Professional Development Fellowship Program

GUTC Leaders Fellowship Program

Encouraging funders to increase their grantmaking to transgender communities requires shifting philanthropic culture to be more inclusive and supportive of binary and non-binary transgender and gender non-conforming people as employees, colleagues, and leaders within the sector. Yet transgender people remain woefully under-represented in philanthropy, and trans-specific professional and leadership development opportunities remain rare.

Grantmakers United for Trans Communities (GUTC) develops trans leadership in philanthropy to strengthen the pipeline of trans professionals in the field, with the long-term goal of increasing the number of trans people working and taking leadership in philanthropy. The primary way we do this is through our Grantmakers United for Trans Communities (GUTC) Leaders Fellowship. 

Meet the 2024 – 2025 Fellows!

On February 22, 2024, Funders for LGBTQ Issues announced the newest cohort of Grantmakers United for Trans Communities (GUTC) Leaders Fellows: Nico Fonseca, Sanjar Kurmanov, Emily Lai, Míchél Macklin, Rainier Miles, Nahr Suha, and Maximilián Vega Vélez. You can read the full announcement here.

Nico (they/them) is a fat, neurodivergent, sick and disabled, queer and gender variant artist and cultural worker. Raised by their mother and her mother, red dirt, sweet water, and bodegas. Part of their sacred work is understanding pleasure and desire. It’s about exploring how safety, care and wellness feel when we ground our pleasure and desire in a decolonial praxis of abundance, consent, interdependence, autonomy, access, and love. With over a decade of experience in abolitionist community safety, organizing in intergenerational, multi-class movements, and Trans legacies, their visual art explores what these worlds look and feel like. Their political work embodies them through practice, studying, lots of messing up, humbly committing to the unfolding.

Sanjar Kurmanov is a trans-masculine person from a rural area of Kyrgyzstan. He studied Social-cultural Tourism. Instead of pursuing a career in Tourism, one day he fell in love with an outreach worker from the LGBT organization Labrys. And that turned out to be the beginning of his activist journey. For many years he’s been leading trans advocacy to adopt a procedure for changing gender markers in legal documents for trans people. He is eager to support the trans community which transcended physical boundaries. Thus, he participated in various committees of organizations such as the Trans Coalition in the post-Soviet space, the International Trans Fund, and Transgender Europe. For the last three years, he’s been living in Northern California with his partner, daughter, and a little dog named Tabuu.

Emily currently serves Pride Foundation’s 5 state region (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA) through grantmaking. Emily wants to support movement building that centers the agency, healing, and joy of queer and trans BIPOC. Emily strives to learn from “By and For” organizing focused on abolition, decriminalization, climate and disability justice. Prior to joining Pride Foundation, Emily was Executive Director for youth organization -Momentum Alliance. There, Emily helped organize a youth campaign resulting in Oregon becoming the first state to require Ethnic Studies in K-12 schools. Emily enjoys watching music videos, marveling at plants, and sharing stories with people who also have lifelong STIs. Emily loves being on the water and is learning to be a paddle guide!

Míchél (my-KEY-el) Macklin, Afrolatina DMV Native, Former Co-Host & Producer of “All4One” podcast, and Transgender Community Advocate recently relocated to the Dallas area with the aim to continue to create platforms amplifying black/brown queer stories and contribute to the work being done to stabilise and enrich the lives of Texas’ black/brown transgender communities. Prior to arriving in Dallas, Michel’s started her career in the non-profit space in 2017 via capacity support with DC’s NPR radio affiliate WAMU. Her focus shifted specifically to serving underrepresented and underserved communities in the DC Metro area when she came on board as the head of Admissions and Recruitment for Byte Back Inc. During her time there, she assisted in several key programmatic efforts including spearheading a cohort with the DC Office for LGBTQ Affairs that resulted in an education and certification program to assist transgender and non-binary residents in their employment efforts. She currently manages the MarComm, Social Media, Community Engagement, and Donor Systems for Texas Pride Impact Funds.

