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Program Officer, Partnerships & Special Projects

San Francisco

About the Foundation

The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California. The Foundation’s vision is a California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically. Since 1937, the Foundation has provided more than $2.2 billion in grants to organizations throughout California. The Foundation ended 2021 with more than $3.8 billion in assets and provided $128.9 million in grants. We have about 80 staff across our San Francisco and Los Angeles offices. The Foundation is committed, internally and externally, to the values of accountability, curiosity, empathy, equity, nimbleness, partnership, and transparency.

About the Role

The Program Officer, Partnerships & Special Projects will work with the CEO to develop and manage special projects, including alliances and partnerships, to advance the Foundation’s vision of “a California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically.”

The Program Officer, Partnerships & Special Projects is a strategic and trusted partner to President and CEO, Don Howard, creating leverage for the CEO and the organization as a whole. Chief among this is supporting potential partnerships with leading philanthropic, labor, public sector, and business leaders and their organizations. Additionally, this role will assess the potential of early-stage investment ideas identified by the CEO.

You will be an invaluable partner ensuring in Don’s time is leveraged effectively and talking through ideas, impressions, and issues as they arise. Expect to attend many meetings, and work across the whole organization on new and ongoing projects in conjunction with Don, allowing you to play a vital role in ensuring that The Foundation achieves its mission and ambitious growth strategy.


  • Cultivate potential partners as directed by the CEO
    • Work with CEO and Program Development team to assess potential partners using data analysis to determine the potential for impact and alignment with our strategy.
    • Work with the CEO to determine whether and how to pursue potential partners.
    • Prepare clear and compelling presentation materials for prospective partners.
  • Manage ongoing partnerships
    • Serve as point person with partners for the implementation of joint efforts.
    • Craft and manage email correspondence with senior leaders.
    • Track and maintain reports on progress and results of partnerships.
    • Keep CEO and Program team abreast of progress and results.
  • Explores early-stage grantmaking ideas in partnership with Program staff
    • Research and scope potential and alignment of early grantmaking ideas.
    • Collaborate with relevant members of Program Development and Program Implementation to ensure coordination and knowledge sharing.
    • Transition high potential opportunities for investment in partnership to relevant program staff.
  • Lead special projects, as assigned by the CEO or other senior leaders
  • Participates in other cross-functional teams, as assigned by the CEO

Skills & Competencies

  • An Exceptional Communicator. You have excellent written and verbal skills. You can craft high-quality documents and presentations, clearly explain complex concepts, and combine intellect and intuition.
  • A Strategic Thinker. You’re a strong conceptual thinker who can quickly grasp and navigate a range of abstract concepts, relate them to one another, and translate those concepts into strategies and practical actions.
  • A Do-er. You are solutions-oriented, a problem-solver looking for the best solution to whatever challenge you’re confronted with. You don’t wait for instruction. Instead, you proactively look for ways to offer support and be of use. You are a master organizer and planner and consistently look ahead and anticipate needs before they arise.
  • Emotionally Intelligent. You are self-aware and perceptive. You nurture relationships and can work and communicate well with all kinds of people. You are optimistic, empathetic, flexible, curious, and well-respected by all who work with you, irrespective of title.
  • Loyal and selfless. You are straightforward, honest, and loyal. You are confident enough to be candid and direct, and focused enough on efficacy to be comfortable working behind the scenes.
  • A Team Player. Nothing is beneath or above you. You are quick to always lend a hand, or two! You are able to earn influence without authority and naturally seek to support both small projects and large strategic goals.
  • A Collaborator. Working across cultural lines on a dispersed team, you easily gain trust and set others up for success. You know you don’t have all the answers and take pride in knowing everyone’s sweet spots, bringing them in at just the right time.

What you’ll need

  • 5+ years of overall professional experience.
  • With this being such a unique role, we are background agnostic and are excited by candidates who have managed communications on behalf of a fast-paced executive in the past or have worked in a philanthropic, nonprofit, or consulting environment.
  • Problem-solving and project management skills, including the ability to work and deliver projects independently, proactively, and under pressure.
  • The ability to assert influence in ensuring deadlines are met, and leadership stays on track to critical deliverables or communication timelines.
  • The ability to translate complex concepts into clear, compelling language for multiple audiences.
  • You can practice discretion and have the ability to maintain confidentiality as needed.
  • An abundance mindset. You believe that we are living in a world of abundant resources and that the right team of partners can make incredible things happen. You bring relentless curiosity and creativity to every task, project, and engagement.
  • A commitment to diversity and inclusion. You’re always asking: “whose voice is not at the table?” You have experience working with diverse teams and successfully navigating cross-cultural communication in both local and global contexts, and you deeply value creating a workplace that is supportive of difference.

Why this role is compelling

Working directly with Don Howard, you will experience first-hand what it means to lead a well-run, growing organization toward a particular vision. You will be exposed to an unusually wide range of people and issues in the philanthropic sector, as well as the internal infrastructure and operations of a visionary foundation.

A successful candidate will develop and grow a broad set of professional skills, honing them to the level of excellence in a demanding and fast-paced environment. You will work with, learn from, and grow alongside a high-performing and diverse team in which each individual is committed to rapid development of themselves and others.

Irvine is a learning organization that emphasizes development and growth making this an invaluable opportunity to expand your career in the social sector.

Compensation and Location

The James Irvine Foundation’s compensation philosophy is reflected in its Talent Advancement Program, which was created to assure equity in staff compensation. While every staff member is assigned a Tier based on demonstration of competencies, the Foundation looks to outcomes as criteria for advancement through the program’s Tiers. This role is considered a Tier II Officer.

The salary for this position is set at $136,000 plus benefits. In order to set a level playing field, we will not negotiate with any candidates.

The James Irvine Foundation offers an attractive benefits package, highlights include comprehensive insurance coverage, 5+ months of paid family leave for new parents, and a very generous 401K contribution (10%!).

This position is full-time, and you must be already based in, or be willing to relocate to, the Bay Area.  The expectation for this role will be in the office 40% of the time.  More details on our hybrid work arrangement can be found here. Since we are living through a global pandemic, we can be flexible on relocation timelines and may be able to offer a small amount of relocation assistance. At this point, all staff are required to be fully vaccinated with one of the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

The Application Process

The James Irvine Foundation has engaged Equitable Hiring Group to support this hiring process. To apply, please complete the short form in Equitable Hiring Group website.

Individuals who apply by Tuesday, August 23rd will be given priority; therefore, we encourage you to submit yours soon!

When you apply, we kindly ask you to remove your schools from your resume. There is no need to reformat your resume and leave your degree as is; simplify it to “B.A. Economics” for example. Just remember to remove any undergraduate and graduate school name references where possible. This “bias-reduced” process is aimed at opening this opportunity to more candidates, reviewing applicants on performance assessments instead of resume proxies (e.g., where you went to school).

This evaluation process will follow practices shown to reduce bias in decision-making and may be different from other application processes you have experienced.

The overall evaluation process will look to follow this anticipated timeline:

  • Mid-August: Select candidates asked to complete short answer questions
  • Late August: Initial interview with Foundation staff
  • Early September: Finalist candidates will be asked to complete a timed trial assignment
  • Mid-September: Finalists will participate in a multi-team member panel interview
    • Candidate references will also be checked at this step
  • Late September: Offer extended

If you have any questions about the opportunity, please feel free to email

The Foundation is an Equal Opportunity Employer, and we encourage applicants who reflect the diversity of California. Qualified applicants with criminal histories will be considered pursuant to the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance.

Position Details

Reports to: President and CEO

Location: San Francisco

Status: Exempt

Application Deadline: August 23