Program Officer

Hiring Organization: 
Ford Foundation
City and State: 
New York, NY


The Ford Foundation’s Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice (GREJ) thematic area seeks a dynamic, strategic, collaborative Program Officer (PO) to help shape and implement its U.S. Immigrant Rights Portfolio. Our grantmaking in this area aims to advance more just and humane immigration policies, with a focus on ending the criminalization of migrants and the harsh use of law enforcement and border policies to exclude, detain and deport vulnerable people. 

The ideal candidate will be a strategic thinker who is deeply knowledgeable about current immigration policies and enforcement practices, as well as be familiar with the field of national and state organizations active on these issues. They will understand the roles that policy advocacy, organizing, litigation, strategic communications and philanthropy play in advancing social change, bring a strong understanding of the politics of immigration and their interplay with related interests. The candidate should also have a strong understanding of organizing and movement-building among communities directly affected by immigration policies, including undocumented migrants, immigrants involved in the US criminal legal system, and other communities of color.

The ideal PO will also be capable of exerting leadership internally and externally as an expert on the issue, with excellent communication skills in English. Spanish is a plus but not required.


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, including immigrants, those caught in the criminal justice system, people of color, women and LGBTQI people.  

Three decades after the last major immigration reform in the United States, harsh and punitive law enforcement has become the nation’s singular policy response to a broken immigration system.  Our portfolio seeks to dislodge the narrative and functional emphasis on criminalization and to promote a more rational and humane immigration policy.

As such, the Ford Foundation supports advocacy at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that policies and practices respect the human rights of migrants, as well as high impact litigation to prevent or overturn harsh measures and expand protections. Ford also funds efforts to build public will for immigration policies that respect human rights; and to cultivate allies across issues, regions and the political spectrum. The new program officer will lead a strategy refresh in 2021 that will consider new or revised approaches to the issue of reforming our immigration enforcement system, taking into account emerging challenges and opportunities in the field. An ideal candidate would craft their own funding strategies, but would do so with a deep understanding and respect for the priorities and goals of leading field actors. 


Working under the direction of the Director of the GREJ unit, the Immigrant Rights Program Officer will further develop existing grantmaking strategies; identify prospective grantees; solicit, review and respond to grant proposals; and prepare recommendations for Foundation funding. The Program Officer will also be expected to collaborate internally with other Program Officers throughout the Foundation and externally to provide intellectual leadership in the field of immigrant rights in the US. In addition, the program officer will work with practitioners, NGOs, government officials, scholars, corporate sector leaders and other donors to leverage positive impact toward common goals. 

Specifically, the Program Officer will:  

  • Contribute to the ongoing definition and development of the foundation’s Immigrant Rights line of work and strategy to scale impact. 

  • Engage with grantees to review opportunities, challenges and advances and encourage collaboration, learning, exchange and strategic partnerships.  

  • Manage, monitor and coordinate a grants portfolio of approximately $10-15 million annually, including: long-term grant planning; identifying new grantees and working with prospective ones to develop high impact proposals; conducting organizational assessments; undertaking periodic reviews of progress with grantees; and reviewing financial and narrative reports. 

  • Work closely with other funders and with donor collaboratives to encourage philanthropic contributions and align giving to the immigrant rights field.  

  • Support learning efforts that tap the expertise of colleagues across the Foundation; and collaborate broadly across GREJ and other thematic areas on issues relevant to the needs and perspectives of immigrants. 

  • Foster 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. Serve as an accessible resource for the field accordingly.

  • Represent the Foundation and its work in key venues through participation in relevant meetings, public speaking, writing, speeches, briefings, blog posts, and interviews, with guidance from the GREJ Director and Ford’s Office of Communications. 

  • Develop and implement grant-making approaches that support the use of strategic communications as part of the program strategy. 

  • Work closely with a grantmaking team of Grants Manager and Program Assistant to manage all aspects of grants processing and compliance. Serve as mentor and coach to a shared Program Associate and directly manage a Program Assistant to ensure effective support to grantees and grantmaking processes. 

  • Contribute to the thinking and work of colleagues in the GREJ team, the Foundation and the field of grant seekers and philanthropic peers overall.


  • BA/BS plus at least 8 years of immigrant rights experience in the United States or equivalent combination of education and experience. JD or MS preferred but not required. 

  • Deep understanding of issues of immigration systems, institutions, movements, politics, and programs in the United States. 

  • Close knowledge of the various mechanisms and venues (organizing, legislative, legal, regulatory, applied research, strategic communications) for public policy change on immigration matters. 

  • A strong understanding of how to apply racial and gender analyses to strategy. 

  • Proven track record of working closely with communities that have been historically marginalized in systems that affect their lives.

  • Exceptional leadership – internally and externally — and ability to lead high level engagement with donors and engage in strategic conversations throughout the field. 

  • Exceptional communications skills – strong active listening skills, excellent verbal and written skills, strong public presentation skills. 

  • Superb analytical skills and ability to strategize, plan, prioritize and identify/assess opportunities, challenges and institutions with which to engage. 

  • Proven ability to engage with a broad variety of stakeholders and in coalition with others; openness and curiosity about new approaches and different points of view. 

  • Direct experience engaging in systemic change initiatives or campaigns, from the purview of government, non-profit advocacy organizations, public interest legal organizations, philanthropy, or the academy.

  • Openness to an integrated approach to grantmaking that mixes different approaches to social change, and a willingness to try new things. 

  • Ability to navigate a large and complex institution; willingness to participate constructively on organizational priorities beyond the immediate focus of this portfolio; comfort with institutional change and periods of ambiguity. 

  • Written and oral fluency in English; knowledge and/or fluency in Spanish a plus.

  • Familiarity with international migration organizations and trends is a plus. 


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% of working time. Some travel is directly related to grantmaking, but also required to attend team conferences, retreats and meetings. 

The Ford Foundation is committed to providing access, equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities in employment, its programs, and operations. As part of this commitment, the Foundation will ensure that persons with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations. If a reasonable accommodation is needed to participate in the job application process, please contact, or call (212) 573-4627. 


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)

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.  

Application Deadline: 
March 26, 2021
Job Category: 
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