Program Officer, Democracy Program


Program Officer, Democracy Program

The Joyce Foundation is a Chicago-based foundation that seeks to fill a senior level position with its Democracy Program. Fairness and equity are core values for the Joyce Foundation. Believing that communities are stronger when benefits are broadly shared, the Foundation’s Democracy Program has long been vigilant about the vitality and integrity of American democracy, from funding presidential debates to supporting work on such concerns as voter registration and full participation in the U.S Census. Beginning in the mid-1990s, the foundation focused its efforts on fighting the influence of big money in politics.

Over the last decade, Joyce’s grant making expanded beyond campaign finance reform to include judicial independence, protection of voting rights, a modern election administration system, and fair electoral systems – all essential elements of a strong democracy.

Building off of the broad work of the past and in response to a recent assessment of challenges and opportunities across the Great Lakes region, the foundation intends to focus the future Democracy Program on two critical areas:

Fair Elections: Pursue redistricting reform to achieve competitive elections that produce more effective and representative government; and work to uphold voting rights and expand access to the ballot by adding new voters to the rolls.

Media: Invest in public interest journalism to ensure in-depth and accessible coverage of important public policy issues at a time when transformative economic and social changes jeopardize its vital role in American democracy.

Those areas will be united under a common mission to promote an informed, engaged, and representative democracy acting in the public interest – one in which all citizens have a stake.

To support this agenda, the Foundation is seeking a senior level program officer to lead the Democracy Program. This position works in collaboration with the Foundation’s Vice President of Strategy and Programs.

Job Responsibilities

The lead program officer is responsible for implementing the strategic plan for the Democracy Program. The successful candidate will be a seasoned and respected leader with a history of work that shows a commitment to the conduct and fairness of federal, state and local elections – ideally with direct experience with redistricting and voting rights. Strong candidates will also understand the importance of a vigorous, independent and free press to help improve governance, especially in the Great Lakes states. The Foundation seeks an ambitious, smart, strategic, high-energy person, whose personal networks indicate a natural aptitude for diverse collaboration and leadership.

She or he must share the Foundation’s commitment to a system of democracy that is fair and equitable and is experienced with policy making and policy makers who share that same value. The program lead must have an articulate and persuasive communication style with proven skills with the spoken and written word. Responsibilities include:

  1. Strategy implementation:
  • Develop an implementation strategy to achieve the Democracy Program objectives approved in 2017;
  • Monitor the field: reading, attending meetings, developing relationships so as to understand emerging issues, research, political, and technological developments that affect the program;
  • Evaluate potential policy opportunities and policy context, barriers to success, and capacities of prospective grantees;
  • Define a research agenda to inform and evaluate the program’s policy and systems approaches;
  • Actively identify activities and projects that would advance the program strategy.
  1. Leadership in the Field and External relations:
  • Work with other funders, thought leaders and grantees to:
  • Facilitate communications and information-sharing among them
  • Encourage collaboration
  • Deepen knowledge of the field
  • Craft messages and frame issues
  • Public and policymaker education
  • News media outreach
  • Determine and build capacity of key change agents
  • Work closely with the communications team to develop and deliver significant messages about the program;
  • Play a leadership role in relevant philanthropic and non-profit networks;
  • Build productive one-on-one relationships with local, state, and national policymakers, key leaders in election law and policy, and other stakeholders that can help deliver on the Foundation’s priorities;
  • Use the Foundation’s convening ability to bring together groups of grantees, funding colleagues, policymakers, practitioners and others at pivotal moments.
  1. Grant making and oversight:
  • Facilitate and solicit proposals that are consistent with the program’s strategy and goals through a process of reviewing letters of inquiry, site visits, and other meetings;
  • Evaluate proposals and present at proposal review meetings recommendations for action on funding requests, based on the evaluative criteria as well as the impact of the grants on current and future program budgets;
  • Prepare written recommendations for and make oral presentations to the Board of Directors;
  • Work to support grantee projects, including where appropriate and feasible, participating in meetings, reviewing drafts of reports and connecting grantees to other funders, policymakers and the media;
  • Monitor grants for fulfillment of contract requirements, legal compliance, and to extract lessons for future work.

Job Qualifications

  • A. degree and a minimum of 10 years experience in the field of Democracy; an advanced degree in public policy and civil society and/or a law degree is strongly preferred;
  • An understanding of the ways in which public policies are created, shaped, and changed at the local, state, and federal levels – including frontline knowledge of the role and influence of media/journalism on policy debate and development;
  • Strong strategic, analytic, and communications skills, including the ability to write clearly and succinctly under time pressure;
  • The ability to work creatively with grant applicants and recipients, with colleagues within the foundation and in the field to foster innovative program ideas and grant requests;
  • Demonstrated effectiveness in developing networks and productive working relationships with diverse constituencies;
  • An openness to new ideas and the ability to innovate and take risks in pursuit of high-impact solutions;
  • A willingness to travel;
  • The ability to think broadly, imaginatively, and strategically about the foundation’s social and policy goals while remaining focused on the detail-oriented work and follow-through required by the position.

To Apply

The Joyce Foundation values the unique traits that staff with diverse backgrounds and experience bring to our shared work. We encourage any qualified, interested individual to apply.

Applicants will be considered on a rolling basis and interested parties are encouraged to apply early. To apply, kindly send a: 1. resume; and 2. cover letter that speaks to how your experience meets the needs outlined above.  Please put your name only in the subject line and email to

Sheila Leahy has been hired as the search consultant and she welcomes your inquires at