Washington D.C. Metro Area or remote in the Southern U.S. states of GA, AL, MS, LA, TN, NC, SC, or VA

Program Director - U.S. South, Public Welfare Foundation

About Public Welfare Foundation 

For over 70 years, Public Welfare Foundation has supported efforts to advance justice and opportunity for people in need. Today, the Foundation focuses on catalyzing a transformative approach to justice that is community-led, restorative, and racially just by supporting the creation and implementation of an alternative vision of justice rooted in communities. Public Welfare Foundation is the only foundation in the country that is singularly focused on youth and criminal justice reforms.

With over $620 million in assets, Public Welfare Foundation makes grants nationwide. It focuses its grantmaking on difficult, often overlooked areas where it believes it can catalyze reform and transformation. The Foundation supports groups working to end the over-incarceration of adults and youth in the United States while also working to reduce racial disparity in the criminal legal system. In 2023, PWF was pleased to distribute nearly $25 million in grant support to its partners. Current jurisdictions of focus for its youth and adult criminal justice work include the states of Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, as well as the cities of Jackson, Mississippi; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Washington, D.C.

The Public Welfare Foundation team is committed to advancing a new, transformative vision of justice guided by its core values of racial equity, economic well-being, and fundamental fairness for all. A dedicated team of 10 people works both in-office in Washington, D.C., housed in the historic True Reformer Building, or remotely, for those not based in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

For more information on Public Welfare Foundation, please visit the Foundation’s website at www.publicwelfare.org.

The Opportunity

The Program Director will be responsible for implementing a grantmaking portfolio focused on the Deep South that significantly reduces incarceration in the US, focuses on reducing racial and ethnic disparities, and holds formerly impacted people and communities at the center of the work. Specific jurisdictions in this portfolio are Georgia, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi. Reporting to the Vice President of Programs (who is based in Atlanta, Georgia), the Program Director will lead and manage a diverse portfolio of approximately $7M.

This is a role for someone authentically aligned and has a deep personal commitment to the mission and strategy of the organization. Leading candidates will take a holistic view of organizational and programmatic goals. They will have a track record of serving as natural problem solvers. They will thrive in creating and identifying strategic solutions that deliver results and resonate with the Public Welfare Foundation’s values.

The Program Director will bring experience and a passion for effective and forward-thinking grantmaking. They will have a multi-faceted background, with experience that includes philanthropy, as well as “on the ground” work in government, organizational leadership within the legal system, research, or other areas that have given first-hand professional or personal insight into the many challenges faced by communities impacted by the criminal legal system.

Specific responsibilities include the following:

  • Develop and maintain in-depth knowledge of assigned program areas, including current issues and key stakeholders and organizations, and a clear understanding of how they fit into the Foundation’s interests
  • Engage experts in the field, policymakers, and those with experience in the criminal and youth justice system at all levels to assess opportunities for improvement and change, and shape the Foundation’s program strategy
  • Cultivate relationships with researchers and experts in the field, other grantmakers, and policymakers to help determine productive and innovative approaches that can lead to reform and improvement
  • Design strategy via policy papers or reflection memos that determine a programmatic direction for the grantmaking strategy
  • Seek out potential grantees, work with them to develop projects, and review and evaluate grant applications
  • Provide oversight to proposals and all external communications related to projects in their portfolio
  • Conduct site visits to and hold meetings with grantees and potential grantees, and the consequent travel, as an integral part of the position
  • Keep abreast of and monitor their portfolios and any grant-related issues, and carefully review and undertake timely approval of grant reports
  • Consider the needs of the field and grantees, as appropriate, hosting grantee-related convenings on strategic matters of relevance to the field
  • Periodically review and report on the overall effectiveness of the program area, mainly through the development of memos
  • Maintain a system to assess progress and undertake periodic reviews of the portfolio by outside experts
  • Attend Board of Directors and other appropriate Foundation meetings to support recommendations, make presentations, and provide information
  • Play a leadership role in the field of youth and adult criminal justice and philanthropy
  • Engage the larger community and participate in joint efforts and affinity groups of foundations
  • Seek to engage, influence, and expand grantmaking in the program area and work closely with the Communications team to promote local progress and issues in the field

