. The trek aims to create an enduring community and connection to place that help sustain you and your social venture.

After the trek, Fellows stay connected via monthly video calls, 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.

A one-week river trip on the Salmon River concludes the Fellowship. The Synergy River Trip is an opportunity to reconvene with your class, renew connections with people and place, and just enjoy yourself!

The Fellowship »
Your Commitment »
Eligibility »
The 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, you will receive:

1.   The Wild Gift: a guided three week wilderness trek in the Idaho backcountry as well as a one week whitewater river rafting trip on the Salmon River in Idaho.

2.   A $500 allowance for airfare to Idaho.

3.  A project mentor(s) who will work with you throughout the course of your Fellowship, plus access to a pool of resource mentors to provide specific expertise when needed.

4. Opportunity to participate in Wild Gift alumni retreats and trips.

5. 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 (August 17 - September 8, 2019) and the Synergy River Trip (one week TBA in September 2020).
2. Meeting all deadlines including revising your business plan, meeting with your mentor, quarterly reporting, updating your Wild Gift Fellow profile, etc.
3. Pay it forward. Serve as a mentor, board member, and/or donor following your Fellowship. 


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

No. While yours social 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, 2019.

Must I have a developed social venture to apply?

We work with entrepreneurs from with seed stage to fully operating social ventures. At minimum, you should have written plans for a social venture that serves the Wild Gift mission. 

My social 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 social 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 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 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 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 ventures; we do not fund discrete projects.

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

Yes. If your social 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 social venture.

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 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 one individual to represent your organization to Wild Gift. 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 preferences to diverse applicants?

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

The Wild Gift Wilderness Expeditions

The Fellowship year is bookended by two wilderness experiences: The Deep Wilderness Trek at the beginning and the Synergy River Trip 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 Fellows to the natural world on a very personal level, where they 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 holistic worldview.

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

Yes. The Wilderness Trek and Synergy River Trip are mandatory for Fellows as they represent the heart of our wilderness curriculum.


Where will we go?

The Wild Gift base-camp 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 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 two experienced guides and five Wild Gift Fellows. Beyond that, along the way the group will host some inspiring guests, and discuss a range of topics from leadership to work-life balance to mindfulness and decision-making, while saving plenty of time for unstructured discovery. 

Who will guide us?

Wild Gift partners with Sun Valley Trekking, an established outfitter and guide service for over 40 years. SVT is responsible for all the trip logistics and safety. 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 30-40lbs 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 to 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 venture business plans with the benefit of group feedback.


Where will we go?

The 6-day Synergy trip reconnects Fellows, mentors and supporters at the conclusion of their Fellowship with a Whitewater Rafting “Synergy Float” down Idaho’s famous Main Salmon River.

Known as “The River of No Return,” the Salmon River is the longest free-flowing river (425 miles) within one state in the lower 48. It originates in the Sawtooth and Lemhi Valleys of central and eastern Idaho, and snows from the Sawtooth and Salmon River Mountains in the south, and the Clearwater and Bitterroot Mountains in the north, feed this river. The upper section passes through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, while the lower section forms the southern boundary of the Gospel-Hump Wilderness. In recognition of the river's many outstanding values, including scenery, recreation, geology, fish, wildlife, water quality, botany, prehistory, history and cultural traditional use, Congress designated 46 miles of the river, from North Fork to Corn Creek, as a recreational river and 79 miles, from Corn Creek to Long Tom Bar, as a wild river. The Salmon flows through a vast wilderness in the one of the deepest gorges on the continent. The Salmon's granite-walled canyon is one-fifth of a mile deeper than the Grand Canyon, and for approximately 180 miles the Salmon Canyon is more than one mile deep.

Will I need previous whitewater rafting experience?

No prior experience is necessary. Professional guides and outfitting will be provided. Depending on group needs and interests, you may use oar boats, inflatable kayaks, or stand up paddling surf boards.

Who will be with us on this trip?

In addition to MFRE guides and the current class of Fellows, a small group of mentors, supporters and Wild Gift board members and staff will join the expedition.

Selection Criteria

We select social entrepreneurs who not only have a 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 is 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 social venture to fruition?

2.  The Social Venture Itself

  • How innovative is your proposed solution?
  • What challenge does it address?
  • How measurable are the goals?
  • What is the potential social and economic impact of this social venture?
  • Is the social 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, could it be scaled for even greater impact?

5.  Benefit from Wild Gift Fellowship

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

What kind of social ventures are you looking for?

The Fellowship is intentionally broad and social 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 be discarded and not 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 July.

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

We offer the finalists the option to have their names and a brief description of their social ventures made public on our website.

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

February 1, 2019: Initial application goes live

April 23, 2019: Initial application deadline

June 1, 2019: Finalists announced

June 15, 2019: Second round applications due

July 2019: 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 April 23, 2019.  You will receive an email acknowledgement 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 and alumni. You will be notified if further information is required.

The selection committee typically selects 10 finalists. A member of our selection committee will contact you informing you of our decision and additional application requirements at that time. They will include submission of a more detailed Social Venture Plan.

Finalists will be given an opportunity to post their profile and social venture concept on our website during the interview process.

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 interviewed by members of the Selection Committee.

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

Do character counts include spaces?

Yes. All short answer questions on the application have a character limit provided after each question. These limits are inclusive of spaces.