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Program Officer, Human Rights

Program Officer, Human Rights
Application Deadline: 
Friday, June 25, 2021
Job Description: 

About the Foundation 

The Heising-Simons Foundation is a family foundation based in Los Altos and San Francisco, California. The Foundation works with its many partners to advance sustainable solutions in climate and clean energy, enable groundbreaking research in science, enhance the education of our youngest learners, and support human rights for all people. In 2020, the Foundation awarded more than $127 million in grants. The Foundation’s grantmaking is guided by the values of humility, courage, justice, opportunity, sustainability, innovation, relationships, and integrity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, all Heising-Simons Foundation staff are working remotely. The Foundation will re-evaluate workplace flexibility when offices reopen later in 2021.

About the Human Rights Program

The Foundation’s Human Rights program envisions a society where people are free to live whole, safe, and dignified lives. At present, we are far from this vision in the United States because structural racism pervades our society and manifests through systems of punishment — mass incarceration and immigrant detention. The result is the criminalization of poor Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC), and it is visible all around us: these communities are over-represented in our country’s jails, prisons, and detention centers, and are under-resourced in our economic, political, and social justice sectors.

To best challenge mass incarceration, immigrant detention, and the mass criminalization of BIPOC communities, the Human Rights program invests in 1) building the power and capacity of the grassroots; 2) creating healthy justice reform and immigrants’ rights ecosystems that center the grassroots in their work; and 3) advancing reimagined approaches to safety, justice, and accountability. Through these investments, the Human Rights program seeks to contribute to a country where grassroots movements have the power to lead and define change to dismantle the footprint of incarceration and immigrant detention systems and create new paradigms of safety, justice, and accountability not appended to the current punishment systems. This is described in the Foundation’s multi-year strategic plan, approved by the Board in 2020. 

Position Summary

The Human Rights program is at the beginning of its multi-year strategic plan. The strategy involves national grantmaking, as well as grantmaking in four key states: California, Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. While the Human Rights team works collaboratively across states and issues, program staff are organized as state leads, and have experience working in both the criminal legal and immigrant justice fields. 

The program seeks a program officer to further shape and execute key components of the strategy through the Foundation and its affiliated 501(c)(4), the Heising-Simons Action Fund:

  • Supporting and building the capacity of grassroots organizations; 
  • Nurturing cross-movement building opportunities; and 
  • Leading conversations internally and externally around learning and assessing support of grassroots organizing in order to strengthen the field and drive deeper and longer-term philanthropic support for organizing.

The Human Rights program is looking for a strategic relationship builder who is passionate about investing in and advocating on behalf of communities directly impacted by mass criminalization to lead and drive transformative and intersectional change, with an eye towards abolishing the prison industrial complex. An ideal candidate is either an experienced grassroots organizer who has supported the capacity building of other leaders, organizers, and/or organizations in the field and has had some proximate working relationship with philanthropy or a funder who has a demonstrated history of aligning with grassroots movements and supporting grassroots organizing, while organizing other funders to do the same. Candidates are not expected to have experience in all areas listed in the job posting.

The Human Rights team is currently staffed by two program associates (PAs), three program officers (POs), and the Program Director (PD). In 2020, the Foundation awarded $20M in grants and the Action Fund $2M in grants via the Human Rights program. In 2021, the team is projected to administer $23M in grants through the Foundation and $2M through the Action Fund. This full-time (37.5 hours per week), exempt position reports to the program director of the Human Rights team.

