Senior Program Officer, Midwest Climate and Energy

McKnight FoundationMinneapolis, Minnesota

About the McKnight Foundation

The McKnight Foundation is a fourth-generation family foundation that was established by William L. McKnight and his wife, Maude L. McKnight, in 1953. As an early leader of 3M, Mr. McKnight earned a reputation for spurring innovation and recognizing the creative potential in others — practices that live on at the Foundation and are reflected in its core values.

Driven by its mission to advance a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive, the McKnight Foundation works across many disciplines, sectors, and geographic boundaries. Its diverse programs are united in a quest to improve our shared fate. The Foundation envisions a world that recognizes the dignity of every human being, a world where we celebrate the creativity of the arts and sciences and come together to protect our one and only Earth.

McKnight is a philanthropic leader based in Minneapolis and grants more than $90 million annually across the Midwest, U.S. and internationally. McKnight prioritizes working in partnership with communities and approaching complex challenges with curiosity and a willingness to take bold steps to achieve significant impact. The Foundation brings a diverse set of tools and resources to meet its mission including grantmaking, investments, collaboration, policy reform, research, and strategic communications.

Learn more about McKnight Foundation.

About the Midwest Climate & Energy Program

In 2019, the McKnight Foundation Board of Directors approved a new mission statement, a new Strategic Framework, and several shifts in programmatic investments. This included a significant expansion of its Midwest Climate & Energy Program which is has doubled to $32 million over the past two years, reflecting the urgency of the climate crisis and the high priority it has been given by the Board. The Climate program is poised as a regional and national leader with an opportunity to demonstrate how to accelerate a just economic transition that results in meeting decarbonization and equity goals.

The goal of the Midwest Climate & Energy (MC&E) program is to take bold action on the climate crisis by dramatically cutting carbon pollution in the Midwest by 2030. Achieving this ambitious goal, at the necessary speed and scale, also requires a healthy democracy, grounded in racial and economic justice, one in which all people have the voice and power to bring about change to the issues affecting their lives and livelihoods. The Midwest Climate & Energy program is pursuing this strategy in close partnership with the Vibrant & Equitable Communities program, supporting communities in building powerful multiracial movements for change.

The MC&E Program envisions a thriving, carbon-neutral Midwestern economy by transforming the energy system through clean power, electrifying transportation and buildings, sequestering carbon on working lands, and strengthening democratic participation. Anchored in McKnight’s core values, the work engages approaches, policies, and processes that empower community voice, mobilize collective action, and address racial equity within the context of climate solutions.

McKnight’s Midwest Climate and Energy program also engages in innovative mission-aligned efforts beyond traditional grantmaking, from how they invest their endowment to their efforts to reimagine and rebuild a more equitable and sustainable Twin Cities.

  • To better align their investments with their mission, in October of 2021 McKnight announced that they would achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across their $3 billion endowment by 2050 at the latest.
  • Through the recently launched GroundBreak Coalition, McKnight sees a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to define a new paradigm for community development finance that finally addresses systemic racism, rights historical wrongs, closes racial gaps in income and wealth, and boldly meets the climate moment. 

The Opportunity

The Senior Program Officer role presents an exciting opportunity for a seasoned philanthropic leader with climate and equity expertise to help shape and guide the Foundation’s ambitious climate initiatives. They will use their networks and knowledge of diverse philanthropic interventions to support and accelerate innovations and strategies to dramatically cut carbon pollution in the Midwest by 2030.

Reporting to the Program Director of Midwest Climate and Energy, the Senior Program Officer will oversee and build out significant grant portfolios, donor collaboratives, and partnerships with intermediary funders and actively collaborate with McKnight’s Impact Investing team. The MC&E program, grounded in racial and economic justice, engages with colleagues on the Impact Investing team and the Vibrant & Equitable Communities program team to support efforts that build power through partnership to achieve systems change at scale to advance bold and equitable action on the climate crisis.

Key Responsibilities

Strategic Program Implementation

  • Play a lead role in the design and implementation of one or more decarbonization program strategy areas (i.e. transforming the energy system, electrifying transportation and buildings, and sequestering carbon in working lands in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest). This includes identifying gaps and opportunities in the field ripe for philanthropic engagement and executing a responsive grantmaking strategy to deploy resources.
  • Manage a portfolio of grants that support transforming the energy system, electrifying transportation and buildings, and sequestering carbon on working lands in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with existing grantees and new prospects to learn from current work, explore emergent opportunities, and build out new concepts.
  • Actively engage with McKnight colleagues in Impact Investing and the Board’s Mission Investment Committee to identify and analyze mission and program related investments that advance program goals.