Core Competencies

To effectively fulfill these responsibilities, the Public Welfare Foundation is seeking candidates with the following experience and qualifications:

Direct Lived or Professional Experience in the Deep South

  • Personal or professional experience in one of the Public Welfare Foundation’s jurisdictions in the South, specifically Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, or one of the neighboring states (Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, or Tennessee)
  • Knowledge of the systemic and historical underpinnings of the justice system in the Deep South and their impact on communities of color
  • Understanding of the culture tied to building relationships and trust in the Deep South

Content Expertise

  • Demonstrated experience taking risks and implementing grantmaking or aligned programming models that are nimble and responsive to the needs of the community being served
  • Leadership of a program, team, portfolio, or initiative that has demonstrated an ongoing positive impact based on government, advocacy, policy reforms, and community activism (Note: This experience in criminal legal reform is ideal, but it may be demonstrated in other related areas.)
  • Experience developing and implementing a theory of change related to an issue faced by underserved communities
  • Passionate belief that the answers come from the people closest to the problems and experience in thoughtful collaboration with impacted communities

Communications and Relationship-Building

  • Inclusive, thoughtful leadership skills, with a natural ability to engage with partners
  • Strong ability to maintain current relationships with key partners throughout the region while simultaneously developing new partnerships
  • Excellent skills in communicating in writing, verbally, and interpersonally with the ability to act as an external representative of the Foundation; proficient in communicating effectively with diverse audiences to translate complex information
  • Leadership style engrained with humility, patience, and keen listening skills
  • Unquestioned integrity, ethics, discretion, and values

Innovative and Visionary Partnership

  • Demonstrate the emotional intelligence necessary to know when to push and innovate, with an unwavering commitment to maximizing impact
  • Track record of engaging in strategic, analytical, and critical thinking
  • A considerate partner with a creative approach to problem-solving
  • Determined commitment to and competence in building relationships, working with diverse staff and being a positive contributor to the team culture
  • Solid judgment, critical thinking skills, a sense of teamwork, and community
  • Demonstrated reliability, attention to detail

Candidates can come from a range of backgrounds. Experience in philanthropy with impactful grantmaking is highly desirable. Leadership elsewhere in the nonprofit, legal, government, or private sectors is also attractive. Given the Foundation’s current staff expertise in criminal justice and youth justice, legal training and experience is helpful. However, the Program Director is not required to possess a law degree.

This position description is intended to summarize the position’s general purpose and essential functions. It may change as circumstances warrant and include other duties deemed necessary by management.


The salary for this role is $170,000, with robust benefits, including medical, dental, vision, paid leave, and retirement. This is a full-time, exempt position.

Location and Travel

The Program Director is expected to be based in:

  • If remote, one of the following states: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, or
  • If in the Washington, DC Metro Area (including Virginia or Maryland), they would work from the Public Welfare Foundation office on a hybrid schedule, two days per week in the office and three days remotely.

This position will entail about 30 percent travel, including, for remote staff, monthly trips to the Public Welfare Foundation offices in Washington, DC.

Public Welfare Foundation Commitment to Equal Opportunity

Public Welfare Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and an organization that values diversity. Employment opportunities at the Public Welfare Foundation are based on individual capabilities and qualifications without regard to race, color, citizenship, religion, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation, age, national origin, marital status, disability, veteran status or any other protected characteristic as established under law. Applicants impacted by the criminal legal system are encouraged to apply.

To Apply

This search is managed by Axis Talent Partners, a boutique search firm that partners with social impact organizations. Interested or potential candidates should apply with a resume detailing their qualifications for the position here.

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