Human Rights Program Director (HSF)

About Heising-Simons Foundation

Unlocking Knowledge, Opportunity, and Possibilities

The Heising-Simons Foundation is a family foundation that works with its many partners to advance sustainable solutions in climate and clean energy, enable groundbreaking research in science, enhance the education of our youngest learners, and support human rights for all people. The Human Rights program at the Foundation is focused on two main issue areas: criminal justice reform and immigrant rights in the United States.

Mark Heising and Liz Simons each grew up with a tradition of giving, learning about the importance of the communities that surrounded them, and of the value of philanthropy. In 2007, they established the Foundation, and were joined on the Foundation’s Board by their daughter, Caitlin Heising.

The Foundation operates with the following core values:

  • Humility: We recognize that we don’t have all the answers, and we seek to be open-minded and responsive as we continually learn.
  • Courage: We do not shy away from tough issues. We stand with our grantees and partners and speak out on the issues we care about as a foundation.
  • Justice: We believe all people should be treated fairly, with dignity and respect.
  • Opportunity: We believe all people deserve the chance to live up to their full potential.
  • Sustainability: We commit to long-term progress and solutions.
  • Innovation: We believe in creativity and novel approaches driven by curiosity, research, and strategic collaborations. We are willing to take risks on potentially breakthrough initiatives.
  • Relationships: We care about the people we work with and support. We seek to build relationships in which our partners will be open with feedback and hold us accountable as much as we do them.
  • Integrity: We believe in honesty, transparency, and living up to these values.

The Foundation’s Board and over 30-person staff feel incredibly fortunate to work with, and support, great leaders and organizations in vital endeavors. In 2017, the Foundation awarded more than $75M, of which $9M was for Human Rights. The 2018 Human Rights grantmaking budget is $12M, and significant future growth is anticipated. Since its first grant in 2007, the Foundation has awarded more than $338M.

The Foundation is based in Los Altos, CA, and is in the process of opening offices in San Francisco, CA.

For more information on the Heising-Simons Foundation, please visit

The Opportunity

The Foundation is seeking a Human Rights Program Director (Director).

The Human Rights program is rooted in a belief in the inherent dignity of all people. In the United States and around the world, too many people are denied full and equal rights and participation in the political, social, and economic institutions that shape their lives.

In its grantmaking, the Foundation works toward achieving a more just world where people are equally valued regardless of gender, race, class, or citizenship. The Foundation feels a sense of urgency to be responsive to human rights abuse and inequity in the United States, particularly around the issue areas of criminal justice reform and immigrant rights. They believe that long-term change requires sustained commitment, investment in those closest to the problems, and working together toward solutions. Their grantees serve communities directly and build power to improve lives.

The Director will work with members of the Board and the Human Rights team, which currently consists of two Program Officers and a Program Associate, to establish and implement a creative vision for grantmaking and activities. There is a clear plan for significant growth of both the program budget and team capacity.

The Director will report to the President and CEO, Deanna Gomby, and can be based in Los Altos or San Francisco, CA.

Primary Responsibilities

The Director is responsible for the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of Human Rights grantmaking strategies and initiatives, including the development of a strategic plan for the program. They will manage and grow the Human Rights program team and serve as an essential member of the Foundation’s senior leadership team.

Other specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Develop annual administrative and grants budgets for the Human Rights program area and monitor progress and use of resources.
  • Maintain a grantmaking portfolio, including soliciting proposals, conducting site visits, summarizing proposals for review by the Board, and reporting on progress to Foundation management and the Board.
  • Regularly report to the Board and the President and CEO on the overall effectiveness of funding in the Human Rights program area.
  • Participate in the Foundation’s overall strategic growth as a highly collaborative and supportive member of the senior leadership team.
  • Develop and implement activities designed to amplify the effects of Foundation grantmaking (e.g., convenings, communications and dissemination of results, connecting with relevant public and private stakeholders).
  • Provide non-financial support to grantees, including advice concerning capacity-building, fund development, projects, and evaluation.
  • Forge partnerships and collaborations with partner foundations and other stakeholders.
  • Remain abreast of current policy discussions, grassroots activities, trends, and research in the Human Rights field.
  • Represent the Foundation, its Human Rights grantmaking, and Human Rights issues to external audiences through speaking, writing, and other opportunities.
  • Work with the Foundation’s communications team to broaden the impact of the program.
  • Grow, supervise, and manage members of the Human Rights team toward achievement of program area and professional goals.

