Senior Program Officer, Learning and Network: Barra Foundation

Posted April 25th, 2019 at 11:24 am.


The Barra Foundation is an independent private foundation that invests in innovation to inspire change that strengthens communities. Barra supports the efforts of creative thinkers and bold organizations that are tackling problems and seizing opportunities in new and different ways. Barra annually grants approximately $4 million to address the needs of economically disadvantaged individuals and communities in the Greater Philadelphia region and to promote a vibrant cultural community. In addition to grants, Barra has begun to utilize impact investing as part of its overall strategy.

Barra’s two primary grant programs are the Catalyst Fund and Barra Awards. The Catalyst Fund supports ideas and initiatives in their early stages of development. The Catalyst Fund recognizes the need to provide financial support for risk-taking; challenges to old assumptions; and new models for accomplishing important work in the social sector. The Barra Awards acknowledge and advance the work of exemplary nonprofits. Organizations are recommended to the Foundation by a diverse pool of nominators—primarily their peers in the nonprofit sector—and awardees receive multi-year, unrestricted funding.

Barra’s grantee network is made up of approximately 75 organizations (40 Barra Awardees and 35 Catalyst Fund grantees), spanning five counties and four interest areas: Arts & Culture, Education, Health, and Human Services. Barra places a strong emphasis on learning, sharing and connecting and seeks to match people to resources and ideas in a way that will help further innovation in our region. This aspect of their work, referred to as “Beyond the Money” can take a variety of forms: from grantee learning events, to leadership exchanges to opportunities to build evaluation capacity.

Barra’s Wayne, PA office will relocate to Philadelphia by January 1, 2021.

Position Overview

Barra believes that there is an opportunity to better leverage its diverse and knowledgeable network to further Barra’s mission. The Senior Program Officer (SPO), Learning and Network is a newly created role reporting to the President. The SPO will oversee the Barra Awards Program, grantee network activities as well as learning and dissemination. The SPO will craft strategy, set goals, design programs and monitor progress for their areas of responsibility, which include:

Primary Responsibilities

Barra Awards

·        Oversee the Barra Awards process, from application through grant awards and communications, ensuring its successful execution and facilitating the grantees’ efforts to increase their innovation capacity.

·        Identify and prepare a diverse pool of nominators for their role in the awards process. Integrate nominators into the network and facilitate stronger relationships.

·        Conduct site visits with awardees.

·        Working with Barra team and partners, create a theory of change and logic model specific to the Barra Awards in order to better understand and communicate the program’s impact, goals, activities and resources.

·        Establish performance measures and improve tools for collecting data. Re-evaluate application and report questions.

·        Build upon The Rockefeller Foundation and Bridgespan Group’s Nonprofit Innovation Capacity diagnostic to introduce awardees to elements of innovation capacity and areas for improvement.

·        Prepare reports to Barra staff and Board of Directors.

Network Activities

·        Oversee all grantee network activities and events—such as Barra’s annual Innovating Intentionally event and cohort learning opportunities—which strengthen relationships, spark creative thinking and advance learning.

·        In collaboration with all grantees, identify gaps and areas for support that Barra can uniquely provide, within strategic and budgetary guidelines.

·        Develop and implement cohort learning opportunities for grantees.

·        Establish priorities, guidelines and outcomes for network activities; establish practices to support learning between grantees, Barra and the broader public.

·        Implement a CRM tool to manage the network and to capture data and learning across the network.

·        Select and manage consultants and vendors.

·        Prepare for future assessment of programs.

Learning and Dissemination

·        Act as a thought partner to Barra’s President in particular on learning and dissemination for the organization.

·        Analyze and use data to tell the stories of individual grants, grant programs and the Foundation overall.

·        Work closely with the Program Director, Catalyst Fund to distill and capture learnings at the grantee level, grant portfolio level and across the organization. Use data and data visualization to effectively show progress and impact.

·        Work with President to set strategy for and oversee all of Barra’s dissemination and communications efforts, including website, email, and social media, with an emphasis on inspiring grantees and broader public about innovation and grantee projects.

·        Work closely with Catalyst Fund team to identify compelling and educational innovation stories for Barra’s communications.

·        Hire and manage writers to execute grant stories for website, social media, and emails.

·        Review and assess impact of dissemination/communications practices.


·        Attend and participate in quarterly Board of Director meetings.

·        Develop and manage an annual budget and calendar of activities.

·        Represent Barra at conferences and meetings and give presentations, where appropriate.

·        Practice participatory philanthropy, engaging grantees, staff, and colleagues in the design and improvement of programs.


  • Strong and diverse experience in one or more of Barra’s interest areas (Arts & Culture, Education, Health and Human Services) and a solid understanding of how nonprofit organizations operate.
  • Knowledge about innovation practice in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.

·        An individual who has a flexible attitude and who welcomes the opportunity to develop a new position and adapt as needed.

·        A proven track record of developing and implementing new programs.

·        Highly analytical, detail-oriented and capable of synthesizing large amounts of information and communicating it concisely and coherently.

·        Good at developing and maintaining relationships and building credibility and trust among a diverse set of stakeholders.

·        Excellent oral and written communications abilities.

·        A team player who enjoys collaborating with others.

  • The ability to think creatively and strategically about the broad goals of the Foundation, while remaining focused on the detail-oriented work and follow-through required by the position.

·        Savvy about applying the use of technology to capture, manage and disseminate data and information;  experience with project management and CRM tools preferred; experience using media tools (e.g., Email, Twitter, TweetDeck), especially in a professional setting.

·        Project management experience.

·        Exceptional work ethic, high level of integrity, professionalism, accountability and superior judgment.

  • Shows a commitment to the five-county Philadelphia region.
  • Bachelor’s and Master’s degree preferred but not required.
  • Ten or more years of relevant experience in nonprofit management, public policy, or related field. A candidate with prior grant-making experience is desirable but not required.

Personal Qualities  

The successful candidate will be a smart, high-energy, self-motivated and self-confident—yet humble—person. They demonstrate flexibility and the ability to work in a small, fast-paced office environment and manage multiple tasks. They will have the leadership skills to work both independently and as a team member in a collegial workplace where well thought out opinions and give and take exchanges are expected and encouraged. They will be able to work creatively with prospective, current and past grantees. A sense of humor and a constructive outlook are a plus.


Ability to travel occasionally to conferences and meetings.


Competitive compensation package, including base salary and benefits package will correspond to the experience level and credentials of the candidate.


The Barra Foundation supports the principle and philosophy of equal opportunity for all individuals, regardless of age, race, gender, creed, national origin, disability, veteran status or any other protected category pursuant to applicable federal, state or local law.

How To Apply

If you wish to explore this position, please submit your resume and cover letter (optional) with Subject Line: Barra Senior Program Officer Learning and Network to

Criterion Search Group, Inc.

Tel: (610) 581-0590

Filed under: Management Level by Margie DuBrow

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