External Partnerships

  • Lead key partnerships with funding intermediaries and oversee new and expanded investments in and through these partners.
  • Convene and collaborate with advocacy organizations (including but not limited to those focused on climate justice, environmental protection, democratic participation, and clean energy), foundations, academic institutions, regulators, and policy makers to support cross-sector collaborations that reinforce program goals.
  • Serve as a representative of the Foundation and foster strong relationships amount peer funding partners, nonprofits, policymakers, government stakeholders, and others to strength and shape the field’s response to and support of carbon reduction.

Thought Leadership and Advocacy

  • Represent the Foundation and the MC&E Program to external audiences and provide leadership in their efforts to achieve economy-wide greenhouse gas emission reductions while advancing a commitment to racial equity.
  • Serve as a resource on technical and policy issues relating to energy transformation. Track market and political trends to identify high-leverage opportunities for philanthropic intervention.
  • Stand as a trusted voice on the interdependence of climate and racial and economic justice.
  • Lead the development of quantitative and qualitative goals and metrics to measure progress against program goals and manage communications with program leadership, senior leadership, and the board.

Ideal Candidate

McKnight seeks an individual who demonstrates an unwavering passion for and commitment to solving the climate crisis and addressing racial equity within the context of climate solutions. They are a deeply curious and credible thought leader in climate philanthropy who brings a sophisticated understanding of the technical, political, and economic pathways to decarbonization in the changed economies of the Upper Midwest.

The Senior Program Officer leads with a strategic mindset and brings a proven ability to identify and translate strategic vision into tangible action and outcomes. They possess a combination of analytical skills and the ability to influence change in highly nuanced contexts. The preferred candidate has a tolerance for and thrives in ambiguity with an ability to organize, prioritize, and meet deadlines in fast-paced environments with multiple and competing demands.

The Senior Program Officer will have a demonstrated track record of building strong relationships, a high-level of emotional intelligence, and the ability to be versatile and diplomatic. They will operate from a place of respect for the organization’s grantees and help to create an environment of continuous learning with partner organizations and sector experts. Naturally inquisitive, they are comfortable reaching beyond their current areas of expertise with the agility to quickly become knowledgeable across all aspects of McKnight’s work.  

Confident, with exceptional oral and written communication skills, the successful candidate exhibits sound judgment, a high degree of discretion and tact. They are skilled at mounting persuasive arguments and effectively presenting new and complex ideas to audiences of varying backgrounds, from community members to elected officials.

The Senior Program Officer actively participates in the Foundation’s work to integrate justice and equity into all facets of its programming. They are an empathetic listener and natural collaborator with a personal commitment to expanding their own cultural competency.


Candidates must have a minimum of 10 years of philanthropic experience in climate and energy issues on a local, regional, or national level.

Deep knowledge and experience in climate philanthropy is required with a preference for candidates whose philanthropic experience extends beyond grantmaking to include working in donor collaborations and with investment capital.

Direct experience working on carbon reduction generally or specifically within the areas in which the McKnight Foundation is placing big bets (Transform the Energy System, Electrify Transportation and Buildings, Carbon Sequestration on working lands in the Midwest) is required. A track record of thought leadership in the field as demonstrated through publications and presentations is of interest. A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in a related field is desirable as are certifications in the fields of Climate and Energy.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values at McKnight and integral to how staff and board approach their work. Fundamental to the MC&E program goal is a belief that structural racism is a barrier to carbon reduction. It is critical that the Senior Program Officer bring lived experience or a demonstrated commitment to climate justice and addressing climate and energy through a racial equity lens.

Much of McKnight’s climate and energy work is placed based with a focus on Minnesota and the six states that comprise the Upper Midwest. Preference will be given to candidates with knowledge of or personal ties to the region and its people; relocation support will be provided. The position is based in Minneapolis, MN and the Foundation is currently using a hybrid model (3 days in office and 2 days work from home). Remote work is not an option.

The salary range for the Senior Program Officer positions is: $138,600 – $146,300.  

To Be Considered

The McKnight Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and proudly values diversity. We encourage candidates of all backgrounds to apply.

Please submit your resume and cover letter expressing your interest in the position and fit for the role by pressing the “Become a Candidate” button below. Letters may be addressed to Jailan Adly.

Applicants applying by July 25th will be given priority consideration, with the position open until filled.

Senior Program Officer, Midwest Climate and EnergyMcKnight FoundationMinneapolis, Minnesota

The following team from GoodCitizen is assisting the McKnight Foundation in their search:

Jailan Adly
Managing Director
Direct: 202.933.7976

Mollie Smith
Search Associate
Direct: 206.462.6190