Jobs Board

Program Officer (2 Open Positions) (Northwest Area Foundation)

Company Name

Northwest Area Foundation

Company City

St. Paul

Company State


Job Location

St. Paul, Minnesota

Company Information

The Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF) stands alongside changemakers in its region of eight states and 76 Native nations and funds work that leads to racial, social, and economic justice. Its region includes Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The Foundation’s driving vision is that the people of its priority communities—including Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and people in rural areas—thrive on their own terms. A key motivation is a vision of a future in which the region’s rich culture of engagement and opportunity makes the eight-state region a prized place to visit, to invest, and live.

NWAF is a private foundation established in 1934 by Louis W. Hill, son of the railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill, whose Great Northern Railway linked the Twin Cities of Minnesota to the emerging cities of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, and Portland, OR. Currently, its assets are near $500MM, annual budget is around $25MM, and its staff consists of 20+ people. NWAF’s values represent not just who the Foundation is, but who it aspires to be, in decisions both big and small. The six organizational values are: Social Justice, Grantees Come First, Trust, Listen and Learn for Change, Heart, and Courage. The Foundation is committed to hiring individuals who contribute to a richly diverse workplace. Hiring decisions are guided by the Foundation’s commitment to support grantees, who work to build the entrepreneurial spirit, strong community ties, and untapped potential for Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and people in rural areas, all of which experience systemic barriers to thriving on their own terms.

Job Description

As we all emerge changed from the recent and ongoing crises—a pandemic, economic turmoil, the upsurge for racial justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and mounting pressures on NWAF’s priority communities—the Foundation continues to deepen its commitment to supporting grantee-led change. Internally, it’s made measurable progress to strengthen equity-centered systems designed to support a deeply engaged staff and build an inclusive culture and belonging. At this critical juncture in time, the Foundation seeks two Program Officers to join the program team led by Karla Miller, the Foundation’s Program Director. Program Officers are the Foundation’s primary relationship-holder with grantee partners seeking to reimagine and restructure unjust systems.

This position is hybrid with in-person office time required at least two days a week specifically on Wednesdays and Thursdays for collaborative time with colleagues. Foundation staff may work from home or other work-friendly environments, on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays.

As the primary relationship-holder with grantee partners, Program Officers (POs) work in close collaboration with other program staff, particularly the Program Director, on all aspects of the Foundation’s grantmaking and program-related investments, including both day-to-day operations and broader strategy development. More specifically, the POs contribute to programmatic ideas and participate actively in grantmaking and program-related investments (PRIs) by seeking, recommending, and managing grants and PRIs that support communities to thrive on their own terms. POs engage in this work in the following ways:

Deploy Foundation resources in mission-supportive ways.

• Participate in the program team’s annual goal-setting process.
• Contribute to annual discussions about how and what the Foundation will fund, e.g., determining the focus of “targeted initiatives” that form the basis for a portion of the Foundation’s annual grantmaking output.
• Conduct outreach and networking to find organizations that are aligned with the Foundation’s goals and mission and could be grantee partners. This also includes listening to organizations and responding to funding inquiries. Outreach and networking often require travel within NWAF’s eight-state region.
• Based on grantee applications, POs put together written materials and verbal presentations for Foundation leadership, provide analysis for the Board, and offer recommendations for funding decisions.
• Conduct outreach and networking with other funders to advocate for opportunities for grantee impact while also fostering learning and sharing about more just, equitable funding practices.

Partner with grantees to reimagine and restructure unjust systems.

• Build and maintain relationships with current and prospective grantee partners. The nature of the relationship varies from grantee to grantee, but in general POs can expect to enter these relationships with candidness, curiosity, and trust.
• Partner with grant applicants on all aspects of the proposal process. This includes supporting applicants in developing realistic proposals that are aligned with strategic funding priorities, within the scope of the program grantmaking budget, and within applicants’ capacity to deliver.
• Serve as primary contact for a set of the Foundation’s 100+ active grants for the duration of their grants / investments. This involves staying connected to grantees’ work, having regular touchpoints via video/phone calls or in-person visits, reviewing grant reports, and providing thought partnership to grantees.
• Offer non-monetary support to grantees, including thought partnership, advocating or championing grantee partners’ work to funders and others in the community, sharing tools or resources, and connecting them to others doing similar work.
• Co-create opportunities to learn alongside partners. This involves identifying learning opportunities that support justice and systems change, and managing contracts with external consultants (e.g., researchers or evaluators) to carry out the work.
• Incorporate grantee feedback into the Foundation’s internal processes and its strategy.

