Senior Program Officer / Program Officer

Posted: June 17, 2024



Position Announcement – 2 Positions Available




About The Foundation

Polk Bros. Foundation ( is a private independent foundation dedicated to building and strengthening Chicago’s families and communities, especially those most affected by poverty and inequity. The Foundation focuses its work at the intersection of Chicago’s most pressing issues to address the complex roots and devastating effects of poverty, challenge inequity, and ensure that all Chicagoans can reach their full potential. Polk Bros. Foundation is one of the largest funders of Chicago nonprofits, granting $25 million to 400 nonprofit partners every year and managing approximately $425 million in assets.

Since its founding in 1988, the Foundation ( has partnered with more than 3,000 Chicago nonprofits to build strong communities and families, increase access to quality education and the arts, improve health, and strengthen organizations and the sectors in which they work. The Foundation also actively partners with local nonprofit organizations, other foundations, corporations, and government agencies to advance shared goals, such as the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities. During 2020-22, the Foundation’s Board approved an additional $17 million in Equitable Recovery grants to help Chicago rebuild in a way that addressed longstanding racial inequities. Since then, Foundation staff and board have been doing a deep dive to identify how learnings from the Equitable Recovery grants and our focus on racial equity can be more fully and more intentionally infused into the Foundation’s overall grantmaking (


About You, The Ideal Candidate

You embrace the Foundation’s service orientation and culture of accessibility, transparency, humility, and empathy. You demonstrate an open, caring attitude in working with others, and possess a high level of written and oral communication skills, attention to detail, and commitment to problem-solving. You enjoy collaborating with stakeholders with integrity, forthrightness, and genuineness and you have a proven record of deep listening, thoughtful facilitation, and connecting ideas across multiple colleagues, sectors, and issues to meet shared outcomes.  You feel equally adept at learning from and working with people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and you hold a deep appreciation and passion for Chicago and its residents, and a commitment to the Foundation’s mission.


About the Positions

The Foundation is currently seeking to fill two key positions on its program staff:

  • Program Officer
  • Senior Program Officer

Strong candidates will have expertise and experience in one or more of the following areas:

  • Housing Affordability, including knowledge of community-led and innovative programs, practices, and policies that can increase the supply of and access to affordable rental housing and home ownership in disinvested communities and communities of color, and decrease barriers that perpetuate racial and ethnic gaps. (Note: knowledge of approaches to addressing homelessness is a plus, but another, current Foundation program officer will be primarily responsible for this area.)
  • Education, including knowledge of proven methods and policies to accelerate student learning especially for students from historically or currently marginalized groups, foster connectedness to school, and improve school climate and school leadership in the K-12 system and/or approaches and policies to improve college and post-secondary affordability, access, success, and connections to pathways into jobs with career progression.
  • Community Violence Prevention, including knowledge of community-led and innovative solutions to reducing gun violence and gun violence involvement, especially by those at highest risk; increasing community safety; and cross-sector approaches that can address cycles of violence within families and communities.

In all grantmaking areas, we are increasingly interested in fundamentally changing the conditions that uphold racial injustice and cause racial disparities, and helping make progress toward a more just and equitable future for our city.  We recognize that the most promising solutions are interconnected and frequently community-led and community-driven.


About The Work

The Foundation’s program staff are subject-matter experts who operate with a team-based approach to enhance strategy alignment and to illuminate cross-cutting opportunities for greater impact. These positions work under the direction of the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. The primary duties of both roles are:

