Ford Foundation
  • Location
    New York, New York
  • Sector
    Non Profit
  • Experience
  • Posted
    Oct 24

Position description

The Ford Foundation seeks a thought leader, subject matter expert and exceptional people manager to direct its work on Cities and States. Based in New York, the Director will manage a small team of program staff who are working toward delivering the strategic goals of this area of work that aims to strengthen networks and systems at the state level from a variety of perspectives.

Reporting to the Vice President of Inclusive Economies and Markets and working as part of the program leadership team, the director will help mobilize constituencies and ideas for positive change by supporting grantees’ organizational stability, capacity and effectiveness, capitalizing on partnerships and acting as a public voice. The Director is not a grant-maker but rather serves as a strategist and guide to their team to ensure effective grant-making aligned to strategy. In addition, they interact periodically with the foundation’s ten regional offices outside the U.S., partnering with the regional directors and providing subject-matter expertise.

The ideal candidate will demonstrate exceptional people and subject-matter leadership including a passion for social justice and reducing inequities with cultural awareness. They will have a strong commitment to creating and reinforcing a transparent, accountable, and mutually respectful work environment; foster the growth of staff and instill teams with a sense of shared commitment and purpose.

The Director oversees three U.S.-focused programs: Just Cities and Regions, which seeks to promote housing affordability and equitable land use for low-income people in America’s metro areas; a States initiative, which is focused on building long-term strength and capacity for organizations and networks that are working together to achieve social justice outcomes at the state level; our Detroit program, which reflects the foundation’s commitment to its birthplace, and advances efforts to achieve an equitable recovery through investments in housing and community development, capacity building for grassroots and civic organizations, state-level engagement, collaboration with local and regional philanthropic organizations and other support for key partner institutions. Each of the three programs has an innovative and well-defined strategy, making the primary task one of excellence and creativity in strategy implementation.

The States and Detroit programs include grantmakers from all of the foundation’s U.S. program areas. This cross-programmatic approach has produced uncommonly robust strategies from the weaving together of very different approaches, diverse grantee networks and fields of expertise. It also gives the Director of Cities & States numerous opportunities to innovate and enhance collaboration with peer program directors in a range of fields across the foundation.


Strategy Development and Management

  • Periodically refresh and implement program strategy
  • Work with the foundation’s strategy and learning team to build a monitoring framework to assess impact and synthesize learning; work with team to determine and agree to formal evaluation processes
  • Promote shared learning venues across programmatic teams for organizational-wide learning
  • Review and approve all grants for designated thematic area, consistent with program strategy and the foundation’s approval guidelines
  • Work with the Office of Communications to ensure program teams are optimizing communications, both proactive and responsive, to maximize the impact of our grant making, convening, thought leadership, and other tools

Program Leadership

  • Serve as an ambassador of the work, internally and externally - represent the foundation and its work to the government, media, academia, business, philanthropy, donor community, and civic leaders relevant to the thematic area through meetings, updates, speeches, briefings and interviews
  • Serve as thought partner to the Program Vice Presidents and Executive Vice President for Programs on the use of foundation discretionary budgets and design and execution of special program efforts, such as time-limited initiatives or well-defined exploratory work.

People Management & Development

Serve as manager, mentor and coach to all staff. This includes:

  • Manage Program Officers in New York and one in Detroit in all their grant making activities.
  • Direct the development of grant making plans for team and coordinate with other directors in the development of grant making plans for other program areas to increase foundation-wide impact
  • Ensure grant making plans for Program Officers focus on the delivery of thematic goals; and provide subject-matter coaching and mentoring as needed
  • Hold responsibility for performance management of the team as a whole, and direct reports individually; Demonstrate regular and ongoing conversation with staff about goals and progress, providing clear and constructive feedback and coaching for success.
  • Conduct thorough annual performance appraisals for direct-reports. Conduct mid-year ‘check-ins’ with direct-reports to discuss progress against annual goals and adjust goals as needed. Provide performance input to Thematic Area Directors on Program Officers in other program areas, to be included in the annual appraisal.
  • Ensure the same commitment toward management of staff and performance feedback is being demonstrated to all staff on the team through their immediate managers. Mentor and coach direct-reports who have management responsibility on how to be a fair and effective manager.
  • Manage workforce needs, individual and team building by proactively thinking ahead and working with the Office of Talent and Human Resources to ensure the effective planning and implementation of talent management strategies (e.g., hiring, professional development, contract renewal processes, temporary support needs, etc).

Budget Management

  • Regularly review budgets and propose adjustments as necessary; undertake quarterly reviews of grant making plans with Program Officers and Program Vice President
  • Allocate the approved thematic budget to Program Officers for grant-making purposes, based on the strategic goals of the thematic areas and lines of work
  • Ensure oversight and stewardship of foundation resources through timely and diligent oversight of purchasing, travel, and consultancy approval processes


  • BA/BS plus at least 10 years’ experience leading strategies, people and teams, or equivalent combination of education and experience
  • Subject-matter expertise in the relevant thematic area, and/or demonstration of strong generalist cross-cutting work in social justice arena
  • Exceptional leadership presence – internally and externally
  • Exceptional communications skills - strong active listening skills, constructive verbal and written skills, strong public presentation skills
  • Demonstrated ability to be a productive member of a community of people at work, respecting differences while working toward shared goals, comfort with periods of ambiguity, constructive participation in on-going organizational development

TRAVEL: Domestic travel expected, approximately 20%; some travel is directly related to grantmaking, but also to attend team conferences, retreats and meetings.

Alignment to Culture and Values

  • Commitment to the Foundation’s mission and core values of equity, openness, collaboration, trust, accountability and urgency
  • Personal qualities of humility, capacity for self-reflection, and a sense of humor
  • Discretion and ability to handle confidential issues
  • Action-orientated and entrepreneurial self-starter who can work well independently and in teams

Application instructions

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