Support partners via the full suite of NWAF tools.

• Manage PRIs (directly or indirectly with CDFI partners), which involves having upfront conversations with potential borrowers to determine if a PRI is the right tool for their organization’s needs.
• Support ongoing investment monitoring: how the investments have been used by the organization, their community impact, and ongoing financial health of the organization. PRI monitoring is done in partnership with NWAF’s finance team, partner CDFIs, and/or partner foundations.
• Share grantee work and the program team’s perspective and experiences by writing blogs for the NWAF website, in collaboration with the Program Director and the Communications Director.
• Provide capacity-building support by designing and hosting convenings that focus on building skills and knowledge, and connecting organizations to each other and resources.

Support Foundation processes.

• Prepare and present reports for Foundation leadership and Board members, in partnership with program team colleagues.
• Participate in Foundation-wide workgroups or task forces (e.g., Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Steering Committee) and other cross-Foundation projects, as needed.
• Keep apprised of community context. Keep up to date on what’s happening in priority communities. Note trends in social justice movements and the nonprofit sectors, etc.
• Network with nonprofits and fellow funders to stay updated on community needs, expand networks of potential grantee partners, and deepen understanding of the Foundation’s region.
• Represent NWAF at events, e.g., attending conferences, participating on panels, attending local events, and participating in or joining webinars.


As an integral part of the program team, travel is an anticipated requirement for this role, involving participation in in-person gatherings like site visits and the annual Board retreat. Additionally, POs may be called upon to represent the Foundation at conferences or host Board and staff members attending program-related events.

Travel commitments are expected to range from 15% to 20% of a PO’s working time under standard circumstances. In summary:

• Occasional travel is required.
• 15% to 20% travel equates to approximately once per month.
• A typical schedule of travel per year includes 9–10 trips, each 2–3 days long.
• Travel days often require work outside of typical business hours.
• Travel is by air and car. Maintaining an active driver’s license is required due to the nature of traveling within the region.
• Travel is domestic, primarily in NWAF’s eight-state region, which includes travel to rural and remote parts of the region.


• The Northwest Area Foundation operates in a hybrid fashion. Employees are expected to be in the office at least 2 days per week, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, with the option to work from home up to 3 days per week in accordance with NWAF policies. The in-person work environment is an office setting with a designated workspace at the Foundation’s office in St. Paul, Minnesota.
• This position requires regular use of a computer and other office equipment and communication technology such as, but not limited to, videoconferencing equipment, telephone, copy machine, and printer.
• Work is performed in an office environment with minimal exposure to excessive noise, dust, fumes, vibrations, and temperature changes. Frequent use of office equipment including computers, printers, and copiers.

Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable qualified individuals with disabilities to perform the principal duties and responsibilities of the position in accordance with applicable law and NWAF policies.


The Program Officer is a full-time, exempt position reporting to the Program Director. NWAF offers a competitive and holistic rewards package that includes salary and benefits. The anticipated starting salary for this position is in the range of $100,000 – $115,000.

The actual starting salary will be commensurate with the years, breadth, and depth of relevant experience, education, certifications, credentials, special skills, accomplishments, and other factors relevant to the position.

NWAF’s benefits are generous and include:

• Competitive compensation, including relocation support when applicable.
• Strong medical, dental, and life insurance benefits for staff and their dependents with competitive monthly premiums and flexible spending accounts.
• Minimum of four weeks of paid time off, and 12 floating holidays.
• Retirement programs, including 403(b) matching at 50% of deferrals up to annual maximum of $5,000, with access to financial planning resources.
• Money purchase pension plan, after one year of service, in which NWAF makes a generous contribution that vests over a four-year period.
• Matching gift program for charitable donations one-to-one match up to $2,000.
• Additional benefits such as an employee assistance plan, paid parental leave, and tuition reimbursement.