Rainier Miles is a Black, disabled, trans, social justice activist who has more than a decade of experience in community collaboration, organization, and outreach. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies. Rainier draws from his lived experience and education to advocate for reparations, representation, and shifts in power. Rainier believes representation matters and can save lives, and that is why he acknowledges that the narrative of Black, trans, and disabled individuals needs to flip from despair to joy. Disabled isn’t a bad word, Blackness is a culture of love and community building, trans people exist. All true statements that are rarely spoken about, and Rainier is working to change that. Rainier is currently the program associate at the Black Trans Fund, where he works to shift the power dynamic within philanthropy and bring Black, trans, and disabled voices into the spotlight.

nahr suha (they/them) is a resource mover at grantmaker for girls of color, who manages the holding a sister initiative which is dedicated to tgnc young people of color. nahr is a gender-variant, transfeminine, mixed starseed of the swana diaspora. as a community farmer, dreamer & tree hugger, nahr deeply values the rematriation of land so that it may be stewarded by queer trans black and indigenous folks who carry ancestral knowledge & pathways to sustainable futures. they hope to inspire others with their dedication to land sovereignty, especially trans youth whose insights, experiences, & voices are necessary for our collective liberated future. in their work within philanthropy, they have listened intently to grantees who have named the need for healing to take place in trans communities of color. they have led with their heart and leaned in towards work that brings qtbipoc communities back to the soil & in solidarity with one another.

Maximilián Adrián Vega-Vélez (he/they) is a soft trans masculine -neuroqueer- enby and intersex person. Rematriated to the west side of the archipelago of Boriké (Puerto Rico) after being displaced by the colonial-aftermath of La Junta and Hurricane María.

Max is an artist, designer and cultural organizer, foodie, connector, resource mobilizer, experimenter, sometimes a hermit, D&D player and seeker of our ancestral medicines and practices. They are currently the Program Manager of the Sylvia Rivera & Christina Hayworth (trans, queer & intersex) Initiative at the María Fund. Working for the long term vision of a liberated Puerto Rico where colonialism, ableism and capitalism does not exist.

Fellowship Components:

The GUTC Leaders Fellowship provides ongoing support, peer networking, and leadership and professional development to a cohort of 6 trans, gender non-conforming, or non-binary professionals in philanthropy over a 12-month fellowship period, beginning in the spring of each year.

Fellows will receive the following:


  • Invitation and comped registration to attend our flagship educational and networking conference Funding Forward
  • In-person retreats featuring peer networking, skills development, and self-care*
  • Ongoing job coaching and career counseling
  • Monthly group professional development and community-building activities
  • Help to develop a personalized professional development plan, with realistic goals and support
  • Linkage to a mentor who can provide advice and support related to fellows’ specific career interests and aspirations
  • Peer networking with the fellowship cohort, as well as with more-experienced trans and cis allies in the field
  • $2,000 in supplemental professional development funds

* In-person retreats will resume when COVID-19 and public health restrictions allow

Cost to Fellows and Employers

While there is no fee to participate, Fellows with professional development funds provided through their employer should plan to use those funds to support their participation in the above fellowship activities. If there are no such funds available, or if the funds are insufficient, Funders for LGBTQ Issues will cover the balance to ensure full participation.

Employers with fellows in the program are expected to allow their fellow to use their normal working hours to participate in the fellowship program’s activities.

Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Project Director Luna Moreta Avila to discuss any questions they have related to the application, the cost of participation, as well as for assistance in communicating with employers about the importance and value of participating in the fellowship.


The GUTC Leaders Fellowship is open to all binary and nonbinary trans-identified and gender non-conforming persons who are currently employed full- or part-time with a philanthropic entity based in the United States. For the purposes of this program, “Philanthropic entity” is defined as any grantmaking foundation (private, public, corporate, family, etc.), donor-advised fund, or philanthropic-supporting organizations (affinity groups, regional associations, etc.). Fellows may be employed in a variety of roles within the sector, including but not limited to programs, communications, finance, human resources, or organizational administration. Fellows can be based anywhere in the United States.

Priority consideration will be given to binary and nonbinary trans-identified and gender non-conforming persons of color, trans women of color, and those with less than five years of work experience in an office setting.

A maximum of one applicant per philanthropic entity may be selected in each cohort.

Applicants need not be employed by or affiliated with Funders for LGBTQ Issues members, or foundation supporters of the GUTC initiative.

Staff at organizations that do not award grants are not eligible for this program.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will the GUTC Learders Fellowship help advance my professional and leadership development?