Strategy Development and Implementation:
  • Collaborate with the program team and Foundation leadership to shape, implement, and assess the Foundation’s grantmaking, with a lens of ongoing learning and improvement to maximize the impact of the Foundation’s grantmaking resources.
  • Using input from grantee partners and community and field research, develop metrics and assessment methods to track the aggregate impact of funded programs on the portfolio’s objectives and to make informed decisions and improvements.
  • Identify and distill trends (opportunities, challenges, and innovations) from research, grantee proposals and reports, community information, and other learning opportunities.
  • Prepare and present reports for internal and external stakeholders, providing updates on program and portfolio achievements, challenges, and recommendations. Support quarterly and annual granting analysis and the development of learning and action plans.
  • Collaborate with grantees and other partners to strengthen programs and systems based on community input and research.
  • Identify and build relationships and mutual trust and respect with grantee partners, community leaders, and potential grantees working in areas relevant to the Foundation’s priorities and goals.
  • Review and evaluate grant proposals. Conduct thorough due diligence including proposal review and site visits to analyze the potential impact, feasibility, and alignment with the Foundation’s grantmaking priorities.
  • Prepare written grant recommendations for review by the Foundation’s Board of Directors at six meetings throughout the year.
  • Review the implementation of funded projects, including monitoring progress, ensuring accountability, and evaluating outcomes to ensure alignment with portfolio objectives.
  • Ensure accurate entry of all grantmaking documentation in the Foundation’s database system.
  • Manage/Co-manage grantmaking portfolio budget.
Relationship Building, Collaboration and Advocacy:
  • Build and maintain strong relationships with partner organizations, community leaders, peer funders and other stakeholders to facilitate effective collaboration and greater collective impact related to the grantmaking portfolio.
  • Represent the organization at convenings, professional networks, collaborations, and meetings to develop shared learning about the field and create greater momentum and stronger conditions for impact.
Culture and Organizational Strength:
  • Support the Foundation’s internal efforts to build and operationalize a strong organizational culture that is rooted in equity, inclusion, and mutual respect and aligned with our values and vision.
  • Contribute to the full health and strength of the Foundation’s operations and work.
  • Participate in and meaningfully contribute to Foundation-wide strategic planning and implementation work.
  • Actively participate in staff, Board, and committee meetings, as well as other special projects and duties as assigned.


Additional Responsibilities of the Senior Program Officer:  While the duties of the Program Officer and Senior Program Officer roles are similar, as described above, the Senior Program Officer additionally has deeper and broader mastery of the subject matter and takes a more active leadership role in:

  • Determining the aggregate impact of the grantmaking portfolio, across all the relevant grants, and articulating its contribution toward the Foundation’s goals and priorities, and formulating clear, evidence-based strategic recommendations.
  • Identifying, forming, and leading external collaborations and professional networks, recognizing and assessing opportunities where collaboration can lead to greater impact and respond to key opportunities.
  • Identifying and making recommendations to Foundation leadership regarding opportunities to use communications, convening, and other approaches to augment impact for the Foundation’s work and for the field.
  • Contributing to the overall strength and function of the Foundation’s work and overall team, and giving attention to how the grantmaking role integrates with the other functions and staff roles.


Experience and Core Competencies

We recognize that the right candidate for these roles may come from a range of educational and experiential backgrounds, including, but not limited to strategy, project management, communications, policy development, grants management, coalition-building or prior work in community-based, nonprofit, and/or social impact organizations or initiatives, and may also have lived experience that offers deeper insight into the grantmaking programmatic focuses.

Successful candidates will demonstrate progressively responsible work with respect to one or more of the programmatic focuses described above (Housing Affordability, Education, Community Violence Prevention):

Senior Program Officer:  A bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 10 years of related full-time professional work experience (in which the candidate has established themselves as a core contributor in their respective field/areas), or a combination of equivalent experience and training is required. Master’s degree preferred.

Program Officer:  A bachelor’s degree and five or more years of related full-time professional work experience, or a combination of equivalent experience and training is required. Master’s degree preferred.

