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Program Officer, Climate Resilience

Barr Foundation
Job Title: Program Officer, Climate Resilience
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Job Search Ends:
February 2nd, 2018
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About the Barr Foundation

The Barr Foundation’s mission is to invest in human, natural, and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts. As stewards, Barr nurtures and enhances vital community assets. As catalysts, the Foundation cultivates and advances the breakthrough ideas that will shape our collective future. Barr focuses on achieving impact as a constructive partner, willing to exercise leadership. Based in Boston, the Foundation focuses regionally, and selectively engages nationally, working in partnership with nonprofits, foundations, the public sector, and civic and business leaders to elevate the arts and creative expression, advance solutions for climate change, and expand educational opportunity. Barr is one of the largest private foundations in New England with assets of more than $1.7 billion and a 2018 grantmaking budget of $85 million.

A set of core values defined by the Barr Foundation’s founding trustees expresses beliefs about what constitutes effective philanthropy and guides how the Foundation carries out its philanthropic mission. The Foundation is committed to strive for excellence, act with humility, adopt a long-term perspective, and embrace risk. Additionally, while each program is guided by distinct priorities and goals, Barr embraces a common set of approaches in all aspects of its work, namely flexibility and nimbleness, a broad range of tools, knowledge and learning, openness and transparency, and active collaboration.

Barr’s Climate Program

Since its inception, the Barr Foundation has prioritized the environment as a principal area of funding, and in 2010 focused this funding on the monumental problem of climate change. At that time, Barr made a five-year, $50 million commitment to help Boston and Massachusetts accelerate efforts to reach emissions reduction goals, emphasizing energy, transportation, and land use. The initial climate strategy focused primarily on climate mitigation and the two largest sectors in the New England region: clean energy and mobility. During this time, the Foundation also did some selective grantmaking related to climate preparedness, and in 2016 Barr launched an explicit two-year Special Initiative for Climate Preparedness, largely to support efforts that advanced the City of Boston’s ongoing plans and preparation for climate impacts. Since launching the Climate Program in 2010, the Foundation has provided over $120 million in grants.

In December 2017, following a period of exploration and informed by an independent evaluation of the Climate Preparedness Initiative, the trustees endorsed the recommendation to build upon the two-year initiative over the next decade. We believe the Foundation has an important leadership role to play in helping to catalyze and advance solutions that work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time preparing the region for the impacts created by extreme weather and sea-level rise.

Program Officer Position

The Barr Foundation is seeking a program officer for its newly established Climate Resilience focus area within the Climate Program. The program officer would work closely with staff of the Climate Program to ensure integration of effort.

The goal of the Climate Resilience focus area is to increase the capacity of Greater Boston’s residents, neighborhoods, institutions, and businesses to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Climate Resilience will be developed into a core strategy within the Climate Program. To date, our most significant investments related to resilience have been dedicated to three areas: helping the City of Boston lay the technical foundation for its resiliency planning needs; identifying a set of innovative solutions and facilitating planning for their implementation; and beginning to build support and capacity in key public agencies and stakeholder groups to continue these efforts. Moving forward, Climate Resilience will strive to catalyze action and investments that create a more resilient region and protect residents from the most severe impacts associated with a changing climate.

Initially, the Foundation’s grantmaking in Climate Resilience will focus on three strategic areas: (1) build awareness so that residents and stakeholders understand the magnitude of the problem, (2) mobilize key constituencies to advance policies that lead to better decision-making, and (3) mainstream resilience into all sectors so it becomes commonplace to plan and implement projects that are climate resilient. Simultaneously, the Foundation will work to integrate Climate Resilience grantmaking into the other Climate Program focus areas of Clean Energy and Mobility. In 2018, the Foundation intends to grant $5 million toward these strategies, and this program may scale up as we learn more and understand areas where the Foundation can have the greatest impact.

Our program officers are integral in identifying new grant concepts—through conversation and network building with current and prospective grantees and leaders in our fields—and preparing effective written summaries and other communications for our trustees. This program officer will report to the Co-Director of Climate who focuses on mobility and work with the overall climate team to help implement the Climate Resilience focus area, cultivate grantmaking opportunities, and prepare grant materials to submit to the trustees. In particular, this program officer will play an important role in thought leadership, strategy development, and helping the Foundation roll out the Climate Resilience focus area and organize convenings with other funders and stakeholders to share learnings and advance cross-sector resilience dialogues.

