Program Officer

Water FoundationFlexible

About the Water Foundation

The Water Foundation is a nonprofit philanthropy working to support lasting water solutions for communities, economies, and the environment. The Foundation complements strategic grantmaking with creative field-building and engagement with high-level decision makers and community leaders, and helps funders identify and act on opportunities to better manage water.

The Water Foundation works in key watersheds across the West, recognizing that water crosses political boundaries and natural places face similar challenges across the region. As a funder with a singular focus on water, the Foundation deploys staff expertise to move resources to the groups that can most effectively improve water systems for the benefit of people and nature. The Water Foundation’s partners span a broad spectrum: conservation organizations, environmental justice groups, Tribes, agricultural associations, water providers, academics, business groups, and local, state, and federal agencies.

In 2019, the Water Foundation launched an ambitious 5-year strategic framework to guide organizational efforts and maximize impact. This strategy, which reflects extensive field input from partners and stakeholders, takes a systemic approach. It prioritizes securing safe, clean water for people, restoring and sustaining freshwater environments, and building resilience to a changing climate. In pursuing these goals, the Foundation will support the field in tackling immediate water problems, including polluted drinking water and collapsing ecosystems, in ways that alter system drivers, such as social inequality and outmoded infrastructure.

Inequity and injustice underlie many of the challenges the Water Foundation is working to address, such as the failure to provide clean, safe, and affordable drinking water or access to free-flowing rivers and green space to all communities. The Foundation is currently engaged in an initiative designed to provide the learning, competencies, and tools necessary to ensure that the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion are embedded and embodied in individual behavior, institutional operations, and strategic programming. While this is a two-year initiative, the Water Foundation is deeply committed to ongoing growth and learning in this area.

More information about the Water Foundation can be found at

The Opportunity and Program

The Water Foundation seeks a self-directed and motivated Program Officer to work in its Healthy Watersheds program to address the complex challenges of water in the Western United States. In this newly created role reporting to the Senior Program Officer, the Program Officer will work directly with grantees, consultants, and partners to achieve the Water Foundation’s priority objectives in key geographies.

The Healthy Watersheds program emphasizes the management of four critical components of a watershed—groundwater, floodplains, forests, and flows. The program promotes multi-benefit solutions and efforts to maximize the use of natural, “green” infrastructure, and to modify and modernize the design and operation of traditional “gray” infrastructure so that people and nature can thrive. It invests in some of the West’s most significant and storied watersheds, including the Sacramento-San Joaquin basin, the Salton Sea and Lower Colorado River basin, the Columbia-Snake River basin, and the Rio Grande. The Healthy Watersheds program honors the critical role of indigenous communities and tribal governments in river conservation and restoration and the obligation to uphold legal and moral tribal rights. It also works closely with agricultural interests to sustain both public health and freshwater ecosystems, while maintaining sustainable food production.

Together with the Healthy Communities program, the Healthy Watersheds program prioritizes three systems interventions: 1) changing the ways we move and share water; 2) broadening who makes water decisions and how; and 3) strengthening the stories we tell about water. These interventions take aim at the physical, institutional, and cultural drivers of our current water system.

The Program Officer will have an important opportunity to advance collaboration, impact, and equity within the water space. The diversity of the Foundation’s partners and grantees provides this Program Officer with a platform to lift up and support the most critical voices and perspectives in the water field. The incoming Officer will be joining the Foundation at a time of strategic evolution and an exciting time in the water field, with challenges like climate change, technological innovation, and an increasing call for more equitable management. The Foundation’s current work builds on its efforts to secure and implement innovative policy, pilot on-the-ground innovations, amplify calls for equity and justice, and engage in new models of grantmaking and fundraising for the field.