Candidate Profile

Strong candidates will offer the following professional and personal qualities, skills, and characteristics:

Deep Content Expertise

Ideal candidates will offer content knowledge around the issues related to criminal justice reform and immigrant rights, as well as an understanding of the landscape and key players, a relevant network, and facility with evolving thinking and research relevant to these areas. This expertise should be rooted in an understanding of both communities and of policy and law, and the impact of each on the other. While not a prerequisite for the role, strong candidates may also bring experience in philanthropy, particularly with growing high-impact funding programs. In addition, an understanding of the roles philanthropy, pooled funds, and nonprofits play in the field of Human Rights would be beneficial.

Vision for Social Change, Equity, and Justice

The Director will be driven by a personal and professional mission of social change and will have the ability to serve as a credible, respected, and inspirational voice in the philanthropic and grantee communities. They will have a reputation for a commitment to social justice and equity, as well as a proven ability to think transformationally and design and implement successful, innovative, bold strategies for sustainable and scalable reform. The Director will also bring a racial justice lens and understanding of how race and equity impact the movements that the Foundation is working to build and support, and the ability to help the Foundation deepen its own diversity, equity, and inclusion values and work.

Strategic Leadership

With a track record of field and people leadership, the Director will be able to build on the existing foundation of the Human Rights program by creating a cohesive strategy for long-term impact and helping the Foundation hone its place and voice in the Human Rights field. The Director will also be excited about the opportunity to work in partnership with internal staff, Board, and external partners to advance the Human Rights program and the Foundation’s overall impact in philanthropy. Strong candidates will offer 10+ years of experience leading strategies, people, and teams.

Exceptional Relationship Building and Communication Skills

The Director will offer exceptional oral and written communications skills, including the ability to be an excellent listener and connect with a wide range of stakeholders. They will have a track record of developing trusting, productive relationships in the field, and will operate with a deep sense of authentic respect for grantees and the individuals they serve, as well as a partnership-driven approach to grantmaking and social change. The Director will have the ability to thrive in a family foundation environment with engaged Board members who are deeply passionate about, and have deep expertise in, the areas they fund.

Collaborative Leadership

The Director will be committed to leading with humility, approachability, and accessibility. They will be a mentor, facilitator, and coach, committed to helping team members and external partners grow and learn. The Director will be savvy about developing collaborative partnerships, knowing when to lead and when to let others lead, and will always seek to ensure that the Human Rights program and the Foundation is a highly respected funder known for integrity, strategy, and thoughtful grantmaking. 

Analytical Skills, Creativity, and Good Judgment

The Director will have the maturity and sound judgment required to act thoughtfully and lead effectively. They will have keen analytical skills and the ability to consider multiple perspectives, think critically, evaluate risk, identify potential answers to complex problems, and explain and justify recommendations to diverse audiences. The Director will be politically astute and exercise good judgment in a range of situations.

In addition, the Director will bring humility, empathy, optimism, a sense of humor, and the desire be a productive member of a community of people at work, respecting differences while working toward shared goals, and will be able to constructively participate in the development of a growing organization.

Compensation & Benefits

The Foundation offers an excellent benefits package and salaries that are commensurate with education and experience.

Contact - to Apply

Molly Brennan of Koya Leadership Partners has been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role, please submit your materials here. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

The Heising-Simons Foundation is an equal opportunity employer. The Foundation welcomes a diverse pool of applicants and makes employment decisions on the basis of merit. Foundation policy prohibits the unlawful discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, age, marital or caregiver status, physical disability, mental disability, military service, legally protected medical condition, prior record of arrest or conviction, or any other consideration made unlawful by federal, state, or local laws. Reasonable accommodation will be made so that qualified applicants with disabilities may participate in the application process. Please advise, in writing, any special needs at the time of application.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with mission-driven organizations, institutions of higher education, and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information, visit

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  • Biz Ghormley
    published this page in Job Board 2018-04-28 00:37:15 -0400