Director of Programs and Strategy (WF)

About the Organization

The Water Foundation is an ambitious new organization dedicated to advancing long-term, sustainable water management in the American West. Created in 2011 as an initiative within the Resources Legacy Fund in collaboration with several major funders, including the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Pisces Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Water Foundation recently became a fully independent nonprofit organization in January 2017.


Since it was first established as the California Water Foundation, the organization has invested over $30 million to improve the long-term availability of clean, safe water for California. It has assembled a respected team of experts in water, mobilized partner organizations, and engaged diverse constituents. The foundation functions as a strategic funder that invests in organizations and targeted regions to advance water policy reforms, a convener and builder of coalitions to improve how water is used, and an advocate for better regional and statewide policies.


The Water Foundation has achieved an early track-record of success, notably including education and analysis to support the 2014 passage of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Currently the foundation advances a broad range of priorities, from ensuring safe, reliable and affordable drinking water to balancing use of the region’s major river systems. With a talented team of staff experts and ongoing and expanding support from its funders, the foundation is poised to move to a new level of influence and impact as an independent institution.


The Water Foundation has offices in Sacramento, Oakland, and Los Angeles. More information about the Water Foundation can be found at; the foundation’s website is being overhauled as part of its launch as an independent organization.


Director of Programs and Strategy

The Water Foundation seeks a creative, collaborative and highly strategic leader to serve as its Director of Programs and Strategy (Director). The Director will design and oversee the execution of all of the foundation’s strategic program initiatives. The Director will lead the Water Foundation’s program team, consisting of two Senior Program Officers and four Program Officers, to implement effective strategies that harness grantmaking and other activities to achieve concrete change. The ideal candidate will have strong experience growing programs or organizations and successfully implementing initiatives that have achieved measurable results. The Director will join a vibrant new institution with a compelling mission. This opportunity has all the challenge and excitement of a startup, with the distinct benefits of demonstrated organizational success and a known reputation in the world of Western water policy, as well as seed funding and initial existing infrastructure. 


As a thought partner to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Director will shape the foundation’s strategy to expand its impact across the West and enhance the foundation’s leadership within water-oriented philanthropy. Expanding the foundation’s impact to meet its mission will require taking on a new, broader set of responsibilities than the organization has undertaken to date. To succeed in this role, the Director must be a strategic thinker who can move deftly from vision to execution—perceiving emerging opportunities for impact, building a goal-oriented strategy, aligning internal and external stakeholders around a shared vision, and driving implementation.


The Director will serve as part of the Water Foundation’s three-person leadership team, alongside the CEO and Director of Operations and Finance. This tripartite leadership team will shape the organization’s vision and trajectory and will represent the foundation on a local, state, and national level. The Director will report to the CEO.


Primary Duties and Responsibilities

The Director of Programs and Strategy will perform the following and other duties as assigned:


Drive Concrete Change

  • Create innovative, focused, and nimble strategies across the Water Foundation’s programs in partnership with CEO, board, and program staff.
  • Establish and oversee the foundation’s program budget.
  • Oversee development and execution of program plans, working with the Senior Program Officers to ensure plans are anchored by an effective portfolio of grants and other activities that are carefully developed to achieve impact.
  • Work with program staff to determine where grants should be complemented by contracts for functions such as strategic communications and lobbying and—when appropriate—foundation staff work building campaigns and coalitions and engaging decision makers.
  • Ensure cohesion among the Water Foundation’s programs, including maintaining a high level of communication and collaboration across programs and program staff.
  • Serve as a thought partner to the CEO and Director of Operations and Finance in shaping the organization’s vision and trajectory, and lead the effort to operationalize that vision.
  • Ensure that key programmatic accomplishments are evaluated and can be leveraged and modified as needed for maximum impact.


Enable Greater Impact

  • In collaboration with the CEO and board, develop and execute strategies to expand the foundation’s geographical impact beyond California to other western states.
  • Build the foundation’s capacity to play a broader leadership and convening role within the philanthropic community, including enabling the foundation to identify emerging opportunities across the western region, align funders to advance mutual goals, and attract more funding into efforts to transform regional water use.
  • Align program strategies with available funding opportunities to expand organizational impact.
  • Work collaboratively with the CEO and program team to manage relationships with high-level partners, including government entities, NGOs, and other stakeholders to advance the Water Foundation’s vision and strategies.
  • Consult with external partners to better understand the shifting landscape of opportunities and challenges, and develop and refine Water Foundation strategies and programs accordingly.
  • Participate as needed in meetings, conferences, and other convenings to advance the Water Foundation’s interests.


Manage for Excellent Results

  • Attract, mentor, and retain high-performance program staff, and empower them to achieve exceptional results.
  • Supervise Senior Program Officers and help them set and achieve program and professional development goals.
  • Collaborate with the CEO and the Director of Operations and Finance to set and maintain strong organizational culture and direction for the Water Foundation, including supporting staff during the foundation’s transition and growth.
  • Collect and share knowledge that is generated by the programs both within the foundation and externally among key partners.



The successful candidate will have the following minimum qualifications:

  • 15+ years of experience in philanthropy, nonprofits, or government
  • Demonstrated leadership experience developing and implementing a strategic vision
  • Management experience inspiring and empowering successful teams
  • Knowledge of and experience in water issues highly valuable
  • Excellent interpersonal and relationship management skills and a high level of diplomacy
  • Proven ability to engage and motivate others in achieving mission-driven goals
  • Strong track-record of effectively leading a performance- and outcome-based program and staff
  • Strong work ethic, integrity, initiative, follow-through, and good judgment
  • Ability to balance competing priorities and tasks and deliver timely work products
  • Capacity to adapt rapidly to changing priorities, objectives, and situations
  • Flexibility in working style, marked by an ability to work closely with a range of personalities
  • Ability to resolve conflicts directly and professionally
  • Exceptional writing skills
  • Experience managing geographically dispersed staff preferred
  • Willingness and ability to engage in regular regional travel
  • Patience, grace, and humor under pressure
  • Commitment to and passion for the Water Foundation’s mission and vision


Compensation and Location

The Water Foundation offers an excellent benefits package and a competitive salary that is commensurate with experience. This position will be based in either the Water Foundation’s Oakland office or Sacramento office, with regular travel between these two offices.


To Apply

CEA Recruiting is assisting the Water Foundation with this search; all applications and inquiries should be directed to CEA. To be considered for this position, interested candidates must follow the link below to submit a resume, cover letter, and salary requirements through CEA’s job portal. This position will remain open until filled.


The Water Foundation is an equal opportunity employer.


CEA Recruiting works with leading environmental nonprofits, foundations, and businesses to recruit top talent and design effective organizational staffing strategies. For more information, visit

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