Saint Paul, Minnesota

Director of People and Culture, Northwest Area Foundation

The Organization

The Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF) supports efforts by the people, organizations, and communities of their eight-state region to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity. This region includes Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and 76 Native Nations. The vision that drives them is that the people of their priority communities—including Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants and refugees, and people in rural areas—thrive on their own terms. They imagine and build for a future in which their region’s rich culture of engagement and opportunity makes it a prized place to visit, to invest and to live, and where all residents have a fair chance to live free of poverty.

As we all emerge changed from the recent and ongoing crises – a pandemic, economic turmoil, the upsurge for racial justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and mounting pressures on NWAF’s priority communities – the Foundation continues to deepen its commitment to supporting grantee-led change. Internally, they have made measurable progress to strengthen internal equity-centered systems designed to support a deeply engaged staff and build inclusive culture and belonging, and they now seek a new Director of People and Culture to continue that evolution and promote organizational effectiveness. In addition to managing all aspects of the human resources function for the foundation, the Director will be a member of the senior leadership team, guiding organization-wide decision-making and holding responsibility for designing and sustaining a people-centered environment that reflects the Foundation’s mission, vision, values, and strategy.

NWAF is a private foundation established in 1934 by Louis W. Hill, son of the railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill, whose Great Northern Railway linked the Minnesota’s Twin Cities to the emerging cities of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. Currently, its assets are near $500MM, annual budget is around $25MM, and its staff consists of 20+ people. NWAF’s values distill not just who they are, but who they aspire to be, in decisions both big and small. The six organizational values are: social justice, courage, grantees come first, listen and learn for change, heart, and trust. NWAF is committed to hiring individuals who contribute to a richly diverse workplace. Their hiring decisions are guided by their commitment to support their grantees, who work to build the entrepreneurial spirit, strong community ties, and untapped potential within Native nations, communities of color, rural communities, and other resilient communities who have fewer opportunities to thrive on their own terms.

This position will be hybrid with in-person time in the office required a few days a week.

Position Overview


In close collaboration with the Senior Leadership Team, the Director of People and Culture will lead all aspects of the people function for NWAF, with a primary focus on organizational effectiveness, talent development, and culture leadership. The Director will report directly to the President/CEO and serve as a member of the senior leadership team.

It is essential for the Director to work well in cross-functional teams, leading by influence and building trust and engagement to drive culture-related initiatives. They will be an agile problem solver with the flexibility to work on a high-level strategic plane as well as a more detailed tactical level to ensure excellence in execution and compliance. In all things, a tangible commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion must be at the center.

Lead the development, alignment, and execution of all HR plans and tactics within the organization to support NWAF’s values, mission, and strategy.

  • Ensure integrated, effective, and legally compliant HR processes and practices that promote a positive, supportive employment experience for NWAF staff.
  • Serve as a confidential resource for staff members and management to address workplace issues through active listening, proactive problem-solving, mediation, crucial conversations, and conflict resolution techniques. Act with discretion and sound judgment, elevating critical concerns to the appropriate legal advisor and/or institutional officer.
  • Lead NWAF’s human resources information system (HRIS) and train and orient staff to understand its functions.
  • Work with the Controller to ensure smooth continuation of the 403B and Retirement plan. Partner with the Controller to work with the insurance broker to provide and maintain effective benefits for all staff.
  • Collaborate with managers to design recruitment, selection, and onboarding processes that support the ongoing development of a diverse, engaged team.
  • Scope out and build process for identifying and acting on professional development opportunities relevant to the staff.

Partner with other leadership at NWAF to shape and implement a values-driven culture.

  • Infuse knowledge and best practices grounded in racial equity in developing HR-related strategies, practices, initiatives, and policies.
  • Help navigate conversations related to power, privilege, and structural racism to foster conditions for a culture where all staff can experience a sense of belonging.
  • Align the people and culture function’s goals and outcomes to the Foundation’s justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) action plan in close collaboration with the Foundation’s JEDI Manager.
  • Plan and lead the Foundation’s monthly all-staff meetings.

Partner with other leadership at NWAF to ensure strategic alignment of all people and culture related systems, goals, and processes.

  • Partner with the President/CEO to develop the annual strategic goals for the Foundation and monitor the progress with the Leadership Team on a monthly basis.
  • Equip leaders and staff within the organization to align with NWAF mission and values in an environment characterized by role clarity and a spirit of collaboration that promotes individual and team development and effectiveness.
  • Design and implement tools and processes in areas such as assessment, team building, strategy alignment, organization design, change management, problem solving, and performance improvement.


While no one candidate will embody all the qualifications enumerated below, the ideal candidate will possess many of the following professional and personal abilities, attributes, and experiences:

  • Broadly experienced people and culture leader with 10+ years of experience relevant to human resources, justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and/or organizational effectiveness, ideally with experience operating as a key member of a management/leadership team.
  • Experience conceiving and implementing strategies to promote a culture of belonging, accountability, professional development, and collaborative decision-making.
  • Demonstrated personal and professional commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  • Exceptional interpersonal and communication skills including active listening and reflection, engendering trust and buy-in, discretion and confidentiality where appropriate, consistent follow-up and follow-through, and ability to balance directness and diplomacy.
  • Deep experience aligning people and culture systems with organizational values in a mission-driven and equity-forward environment. A strategic partner and planner, with strong analytical and problem-solving abilities and excellent judgment. Excellent facilitation skills with experience addressing and resolving conflict and managing change effectively.
  • Experience implementing organization-wide talent programs along the full employee lifecycle from talent planning and acquisition, onboarding and training, performance management, and ongoing development, etc.
  • Capacity to manage tactical aspects of HR including benefits administration, employee relations, and advising on policies, procedures, and legal compliance.
  • Experience advising leadership to contract with vendors and consultants to accomplish HR goals when necessary, and then managing them to success.
  • Well-developed cultural competency and flexibility to meet others where they are, lead by influence and engender trust at all levels of the organization.
  • Ability to balance the strategic and tactical aspects of the role, with an ability and interest to engage at a detailed level.
  • Bachelor’s degree in a related field (required); master’s degree and SPHR or SHRM-SCP certification preferred.


The Director of People and Culture role is a full-time, exempt position. They will report to the President/CEO and will be a member of the Senior Leadership Team. NWAF offers a competitive and holistic total rewards package that includes salary and benefits, and the anticipated starting salary for this position is in the range of $126,000 – $156,000.

How To Apply

More information about Northwest Area Foundation may be found at:

This search is being led by Allison Kupfer Poteet and Rachel Burgoyne of NPAG. Candidates may submit their cover letter, outlining their interest and qualifications, along with their resume via NPAG’s website. We welcome nominations sent to Rachel at

NWAF is an equal opportunity employer and all employees and applicants for employment are afforded equal opportunity in every area of hiring and employment without regard to race, color, ethnicity, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender identity, age, disability, mental illness, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, genetics, military/veteran status, citizenship, arrest record, and any other legally protected characteristic.

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