Program Officer - Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice | Ford Foundation

Program Officer
New York, NY


The Ford Foundation’s Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice (GREJ) thematic area seeks a dynamic, curious and collaborative Program Officer (PO) to help shape and implement the Foundation’s work to advance social justice with a focus on criminal justice reform.  Based in New York, the Program Officer will support the GREJ thematic area strategy and grantmaking, specifically mass incarceration reform, and will work collaboratively with colleagues in other funding institutions to advance GREJ goals.

Reporting to the GREJ Director and working with a multidisciplinary team of Program Officers, the PO will be responsible for recommending grants to advance criminal justice reform and play a leading role in shaping specific grants and other initiatives, ensuring all activities are designed to deliver the goals of the thematic strategy. The PO will work collaboratively to develop the Foundation’s grant recommendations, establish and implement a monitoring and evaluation framework and ensure shared learning across programmatic teams. In addition, they will serve as a ‘connector’ of grantees, and work with practitioners, government officials, scholars, NGOs, corporate sector leaders and other donors to leverage positive impact toward common goals.

The ideal candidate will be deeply knowledgeable about mass incarceration and the criminal justice reform movement and understand the roles that policy advocacy, organizing,  litigation, social services and philanthropy play in advancing social change. They will be well networked in the justice field and have the respect of the criminal justice reform community and its allies in the civil society sector. The ideal PO will also have excellent communication skills, deal well with change, enjoy developing junior staff, and demonstrate leadership inside and outside of the organization.


Addressing inequality is the core focus of the Ford Foundation. The overall goal of the GREJ thematic area is to make concrete gains toward full equality for all people, with a focus on reducing mass incarceration and advancing reproductive and gender justice and immigrant rights.

The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world—mainly minorities and poor people. Ford’s strategy will include support to strengthen public education and advocacy for sentencing reforms aimed at reducing prison populations, and redirecting funds into crime prevention and other initiatives that foster the success of people in neighborhoods hardest hit by crime and incarceration. We also support the replication of a limited number of innovative alternative-to-incarceration models. And we support communications initiatives that push back against the narrative of incarceration as an answer to public safety.


  • Contribute in the ongoing definition and development of the foundation’s criminal justice portfolio aimed at advancing the rights of communities marginalized by mass incarceration, and strengthening the infrastructure needed for these constituencies to have greater influence.
  • Liaise with other donors to increase philanthropic contributions and/or aligned giving to the criminal justice/mass incarceration reform fields.
  • Manage, monitor and coordinate a grants portfolio, including: long-term grant planning; identifying and working with prospective grantees to develop proposals for grant recommendations (including helping determine the goals for a grant, its activities, expected results, indicators of success and budget); conducting organizational assessments; undertaking periodic reviews of progress with grantees; and reviewing financial and narrative reports.
  • Serve as direct manager, mentor and coach to a Program Assistant; direct their daily activities to ensure effective support to grant making process, and to grantees.
  • Serve as a mentor and coach to a Program Associate.
  • Support learning efforts that tap the expertise of colleagues across the Foundation; be a connector of grantees; and collaborate broadly across GREJ and other thematic areas.
  • Engage with grantees to review opportunities, challenges and advances and encourage collaboration, learning, exchange and strategic partnerships.
  • Promote and participate in fostering open-mindedness and a culture of learning – including learning and evaluation activities to guide the evolution of programmatic work – seeking to continually ask hard questions, gather independent and rigorous data and evidence about effectiveness of the foundation and grantees’ strategies, and help adapt practice as needed.
  • Represent the Foundation and its work in key venues through participation in relevant meetings, public speaking, writing, speeches, briefings, blogposts, and interviews, with guidance from the GREJ Director and Ford Office of Communications.
  • Develop and implement grant-making approaches that support the use of strategic communications as part of the program strategy.
  • Contribute to the thinking and work of colleagues in the GREJ team and foundation overall.


  • BA/BS plus at least 8-10 years of criminal justice advocacy and reform experience in US social justice contexts (or equivalent combination of education and experience); MS or JD preferred but not required
  • Deep understanding of issues of mass incarceration and the criminal legal system in the United States
  • Exceptional leadership – internally and externally — and ability to lead high level fundraising and strategic conversations about the causes and consequences of mass incarceration
  • Exceptional communications skills – strong active listening skills, excellent verbal and written skills, strong public presentation skills
  • Close knowledge of the various mechanisms and venues (legislative; legal; regulatory; organizing; research) for public policy change on criminal justice matters; and direct experience engaging in systemic change initiatives or campaigns, either from the purview of a government, a non-profit advocacy organization or the academy (in an applied research context).
  • Openness to an integrated approach to grantmaking that mixes different approaches to social change and a willingness to try new things.
  • Demonstrated ability to be a productive member of a community of people at work, respecting differences while working toward shared goals, comfort with periods of ambiguity, constructive participation in ongoing organizational development
  • Written and oral fluency in English

Applicants who are formerly incarcerated and/or have conviction histories are encouraged to apply.


  • This position is primarily a sedentary role. However, the person in this position may need to occasionally move about inside the office to liaise with internal staff, access files, office machinery and a copy machine/printer. Additionally, domestic/international travel will be expected, approximately 20%; some travel is directly related to grantmaking, but also to attend team conferences, retreats and meetings.

Alignment to Culture and Values:

  • Commitment to the Foundation’s mission and core values of equity, openness, collaboration, trust, accountability and urgency
  • Personal qualities of humility, capacity for self-reflection, and a sense of humor
  • Discretion and ability to handle confidential issues
  • Action-orientated and entrepreneurial self-starter who can work well independently and in teams


  • Medical and dental benefits for employee and immediate family on first day of work
  • Retirement savings account with matching company contributions of up to 13%
  • Three weeks’ paid vacation in first year of work; four weeks in subsequent years 
  • Tuition Reimbursement
  • Office closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day
  • Professional development initiatives for growth
  • Generous parental leave (maternal and paternal) during new child’s first year (born into family or adopted)


Salary is based on experience and on the Foundation’s commitment to internal equity.  A generous benefits package is provided. 

Click here to apply.

Equal employment opportunity and having a diverse staff are fundamental principles at The Ford Foundation, where employment and promotional opportunities are based upon individual capabilities and qualifications without regard to race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation/affectional preference, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status or any other protected characteristic as established under law.