The Laughing Gull Foundation (LGF) is a progressive family foundation rooted in the US South. The foundation envisions healthy and sustainable communities where everyone can be their whole selves and live in balance with the earth. LGF works to create a world in which everyone is supported, included, embraced, and protected, especially those who have been pushed to the margins of our human family.
LGF’s mission is to honor our family’s evolving identity while proactively addressing broken systems that have created inequality and harmed our planet. The foundation leverages its resources to transform systems, institutions and relationships for the benefit of people and the environment. LGF works towards its mission through grantmaking, funder organizing and impact investing, in support of three priorities: LGBTQ equality, higher education in prison, and environmental justice. In the service of its commitment to the redistribution of wealth, LGF plans to spend out its assets over the next 17 years. LGF’s strategic goals for its tenure include progress on the priority issues it supports, growth of progressive philanthropy in the US South, and sustenance of a vibrant learning community.
The foundation’s values guide how it carries out its philanthropic mission. The foundation is actively building its analysis of structural racism, and formalizing a racial equity lens in all of LGF’s work. LGF values building authentic relationships, supporting impact and sustainability, and holding a power analysis with humility. LGF honors the expertise of the leaders and organizations we support, and therefore prioritizes multi-year grantee relationships and general operating support whenever possible. The Foundation’s organizational culture mirrors its values. LGF is a learning organization with a relational and engaged staff and board culture.
Laughing Gull Foundation was founded in 2012 and is based in Durham, North Carolina. LGF is led by an engaged and committed board of directors, all of whom are members of the founding family. LGF granted approximately $3.8 million in 2018, and plans to achieve an annual grantmaking budget of $6 million across all three grantmaking programs by 2022.
The Program Officer will manage the Higher Education in Prison (HEP) program which currently consists of 26 grantees. The HEP program centers around the goal of increasing access to and improving the delivery of credit-bearing college courses in prison as well as supporting students in successfully transitioning from college in prison to continuing their education. LGF’s intention is to affirm the humanity, capacity, and potential of currently incarcerated people while playing a role in reversing the trend of mass incarceration. Geographically, the HEP program focuses across the South.
The Program Officer will engage current grantees, identify new grantees, and support the learning and networking of higher education programs and connected stakeholders in the South. They will also play a critical role in working with other funders, both in the South and nationally, to increase support for higher education in prison programs in the South.
Currently a staff of four, LGF plans to grow to six staff members in the next two years. The Program Officer will be supervised by the Executive Director and will preferably work out of LGF’s office in Durham.
Grantee Management and Engagement:
The Program Officer will build robust relationships with current and potential grantee partners, and promote trust-based engagement. Collaborating and learning with grantees, the Program Officer will review opportunities, challenges and advances as well as encourage mutual learning and strategic partnerships. Specifically, the Program Officer will manage and coordinate the Higher Education in Prison (HEP) grants portfolio, including: planning for long-term grants; identifying and working with prospective grantees to develop proposals for grant recommendations; undertaking periodic reviews of grantee progress; and conducting site visits. The Program Officer will keep the LGF staff and board up to date on critical information regarding current grantees.
Philanthropic Networking and Organizing:
Consistent with LGF’s strategy of growing progressive philanthropy in the South, the Program Officer will engage and build upon LGF’s network of philanthropic peers interested in higher education in prison issues in the South. The Program Officer will provide leadership wherever appropriate to support initiatives and networks that increase philanthropic support of higher education in prison in the South.
The Program Officer will be LGF’s in-house expert on higher education in prison and be expected to continually scan the field and keep abreast of the changing political climate related to criminal justice reform and higher education in prison, specifically in the South. The Program Officer will share key findings, updates and learnings both internally and externally, in alignment with LGF’s communications strategy.
Organizational Learning and Development:
The Program Officer will contribute to the thinking and work of the foundation overall and engage in team building and team effectiveness. LGF strives to be a learning organization, and the Program Officer will in engage learning and evaluation activities to guide the evolution of the foundation’s work. The Program Officer will help contribute to and build a learning, inspiring, fun and thriving organizational culture with LGF.
The Ideal Candidates
• At least three years of experience in the philanthropic sector and/or grantmaking (volunteer or professional)
• At least five years of successful employment within a social change oriented nonprofit and/or a higher education in prison program at a programmatic or management level
• Lived experience with the communities and issues that LGF prioritizes in its programming
• Lived experience with those who have been impacted by the criminal justice system and ideally an understanding of the needs and complexities of students who are incarcerated in the South
• Ability and willingness to travel 40-50% of the time, primarily in the Southeast, and also nationally for site visits and conferences
• Availability for limited weekend work at relevant conferences and local board meetings
• Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree
• Preferably works from LGF’s office in Durham
Commitment to Social Justice
• Deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and a sophisticated understanding of the systemic, structural, and historical challenges that impact those who have been or are involved in the criminal justice system
• Experience applying a racial equity and social justice lens to addressing complex problems
• Familiarity and experience working with social justice concepts and frameworks such as racial equity, gender analyses, economic justice, intersectionality, and implicit and structural bias
• Understanding of systems of oppression, and of the power dynamics inherent in the philanthropic and non-profit sectors, and commitment to addressing those
Cultural Fit and Work Style
• Ability to internalize the vision and values of LGF and to express and represent these values in carrying forward the Foundation’s mission
• Experience and comfort working in a small organization where the board is actively involved and connected with the staff
• Ability to be a productive member of a community of people at work, respecting differences while working toward shared goals, being comfortable with periods of ambiguity, and constructively participating in organizational learning and development
• Openness to discovery, feedback, and continuous learning
• Qualities of humility, capacity for self-reflection, and a sense of humor
• Ability to work well independently and in teams
• Action-oriented and self-starter who can take initiative to enact the vision and priorities articulated by the board
Collaborative Relationship Builder
• Excellent cross-cultural relationship-building skills; comfort moving between higher education institutions, departments of corrections, local organizations and communities, board rooms, professional conferences, and grassroots events
• A track record of working collaboratively with a variety of stakeholders, including those with lived experience, to align in pursuit of common goals
• Comfort taking the lead and possessing the maturity to create room for others
• Ability to form positive, authentic relationships with potential and current grantees
• Strong analytic skills, and the ability to synthesize and frame information to support dialogue on complex issues
• Exceptional communications skills: active listening, cogent and polished writing, constructive yet humble speaking, and comfort with public speaking and presentation to diverse audiences and in diverse contexts
This is a full-time, exempt position. A competitive salary, commensurate with experience, and generous benefits package will be offered. A moving stipend will be offered as necessary.
How To Apply
All submissions will be acknowledged and are confidential. Candidates should include a resume and a cover letter that describes how their qualifications and experience match the needs of LGF. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. We anticipate interviews to commence in September.
People of color, women, and people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system are encouraged to apply. The Laughing Gull Foundation is committed to equal employment opportunities for all applicants and employees. LGF does not discriminate against any individual based upon their race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation or preference, gender identity or expression, immigration status, national origin, marital/domestic partner status, former incarceration status, or disability.
LGF’s ability to achieve its mission is enhanced by a diverse team, an inclusive culture, and strategies that apply an equity lens. LGF seeks candidates who possess the knowledge, skills, and lived experience that contribute to the diversity of our team and share a commitment to equity.