Job Qualifications

Candidates should have an active curiosity and passion for NWAF’s mission and values and for working with partners that seek to reimagine and restructure systems. Successful candidates will be collaborative, positive, and able to deal well with ambiguity and change. They will be adept at building relationships and able to respond to issues with clarity and diplomacy. The ideal candidate may or may not have philanthropy experience as other types of professional experience, such as working across functional areas at a nonprofit organization or a community development corporation, can offer skills that are transferable to this role.

The ideal candidate will possess many, but most likely not all, of the following professional and personal abilities, attributes, and experiences:

• A minimum of seven years’ experience in the nonprofit, philanthropic, public, or private sector, working toward economic, social, and/or racial justice, preferably within NWAF’s region and with priority communities.
• Post-secondary degree (preferred), but individuals with lived and/or professional experience related to the core functions of this opportunity are encouraged to apply.
• Experience working in a collaborative, team-based environment.
• Lived or work experience with one or more of the Foundation’s priority communities (Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and people in rural areas).
• Experience building relationships with a variety of people, including experience creating welcoming and inviting spaces for dialogue, showing respect and solidarity with the work people are doing, and ability to inspire trust and nurture authentic partnerships. Brings an orientation of listening to learn, and asks organizations about their vision for the future, their aspirations, and how they incorporate justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion into their work.
• Understanding of / experience incorporating equity and justice into the workplace, and in relationships with community partners. A deep commitment to supporting and uplifting the expertise of priority communities and addressing structural bias.
• Proven commitment to racial, economic, and social justice. Ability to seek input from and value the uniqueness of people from different groups and identities. Works effectively with individuals of diverse cultures, interpersonal styles, abilities, motivations, or backgrounds. Challenges practices or policies that may be exclusionary.
• Understanding of mission-oriented and nonprofit organizations, including the ability to analyze organizational strategic plans, evaluation reports, financial statements, and organizational budgets associated with grant applications.
• Experience communicating to various audiences, e.g., including making small group and public presentations, and producing clear and compelling written documents. Experience with storytelling, including the ability to share the story of the Foundation’s and partners’ work in ways that speak to various audiences, while making sure the humanity of the work shines through. A deep commitment to supporting and uplifting the expertise of priority communities.
• Ability to bring innovation and a learning orientation to programs and systems that advance racial, social, and economic justice. Asks questions and probes for root causes; sees underlying or hidden patterns; looks beyond the obvious to understand why barriers exist/problems occur.
• Experience managing multiple priorities, organizing and prioritizing tasks, managing time efficiently, meeting deadlines, working independently, managing budgets, and collaborating with colleagues.
• Creative and critical thinking, including experience holding large amounts of information about context and trends in a topic area, or for priority communities, or for a large geographic region, and experience drawing on that knowledge base to make connections and offer ideas about how to improve work.
• Experience with or interest in learning various technology and software programs, including: Microsoft Office Suite, Google documents, Zoom, Salesforce and other grants management software, etc.
• Active driver’s license, an essential component of the travel requirements of this role (see next section).

How to Apply

More information about Northwest Area Foundation may be found at:

This search is being led by Cara Pearsall and Robert Diggs of NPAG. Candidates may submit their cover letter, outlining their interest and qualifications, along with their resume via NPAG’s website by Friday, March 1, 2024. NPAG welcomes expressions of interest and/or nominations submitted via this form.

An Equal-Opportunity Employer with a Commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

NWAF is an equal opportunity employer and all employees and applicants for employment are afforded equal opportunity in every area of hiring and employment without regard to race, color, ethnicity, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender identity, age, disability, mental illness, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, genetics, military/veteran status, citizenship, arrest record, and any other legally protected characteristic.

The above statements are not intended to encompass all functions and qualifications of the position; rather, they are intended to provide a general framework of the requirements of the position. Job incumbents may be required to perform other functions not specifically addressed in this description.

Want to receive the latest AAPIP updates and events directly to your inbox?