Administration, Business/ Economic Development/Finance, Foundations and Philanthropy, Nonprofit and Social Impact, Program Leadership, Social Justice and Advocacy

Senior Program Officer

  • The James Irvine Foundation
  • San Francisco/Los Angeles, CA

This position has been filled.

About The James Irvine Foundation

The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California. The Foundation’s current focus is a California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically. Since 1937, the Foundation has provided more than $2.09 billion in grants to organizations throughout California. The Foundation ended 2020 with more than $3 billion in assets and provided $109 million in grants. There are about 60 staff members across their San Francisco and Los Angeles offices. The Irvine Foundation is committed, internally and externally, to the values of accountability, curiosity, empathy, equity, nimbleness, partnership, and transparency.

For more information on The James Irvine Foundation, please visit their website.

The Opportunity

Committed to a future where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically in California, The James Irvine Foundation is seeking a number of Senior Program Officers (“SPO”) to help advance this singular goal. This is an exciting opportunity for a professional with strong strategy development, analytical abilities, a high degree of initiative, and proven collaborative skills to join a mission-driven team working to ensure that every Californian has the opportunity to create a better life for themselves and their families.

Supervised by an Initiative Director, the SPO will work in partnership with the Foundation’s program staff and others on a set of initiatives to help low-income workers have the power to advance economically. This role will also have an Advisor, a PMT member who oversees their career development and assesses their progress. The SPO will work on one or more grantmaking teams, which may be led by an Initiative Director or another senior staff member. In addition, the SPO will serve as an Advisor for program officers or program associates.

The role will provide opportunities for professional development, as well as meaningful collaboration with thought leaders in both the private and public sectors. This is an ideal opportunity for an individual committed to working with underserved communities, specifically low-income workers, to put their considerable skills, talent, and passion to work expanding opportunity for the people of California.

Principal Duties and Responsibilities

Strategy Development and Implementation

  • Lead a workstream within an initiative or grantmaking body of work
  • Substantively inform strategy development within an initiative and/or body of work
  • In partnership with colleagues, assess risk, impact, and implications of grantmaking decisions within an initiative or body of work
  • Consult and coordinate with other Irvine program staff in exploring new grantmaking opportunities within initiatives and/or outside current initiatives
  • Actively participate in assessment and learning activities that inform initiative strategy and continuous improvement and engage in the ongoing refinement of Irvine’s initiatives
  • Remain well informed of current research, activities, and trends in the issues addressed by grantees and initiative/body of work

Grantee Partnership and Support

  • In partnership with the Initiative Director or relevant team leads, identify organizations with strong potential for partnership, conduct due diligence, and assess grantee partners for effective track records, internal capacity, and strategic skills
  • Monitor the performance of a set of grants and coach and advise grantees, including the negotiation of performance milestones to support grantee partner success
  • As appropriate, and in partnership with other Irvine staff, convene grantees and others in the field to advance collective action, networking, and learning opportunities

Managing Projects

  • Demonstrate strong project management capacity and ability to manage several significant projects simultaneously
  • Independently manage outside contractors and stakeholders beyond grantee relationships


  • Collaborate with other staff to coordinate with and contribute to projects and relationships that connect to broader Foundation efforts
  • Maintain a working knowledge of other Foundation efforts
  • Partner effectively across Foundation departments
  • Display strong group facilitation skills and practices
Candidate Profile

The Senior Program Officer of The James Irvine Foundation will possess the following attributes and competencies:

Passion for the Mission

The Senior Program Officer will have a sincere commitment to The James Irvine Foundation’s mission, a strong understanding of workforce development and issues impacting low-income communities, and a passion for expanding opportunity for low-income workers in California. An active and engaged listener, this individual will demonstrate respect for diverse perspectives. The SPO will have experience with and a strong commitment to applying a racial equity lens to their work, including acknowledging persistent, pervasive racism in institutions and systems that must be eliminated if we are to improve outcomes for all Californians.

Strategy Development & Changemaker

Possessing a demonstrated ability to plan and think strategically, the Senior Program Officer will contribute to the strategy development, learning, and management process within an Initiative and/or body of work. The SPO will have the demonstrated ability to plan and think strategically, set and achieve realistic goals and objectives, and balance multiple priorities. A changemaker, the SPO will creatively challenge what is possible through philanthropy and identify opportunities for innovation in furtherance of the Foundation’s mission.

Leading through Influence & Team Leader

The Senior Program Officer will work well within a team and bring deep experience facilitating coordination and collaboration. A natural relationship builder, the SPO will have the ability to lead a team through influence rather than authority and ideally the capability to manage staff. This individual will be eager to mentor and advise others to aid in their professional development. The SPO will excel at cultivating, developing, and maintaining relationships with existing and prospective grantee partners and key stakeholders. They will have the ability to navigate through networks and multi-faceted relationships. Possessing excellent written and oral communication skills as well as listening skills, the SPO will represent the Foundation and its mission effectively and will exercise excellent judgment in communicating within a variety of settings.

Technical Competencies & Content Expertise

The Senior Program Officer will have a strong background in grantmaking or will have transferable skills including analysis, writing, and presentation to diverse audiences and excellent attention to detail and follow through. This individual will have the ability to evaluate how grantees fit into the portfolio, as well as gain learnings to be shared across the organization. The SPO will draw on their deep multi-sector experience to assess the leadership, track record, and capacity of social sector organizations and collaboratives. The ideal candidate will possess experience in workforce development and an understanding of the complexities, systemic barriers and landscape of economic development, as well as a working knowledge of how systems work at the federal and state level.

Continuous & Flexible Learner

The Senior Program Officer will bring a learning mindset to the role and will be a quick study when working on new content areas. Eager to engage in issues exploration, this individual will enjoy the challenge of cross-portfolio work and will be open to innovative approaches to achieving the Foundation’s goal. The SPO will be flexible and adaptable when strategy requires a pivot to a new focus area in order to increase impact. This individual will possess a strong willingness to stay abreast of current research, activities, and trends relating to their initiative and/or body of work and will positively contribute to a culture of learning.

Compensation & Benefits

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. The positions are benchmarked against relative industry and occupational groups and reviewed each year, with the goal to deliver compensation equitably throughout the organization. For more information, please review Compensation Practices at Irvine.

The James Irvine Foundation offers an attractive benefits package. 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 (“FCO”).


Koya Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement. Michelle Bonoan, Christy Farrell, and Jennifer Smith are leading this search. To make recommendations or to express your interest in this role, please visit here or email and All nominations, inquiries, and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

The James Irvine Foundation is an equal opportunity employer. The James Irvine Foundation seeks diversity in its community and affords equal employment and advancement opportunities to all qualified individuals without regard to race, creed, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, citizenship status, medical condition, or any other legally protected status.

About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a part of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world. For more information about Koya Partners, visit

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