The fellowship offers 50+ hours of personalized coaching, training, and mentorship customized to fellows’ individual professional and leadership development goals. Coaches and mentors assist fellows in identifying their own goals, and offer support and accountability to meet them. The fellowship also provides connections to a network of trans-identified and allied cisgender professionals in philanthropy who can offer additional advice, referrals, and opportunities for leadership development and visibility in the sector. Past fellows have been promoted to more senior positions (often during the fellowship), or have used the fellowship to further clarify and solidify their professional identity and career path in philanthropy.

What kinds of skills development trainings are offered?

Skills trainings are developed with the specific needs of each cohort in mind. Past cohorts have received trainings on developing management skills, self-care practices, improving in giving and receiving feedback, tips on working with search firms or job recruiters to secure more senior positions, developing personal elevator pitches, and more.

What makes this fellowship unique?

The GUTC Leaders Fellowship is the first (and to-date, only) leadership development program for trans-identified people working in philanthropy. Led by a trans-identified Project Director, great care is taken to create safer learning and community-building spaces where the rich and varied lived experiences of diverse trans people and the challenges we face in this field are centralized. Our trainings and coaching sessions help fellows strategize for career exploration and advancement while taking into account the real discrimination and bias our community faces, while connecting fellows to a community of peers to create lifelong relationships.

What are you looking for in GUTC Fellows?

We seek to build a diverse cohort each year, with an emphasis on supporting transgender people or color and trans feminine people who are early in their careers working in philanthropy. Racial diversity for us means attention to racial equity and justice, and we are particularly interested in supporting Black, Native, and Indigenous transgender foundation staff. We also seek to create a cohort of fellows from different types of philanthropic employers, ranging from private foundations with little to no track record of funding transgender communities to public intermediaries that have supported trans communities for decades. We also seek to have geographic and funding priority diversity among our fellows, with attention to regions and issues where philanthropy has underserved trans communities, such as the U.S. Southeast and Midwest.

How are fellows selected?

Each year, a selection committee made up of GUTC Working Group members and GUTC Fellow Alumni reviews and rates applications in accordance with the program’s goals and priorities. Semi-finalists are selected for phone or videoconference interviews with selection committee members, and the committee selects the final cohort of fellows shortly thereafter.

To avoid potential conflicts of interest, selection committee members who are employed at the same entity as any specific candidate, or who otherwise have a close relationship with the candidate, are recused from reviewing that candidate’s application. Each application is weighed on its own merits; no special consideration is given to applicants from foundations represented on the GUTC Working Group, or among Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ membership or foundation funders.

Testimonials from GUTC Fellows

  • Nicolas Calvo Rosenstone
    "Thanks to the GUTC Leaders Fellowship, I was able to carve out clear career goals and develop key skills that will help me reach them. Finding mentors and peers who believe in me and who understand the challenges and opportunities facing trans people in the field has been invaluable."
    Nico Calvo Rosenstone
    Communications Officer, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, GUTC Fellow 2018-19
  • "The GUTC Leaders Fellowship was invaluable in helping me apply for my new role as the Co-Executive Director of the Third Wave Fund. In addition to helping me with my application and the interview stages, the support I received to think through taking on this new challenge in my career helped me see how I could succeed moving into senior leadership in philanthropy."
    Kiyomi Fujikawa
    Co-Executive Director, Third Wave Fund, GUTC Fellow 2018-19
  • "I especially valued the one-on-one coaching meetings. They’ve been incredibly helpful for me to think through how my life and career intersect and shape each other, both for my current position and in the long-run."
    Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez
    Program Officer, Edward W. Hazen Foundation, GUTC Fellow 2020-21
  • "The support I received from Alex and the facilitators at our in-person retreats helped me approach my work in new ways, and new ways to continue to take care of myself as I build my career. I also loved being able to connect with peers confronting the same questions I have working in this field. I feel like I have a new blueprint for taking bolder leadership in philanthropy."
    Ebony Harper
    Executive Director, National Alliance for Trans Liberation and Advancement (formerly Program Associate, California Endowment), GUTC Fellow 2019-20
  • "The GUTC Leaders Fellowship gave me new opportunities to take visible leadership in the field. With the fellowship's support, I was able to challenge myself to try new things and learn new skills."
    Agaiotupu Viena
    TRANSform Culture Program Director, Pride Foundation, GUTC Fellow 2018-19