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Chief Program Officer

Natural Resources Defense Council
San Francisco, California, US
Closing date
May 23, 2022

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Consultancy/Private Sector
Conservation science
Climate Change
Salary Type
Employment Type
Full time

NRDC is a non-profit environmental advocacy organization. We use law, science, and the support of 3.1 million members and online activists to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and to ensure the rights of all people to clean air, clean water, and healthy communities. NRDC was founded in 1970 and our people helped write some of America's bedrock environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act and many of the implementing regulations. Today, our team of more than 700 lawyers, scientists, economists, policy advocates, communications experts, and others work across the United States and the globe from our offices in Bozeman, Montana; Chicago; New York; San Francisco; Santa Monica; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.

NRDC is seeking a Chief Program Officer to work with the Executive team from any of our US offices.

Position SummaryThe Chief Program Officer (CPO) will have strategic and operational responsibility for NRDC's four programs: Climate & Clean Energy, People & Communities, Nature, and International, as well as NRDC's offices in China and India, with a focus on the following three areas: program strategy and management; fundraising and representation; and knowledge management. The position is a part of the senior management team responsible for the organization's overall health and impact. The CPO oversees a budget of more than $100 millionand a staff of 370. In coordination with the chief capacities officer, the CPO is charged with the overall advocacy strategy for the organization. The CPO will be internally and externally focused, serving as a proxy for the president at various external events, in addition to fundraising responsibilities in partnership with Development.


Program Strategy and Management

* Work with and support the team at NRDC, defining, building, and delivering NRDC's program objectives, strategies, and annual plans; implement cutting-edge innovations; establish game-changing partnerships; and ensure successful delivery of outcomes.
* Co-chair NRDC's Advocacy Committee, which helps decide and drive advocacy goals for the organization (with the CCO serving as the other co-chair).
* Aim to ensure our program work focuses on the interlinked challenges of environmental inequality, racial and social injustice, and economic insecurity, in collaboration with the Equity Center.
* Attract, develop, mentor, and retain high-performance team members, empowering them to elevate their level of responsibility, span of control, and performance.
* Provide leadership in development of inter-team communication and cohesiveness, sustaining culture and supporting staff during a period of rapid organizational growth.
* Work with staff to develop systems to ensure consistent, high-quality project management.
* Help oversee quality of finance and administration, fundraising, and communications in support of programs.
* Collaborate with CCO to decide on how to allocate NRDC resources to support program priorities.
* Champion equity, diversity, and inclusion by role-modeling values-based leadership principles and centering this in decision-making.

Fundraising and Representation

* As an external representative and ambassador of NRDC, play a leading role in setting the agenda and driving outcomes for our priority campaigns.
* Expand fundraising activities to support programs and the growth of NRDC, cultivating existing and developing new funder relationships.
* Support the CEO and other members of the executive team in building relationships with key stakeholders, including government officials, partner NGOs, and donors, as well as trustee stewardship.
* Represent NRDC's Programs and present reports to the Board of Trustees and relevant board committees.
* Serve as proxy for the president and CEO at various events.

Knowledge Management

* Help ensure the quality of NRDC's knowledge products.
* Develop the necessary systems and tools to better support the collection and sharing of knowledge that is generated by programs, in collaboration with the Strategy unit.
* Ensure that key project outcomes are documented, celebrated, and evaluated for lessons learned, in collaboration with the Strategy unit.
* Work collaboratively with the senior management team to integrate cross-program activities and functions.


NRDC is working to achieve a vision of a more inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous world-one in which we are standing up for climate, nature, health, and equity. To meet our most pressing environmental challenges, it is building ambitious solutions to fight climate change; protect endangered species and the wilderness; eliminate toxic chemicals in the air, food, and water; create a roadmap for sustainable cities; and engage millions of people in the movement for a healthier world. This is an exceptional opportunity for a dynamic, collaborative, and inspirational leader. Our next CPO will be relentless in their commitment to NRDC's mission and strategy and will bring proven leadership, strategy, and relationship management experience to the position.

* Leadership and Strategy: The candidate will have a demonstrated track record of effectively leading a performance-based and outcome-based program and staff. The individual will have developed and executed strategies that have taken an organization or program to the next stage of impact and growth. They will be skilled in developing strategy. Importantly, they will have led teams that have delivered major policy or program outcomes at the national or global level. Expertise in one or more of NRDC's current areas of programmatic work is highly desirable.
* Communication and Influence: As a voice/advocate for NRDC, the CPO will have strong verbal and written communication skills. They will be a persuasive, credible, and articulate communicator with excellent interpersonal skills. They will be well regarded by partners with whom they have worked. Preferably, this person will have served as an effective and well-recognized spokesperson for mission-driven causes at the national or global level.
* Team Building and Development: The successful candidate will have recruited, managed, and developed a strong team of staff, program/project managers, and development professionals. This individual will serve as a "player/coach" to motivate and mentor their team, working to inspire action both inside and outside of NRDC.

Qualifications and Experience:

* Demonstrable alignment and deep commitment to NRDC's mission and purpose with an ability to communicate this passion to others through a positive and high-energy attitude and a commitment to working collaboratively with peers and colleagues with integrity.
* Proven track record in designing and implementing program strategies that have delivered major outcomes at the national or global levels.
* Broad knowledge of NRDC's Areas of Work, and credible expertise and standing in at least one of our programs.
* Experience and competence with advancing equity, co-creating strategy and analysis with grassroots/community/justice partners.
* Demonstrated experience managing a high-performance team with a deep commitment to diversity, inclusiveness, and empowerment.
* Demonstrated fundraising experience, preferably with foundations and major donors.
* Comprehensive working knowledge of program planning, organizational structure, budgeting, and administrative operations.
* Ability to establish credibility and work in collaboration with diverse groups of people, including attorneys, scientists, advocates, policy experts, and grassroots organizers.
* Ability and enthusiasm to understand and reconcile different perspectives and develop clear, effective processes for decision-making.
* A team player who can interrelate and operate effectively with peers and other associates within a collegial, yet demanding, work environment.
* Can effectively engage a variety of constituencies, manage multiple tasks simultaneously, and thrive in a complex environment with multiple priorities.
* Has a good sense of humor, listens to others, and accepts different opinions; is cooperative and able to build bridges.

NRDC is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, both in our work and in our workplace. We believe that celebrating and actively welcoming diverse voices and perspectives is essential to solving the planet's most pressing environmental problems, and we encourage applications from candidates whose identities have been historically under-represented in the environmental movement.

We are an equal opportunity employer and do not discriminate in hiring or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state, or local law. Pursuant to the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance, we will consider for employment qualified applicants with arrest and conviction records.

We offer competitive salaries, excellent benefits, and a supportive working environment. Salary is based on a nonprofit scale and is commensurate with skills and experience.

Since March 2020, NRDC's offices have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You will be associated with one of our offices, but until circumstances allow us to re-open, we will continue to support NRDCers with remote working arrangements.

To apply, visit and upload your rsum and cover letter. Please mention where you saw this posting and upload any additional materials that showcase your abilities. Due to the high volume of applications, we will contact only those candidates we would like to interview. Please no phone calls, emails, or in-person rsum drop-offs.

If you experience technical problems while applying or if you are a person with a disability and need assistance applying online, please reach out to iCIMS Customer Care at 1-800-889-4422.

For more about NRDC, visit

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