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Professional Development Retreats

Fellows gather twice a year for one of the highlights of the Fellowship program—the retreats. The four-day retreats are held in one of our host cities—Boston, New York or Philadelphia. Because the schedule rotates, you will visit all our host cities by the end of your Fellowship.

Retreats include a full schedule with leadership training, hands-on workshops, skill development, site visits and opportunities for reflection. You’ll be challenged to think about big ideas—what power and inclusion mean, the role nonprofits play in public policy, or the widespread effects of income inequality. 

You’ll gain practical skills, too—on topics such as how to deploy the power of community organizing, honing your presentation skills, identifying professional opportunities that are a good match for your skills and interest, or understanding your leadership style. And you’ll hear from other Fellows about their work at their own host organizations and gain exposure to other critical social issues.

In addition, Fellows benefit from discussions with special guests from leading social impact nonprofits and experts in organizational development, policy, and education. For example, FAO Schwarz Fellows have met with Gerald Chertavian, CEO and Founder of Year Up, a non-profit organization that provides intensive professional education to underserved young adults, and with Yael Lehmann, when she was the President & CEO of The Food Trust, which strives to make healthy food available to all.


The goal of the Fellowship retreats is to give you the chance to step back from day-to-day challenges and responsibilities and consider the larger landscape of social impact. How do leaders solve social problems? How do you effectively address inequalities in the short term while you’re working toward long-term solutions? How do social impact leaders navigate competing demands? 

Retreats contribute to a sense of community among the FAO Schwarz Fellows. The camaraderie of the cohort is an important component of the Fellowship experience—one that every Fellow comes to treasure. Retreats include team-building activities and plenty of informal time together for more casual conversations. You’ll have lots of time to socialize with your cohort and meet with alumni Fellows.

At the end of the four days, you’ll return to your host organization with a deeper understanding of social impact work. With new friends and a richer network, you’ll be refreshed and renewed and ready to apply new skills and knowledge for greater impact in your organization and community.


FAO Schwarz Fellowship hosts Fellow orientations.

Fall professional development retreat. Locations rotate among host cities.

Spring professional development retreat. Locations rotate among host cities.

Lately I have been thinking about how the FAO Schwarz Fellowship has set me up to be a strategic thinker when it comes to my professional development. I find myself being excited to ask to take on different projects even when they fall outside of the scope of my role. This keeps me learning and growing and finding new passions within my work.

Karen Wilber | FAO Schwarz Fellow at uAspire  in Boston | 2018

Reflections On Retreats

  • Refining Your Core Values

    I’ll never forget that first retreat with the Fellowship in the fall of 2012. As we all sat down in JumpStart’s conference room in midtown Manhattan, we introduced ourselves and the mission of our host......

  • The Accomplishments of our Fellows

    One of the highlights of our fall retreat in Philadelphia was the participation of many supreme fellows in our reunion dinner and in a professional development session around the power of networking. It was inspiring......

  • Social Justice in Our Work

    Among the vast selection of picture books in the Reading Partners Library at PS 3 is Margaree King Miller’s Granddaddy’s Gift. Miller’s book tells the story of a young black girl, Little Joe, growing......