To carry out the responsibilities outlined above, successful candidates will additionally demonstrate the following core competencies:

Knowledge of the Field and Commitment to Impact:
  • A deep appreciation and passion for Chicago and its residents, and a steadfast commitment to the Foundation’s mission
  • Strong knowledge of the Chicago nonprofit community, as well as an understanding of nonprofit organizational development and community-based issues in Chicago
  • Field experience in relevant programmatic areas
  • Experience in multi-disciplinary, cross-sector, and collaborative settings
  • An understanding of the operation and role of foundations is helpful; prior grant-making experience is not required
Analytic Skills:
  • Demonstrated investigative bent and informed judgment about program development and management; the ability, through dialogue, informal research and prior experience, to understand the potential impact and feasibility of proposed programs and initiatives
  • Superior analytic and writing skills, including the ability to assess and synthesize complex information into a clear, concise summary and into effective, accessible written and visual presentations
  • Demonstrated ability to monitor and analyze impact, trends and research and translate into clear, creative, evidence-based strategic recommendations
  • Knowledge of nonprofit financial statements is helpful but not required
Organizational and Software Skills:
  • Exceptional management skills, deadline management, sense of responsibility and accountability
  • Excellent project management skills with demonstrated ability to execute and follow through to achieve intended results
  • Demonstrated ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously and prioritize accordingly
  • Strong experience with Microsoft Word and PowerPoint and proficiency with other programs of the Microsoft Office Suite. Experience in using database systems also preferred
Collaboration and Interpersonal Skills:
  • Demonstrated ability to work as part of a highly collaborative team to develop, implement, evaluate and inform long-term, client-centered projects and initiatives
  • Ability to work comfortably and develop relationships with people who hold diverse perspectives
  • Personal and professional commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion is evident in how they think, act, and contribute to a team
  • Highly developed emotional intelligence and demonstrated ability to use interpersonal skills in respectful and collaborative ways
  • Comfort and satisfaction being part of a learning and evolving organization, which can sometimes move quickly and other times slow down to absorb and explore
  • Flexibility, commitment to teamwork, curiosity, patience, and a sense of humor. Capacity to work amicably in a small office with high volume of work
  • A deep sense of personal responsibility and accountability
  • Commitment to the Foundation’s tradition of continuous improvement
 The Foundation’s Work Environment
  • While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to talk, see or hear and use hands to operate equipment such as computers, phones, and other typical office equipment. Reasonable accommodations will enable qualified individuals with disabilities to perform the position’s essential functions.
  • The office is fully accessible, but other sites to which the employee is required to travel may not be.
  • The Foundation is committed to and seeks to maintain a diverse, fair, and equitable workplace where everyone is a valued member of the team. We are proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants and employees receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, pregnancy, disability, age, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state, or local law.


Work Schedule

The Foundation is currently working a hybrid schedule, with at least two common days (Wednesdays and Thursdays) in its downtown office and occasional other days as needed. The hybrid schedule is potentially subject to change; any such change would be with ample notice.



The Foundation offers competitive compensation

  • For the Program Officer role: $95,000 to $110,000, commensurate with experience.
  • For the Senior Program Officer role: $125,000 to $140,000, commensurate with experience.

The Foundation offers an excellent and very generous benefits package, including health, dental and vision insurance (employee coverage is 100% employer-paid, and 60% of any spouse/dependents), life insurance; short and long-term disability coverage, a 401(k)-retirement plan (with a 12% employer contribution, beginning in the second year of employment), generous paid time off including holidays, and a substantial matching gift program.


Application Process

Polk Bros Foundation has hired Sheila Leahy with SAL Consulting, Inc. to manage the search. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and interested parties are encouraged to apply early. We anticipate filling the positions in late July, with an expected late August start date.

Please submit applications to [email protected] with only YOUR NAME and THE POSITION (i.e.., Program Officer or Senior Program Officer) you are applying for in the subject line. If you do not receive a confirmation of receipt within 24 hours of submitting your application, please contact SAL Consulting, Inc. at [email protected]  Applications must include:

  1. A resume, and
  2. A cover letter that speaks to how your experience meets the needs outlined above.