Key Responsibilities

Program Development
  • Partner with the Senior Program Officer and Director of Programs and Strategy to craft strategy and shape program objectives.
  • Collaborate with the program team and grantees to identify desired strategic water policy and management outcomes (including DEI outcomes determined by the Foundation’s DEI initiative) and design campaigns to achieve them.
  • Conduct research and analysis and develop written assessments that inform the work of the program.
  • Ensure close coordination and integration between the Healthy Watersheds and Healthy Communities programs.
Grantmaking and Monitoring
  • Work with the Senior Program Officer to develop and manage a portfolio of grants and contracts to achieve strategic outcomes. 
  • Conduct site visits, consult with grantees on how best to achieve desired impacts, and assess effectiveness with an eye toward learning and improvement.
  • Invite, review, analyze, and summarize grant proposals and reports, shepherding them through the Foundation review processes.
  • Manage contractors working in support of grantees and/or the Foundation.
  • Facilitate the ongoing individual and collective work of grantees and other partners, including linking them to resources that may help them reach project goals and supporting coordination and collaboration.
Coalition Building and Direct Engagement
  • Cultivate partners from a wide range of interests and sectors.
  • Build/support coalitions and convene stakeholder meetings that can advance program objectives as needed.
  • Engage directly with governmental decision makers and community leaders to advance programmatic work in coordination with the Senior Program Officer.
  • Serve as a resource to other funders, supporting their investment in water capacity and field-building.

Ideal Candidate

Above all else, the ideal candidate will demonstrate an unwavering passion for the Water Foundation’s mission to support lasting water solutions through an equitable systems change approach. The Foundation seeks a Program Officer who brings a minimum of five years of substantial direct experience in water, land management, or other natural resources fields, preferably with some experience working with tribal governments and/or in rural and agricultural settings. Expertise in building and running campaigns is highly advantageous. The successful candidate will bring a depth of understanding of the policy, regulatory, and structural contexts that may impact progress in key areas of focus for the Foundation. The incoming Program Officer will ideally be a generalist, bringing the excitement and aptitude to identify pathways for impact in a myriad of contexts as opportunities arise.

With a significant portion of this portfolio organized to support coalitions and their partners, the Program Officer must also bring a deep and nuanced understanding of water or other natural resource issues as they relate to and intersect with a diverse group of stakeholders. Working with and across sectors in the water community, this person must possess the intuition and emotional intelligence to instinctively understand how to navigate complex relationships and contexts with comfort and confidence. Critical to this individual’s work with grantees and partners is approaching each interaction and relationship through the lens of inclusion – considering whose voices are at the table, whose views are being centered, and which outcomes provide the most equitable solutions for people and nature. As an intermediary funder, the Water Foundation staff must understand the delicate balance of when to operate as a funder and when to step in as a convener or campaign strategist. As such, the ideal candidate will lead with humility and the desire to learn and ask questions before acting. 

While prior work in philanthropy is not required, candidates must have experience developing programmatic strategy and direction, as well as experience executing against that strategy in tangible ways. The Water Foundation places high value on bringing in talent that diversifies their ways of operating and thinking. Varied experiences – lived, academic, and professional – have the power to push the Foundation to greater levels of impact and efficacy in ensuring just and equitable approaches and outcomes. Given the ever-changing landscape within which the Foundation operates, the incoming Program Officer must also display the flexibility and adaptability to navigate through change and ambiguity, leveraging the clarity of the Foundation’s mission and approach to guide the work moving forward.


Candidates must possess at least five years of substantive, relevant work experience in nonprofits, organizing, philanthropy, business, or government within the fields of freshwater law or policy, conservation science, land or water management, or related areas. Experience with tribal governments and rural communities is preferable. Expertise with advocacy campaigns is a plus, as is experience advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in grantmaking or program management.

Excellent project management, writing, and editing skills are essential. Candidates should display comfort working independently and operating with the highest levels of ethics and confidentiality. The Water Foundation’s culture is one that values patience, grace, and humor under pressure. Collaboration and strong initiative and follow-through are key to success.

Compensation and Location

The Water Foundation offers an excellent benefits package and a competitive salary that is commensurate with experience. The starting salary for the position is $105k – $120k. The Program Officer will ideally be based near the Water Foundation’s offices in Sacramento or Oakland, CA; however, remote work for those with easy access to a major airport in the Western US will be considered. Travel to the Foundation offices will be required.

Water Foundation EEO Statement

The Water Foundation encourages people of color, from under-resourced communities, immigrants, LGBTQ+, and others with diverse perspectives and experiences to apply.

To Be Considered

Please submit your resume and cover letter expressing your interest in the position and fit for the role via the Become a Candidate button. Letters may be addressed to Alison Kaneko.

Program OfficerWater FoundationFlexible

The search for a Program Officer is being assisted by a team from GoodCitizen: 

Alison Kaneko
Search Director
Direct: 415.678.5001

Mollie Smith
Direct: 206.462.6190