As a complement to this focus on Climate Resilience, the Foundation has been leading a special initiative aimed at stewarding Boston’s waterfront. This work seeks to promote a great public realm along the Boston Harbor waterfront. This initiative supports planning and advocacy to ensure that the Boston’s historic waterfront remains an accessible, resilient, and equitable public resource, and that current and future development of the waterfront is guided by a bold and comprehensive vision. The climate resilience program officer would work collaboratively with staff engaged in this initiative to ensure alignment and coordination of strategy and grantmaking in both efforts.

Key Responsibilities

Planning and strategy

  • Collaborate with the Co-Directors and team members of Climate in developing grantmaking strategies that will have a strong impact in areas important to the Foundation.
  • Contribute to assessment and modifications of strategy in response to new knowledge, and serve as a thought partner on the Climate Resilience team.
  • Maintain a wide breadth and depth of knowledge about the current trends, professional practices and policies pertinent to the program.


  • Work with the Co-Directors of Climate to identify potential grant opportunities related to Climate Resilience. Evaluate new proposals, conduct site visits, actively assist organizations in improving the quality of proposals and activities, manage active grants, assess their progress, and analyze and act on financial and programmatic reports.
  • Draft internal documents and analyses for Foundation leadership and trustee consideration of funding proposals.
  • Assist with the evaluation of grants or grant clusters in support of program strategy reviews, and collaborate with the Communications team to disseminate learnings that contribute to the fields of climate resilience and adaptation in philanthropy.
  • Develop and manage consultant engagements as necessary for program strategies.
  • Respond to inquiries and proposals in the program area.
  • Coordinate and collaborate with staff engaged on Waterfront Initiative as needed.

Field Leadership

  • Develop and cultivate strong working relationships with grantees, outside advisors, experts in the field, public sector partners, and colleagues in philanthropy.
  • Contribute to the team’s knowledge by keeping abreast of current trends, emerging issues, policies, political landscape, influential leaders, and best practices.
  • In collaboration with the Co-Director of Climate, commission papers and program-related reports that broadly contribute to the Foundation’s understanding of new approaches, best practices, and issues in Climate Resilience relevant to the program’s interests.
  • As appropriate, organize meetings and convenings of field experts to share best practices, encourage collaboration, and explore strategies for collective impact.
  • Learn and provide leadership in the professional field through speaking engagements, writing, and use of social media.


  • Strong record of achievement with minimum of five years of relevant experience working in nonprofit, public, or private sector in fields related to the Foundation’s Climate Resilience focus area. 
  • The ability to understand complex climate change impacts and assist in the creation of comprehensive strategies that respond to the three strategic goals for the foundation’s program on resilience. Experience working on climate, resilience and/or land use planning in urban settings.
  • Familiarity with public policy and political processes, and an understanding of the role of the nonprofit and philanthropic communities in driving policy change. Knowledge of the culture, neighborhoods, institutions, and leadership of Greater Boston would be an asset.
  • Understanding of the inequities that exist for vulnerable communities related to climate change impacts, and the ability to advance and support strategies that mitigate against those negative impacts.
  • Proven ability to define program objectives, evaluate progress, and independently manage projects through a complete lifecycle.
  • Exceptional quantitative and qualitative analytical skills necessary for designing initiatives, identifying investment opportunities, and evaluating grant proposals.
  • Experience using both objective data and informed opinions to evaluate the impact of an organization’s work. Experience in assessing nonprofits’ health and effectiveness through analyzing financial statements, evaluating the feasibility and strategic value of proposed programs and activities, and assessing management, leadership, and organizational capacity.
  • Experience building strong, positive, collaborative relationships with diverse constituencies. The ability to listen to new ideas, encourage open dialogue, and inspire people to work towards common goals.
  • Strong project, time, and budget management skills; an ability to thrive working under deadlines and handle multiple tasks without sacrificing attention to detail.
  • Excellent writing and presentation skills, particularly in communicating with diverse constituencies in a variety of settings.
  • Independent initiative and a collegial spirit in sharing ideas and receiving feedback.
  • Bachelor’s degree required. Graduate degree in Environmental Sciences, Urban/Regional Planning, Public Policy, Public Administration, or a closely related field is preferred.

To Apply

Please visit http://bit.ly/2BUBxqT to apply for this position. Only applications submitted via this link will be considered. Applications for this position will be reviewed on a rolling basis, with applications strongly encouraged by Friday, February 2nd. Please note that the Barr Foundation will provide an allowance for relocation costs for this position.

All inquiries may be directed in confidence to: Denise Gillespie, director of Human Resources, via email at: barrjobs@barrfoundation.org.

This position offers a competitive salary with excellent benefits.

The Barr Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and seeks a diverse pool of candidates in this search.

133 Federal Street, Suite 802 | Boston, MA 02110
Phone: 617.426.2606 | Fax: 617.426.2849
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