Primary Responsibilities 

  • Capacity building of grassroots grantees. Develop and execute a capacity building plan to strengthen the power of national   and state grassroots organizing and movement building grantees. Capacity building activities include: 
    • Managing a portfolio of Foundation and Action Fund grants focused on capacity building nationally and in the four states;
    • Working with the team to help assess and monitor capacity needs of grantees;
    • Developing and implementing a strategy to respond to grantee capacity building needs; 
    • Developing responsive supports, e.g., leadership development, digital and personal safety and security, digital organizing, and healing justice; 
    • Creating opportunities to deepen and strengthen the practice of grassroots organizing;
    • Helping organizations to develop a healthy, effective 501(c)(4), and build the skills to engage in political work; and
    • Convening and working with values-aligned national, state, and local grantmakers to share and co-create capacity building strategies.
  • Nurture cross movement building across the criminal legal and immigration ecosystems by:
    • Creating or facilitating the creation of opportunities to deepen and strengthen Black-Brown solidarity, cross-movement learning, and strategy; and
    • Identifying and funding cross-movement building opportunities nationally and in the four states.
  • Assessing Impact of Grassroots Organizing Support
    • Lead team in identifying and managing relationships with outside consultants to develop and execute a learning and assessment plan that is both aligned with movement and tracks the impact of grassroots organizing; and 
    • Convene and work with values-aligned national, state, and local grantmakers to share and co-create learning and assessment strategies with the goals of strengthening grassroots movements and demonstrating the power of resourcing grassroots organizing.
  • Across these areas of work, the program officer will:
    • Stay abreast of advancements in policy advocacy and political work, grassroots organizing campaigns, and understand how grantees fit into the overall landscape;
    • Coordinate and collaborate with other Foundation teams round capacity building opportunities and grassroots organizing   learning;
    • Develop and maintain trusted relationships with grantees, impacted communities, advocates, and key field players in service of being true partners in the work; and
    • Know the funding landscape, including other funders who support similar projects, and participate in joint efforts with other foundations and philanthropic affinity groups.

Compensation and Benefits 

The target starting salary for this position is $119,000-170,000, depending on the candidate’s skills, experience, and geographic location. We offer a comprehensive employee benefits package that includes employer-paid medical, dental, and vision insurance for employees and dependents, long term disability, business travel and life insurance, flexible spending accounts for medical and child care expenses, a 401(k) plan (with a matching contribution of up to 16%), commuting assistance, an employee assistance program (EAP), tuition reimbursement and a generous professional development budget, matching gifts, fitness reimbursements, fertility assistance, mental health counseling, and identity theft protection. In addition, we allow some schedule flexibility.

Paid time off includes: 

  • Vacation: starts at 3 weeks per year, with increases based on tenure
  • Sick: 12 days per year 
  • Personal: 2 days per year
  • Family Medical Leave: 10 days per year
  • Parental Leave: up to 16 weeks per birth/adoption
  • Holidays:

o Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

o President’s Day

o Memorial Day

o Juneteenth

o Independence Day

o Labor Day

o Veterans Day

o Thanksgiving Day (and the day after)

o Year-End Break (Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day)

Please note that the deadline for submitting applications for this position is June 25, 2021.

The Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes a diverse pool of applicants. Foundation policy prohibits unlawful discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, age, marital status, physical disability, mental disability, military service, legally protected medical condition, or any other consideration made unlawful by federal, state, or local laws. Reasonable accommodation will be made so that qualified applicants with disabilities may participate in the application process. Please advise in writing of special needs at the time of application. 

Our success is dependent on our ability to build teams that include people with different experiences and expertise and who can challenge each other's assumptions with new viewpoints and bring different perspectives to the team. We encourage women, people of color, formerly incarcerated individuals, immigrants, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and others with diverse perspectives and experiences to apply.


  • Direct experience working as a grassroots organizer or familiarity and experience working alongside grassroots organizers 
  • Experience supporting others in capacity building around grassroots organizing
  • Experience working in or in proximity to philanthropy 
  • Knowledge and network in either, or ideally both, of the criminal legal and immigrant justice fields 
  • Experience or familiarity with assessing the impact of grassroots organizing 
  • Regional relationships or expertise in the U.S. South (with a preference for the program’s states of Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas)
  • Demonstrated experience building, deepening, and sustaining diverse relationships
  • Experience in allocating and managing budgets and allocating resources, whether through a role in government, nonprofits, philanthropy, or business
  • A proactive approach to work, eagerness to learn, and motivation to stay at the forefront of developments in the field
  • Integrity, humility, solid judgment, and a sense of humor 
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills, ability to translate content for a variety of audiences, and strong organizational skills
  • A collaborator who thrives in a team environment and has the experience and capacity to conceptualize a project and lead it from initiation to completion
  • Ability and willingness to travel