Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.

Chief Program Officer

Job Locations US
Posted Date 2 months ago(3/28/2024 10:07 AM)
Job ID
# of Openings
Chief Program Office


NRDC is a non-profit environmental advocacy organization. We use law, science, and the support of 3.1 million members and online activists to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and to ensure the rights of all people to clean air, clean water, and healthy communities. NRDC was founded in 1970 and our people helped write some of America's bedrock environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act and many of the implementing regulations. Today, our team of more than 700 lawyers, scientists, economists, policy advocates, communications experts, and others work across the United States and the globe from our offices in Beijing; Bozeman, Montana; Chicago; New Delhi; New York; San Francisco; Santa Monica; and Washington, D.C.


Chief Program Officer Role Description


The Chief Program Officer will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for NRDC’s four program areas: Climate & Energy, Environmental Health, Nature, and International, with a focus on the following three tasks: program strategy and management, fundraising and representation, and knowledge management. The position is a part of the senior management team that drives the overall strategy for the organization and represents NRDC (NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL) on a local, national, and international basis and oversees a budget of $100 million and a staff of 370.  The Chief Program Officer will be internally and externally focused, serving as a proxy for the president at various external events in addition to fundraising responsibilities in partnership with Development.   


The Chief Program Officer will solid-line report into the Executive Director and dotted-line report to the President and CEO for key strategy and staffing decisions. The CPO will have the following direct reports: 

  • Chief Litigation Officer  
  • SVP (Senior Vice President), Climate & Energy  
  • SVP, Environmental Health 
  • SVP, International  
  • SVP, Nature 
  • MD, Finance and Economic Development 
  • Deputy Program Officer  


Chief Program Officer Responsibilities

  • Program Strategy & Management 
  • Sets and executes NRDC’s program strategy.  
  • Oversees NRDC’s advocacy programs – Climate & Energy (C&E), Environmental Health, Nature, and International to ensure that the organization delivers on its goals.  
  • Attracts, develops, coaches, and retains high-performance team members, empowering them to elevate their level of responsibility, span of control, and performance.   
  • Provides leadership in the development of inter-team communication and cohesiveness, sustaining culture and supporting staff during organizational growth.  
  • Works with staff to develop systems to ensure consistent, high-quality project management.  
  • Demonstrates consistent quality of finance and administration, fundraising, communications, and systems; able to determine timelines and resources needed to achieve program goals.  
  • In collaboration with Senior Vice Presidents in each program area, and CEO and Executive Director, decides how to allocate NRDC resources to support its top program priorities; determines key program objectives and measures of success; and guides the implementation of NRDC’s program strategy.  
  • Champions equity, diversity, and inclusion by acting as a role model of values-based leadership. Diversity and inclusion in decision-making is a must.  

Fundraising & Representation  

  • As an external representative and ambassador of NRDC, plays a leading role in setting the agenda and drives outcomes for our priority campaigns.  
  • Expands revenue generating and fundraising activities to support existing programs and the growth of NRDC, cultivating existing relationships and developing new funder relationships.  
  • Supports the CEO and other Executive Team members in building relationships with stakeholders, including government officials, fellow NGOs, and donors, and Trustee stewardship. 
  • Represents the Program function and presents reports to the Board of Trustees and/or Board committees.  
  • Serves as proxy for the President and CEO at various events.  
  • Knowledge Management  
  • Develops the necessary systems, processes, and tools to better support the facilitation, collection, and sharing of knowledge generated by the programs, in collaboration with Chief of Staff and Chief of Strategy. 
  • Develops dissemination systems to share organizational learning with a broad range of communities.  
  • Ensures that key project outcomes and/or policy, advocacy, and legislation are evaluated and leveraged for maximum community and organizational impact.  
  • Works collaboratively with the senior management team to integrate cross program activities and functions.   


NRDC is working to achieve a more sustainable, inclusive, and prosperous world—one in which we are standing up for climate, health, nature, and equity. To meet our most pressing environmental and public health challenges, we are building bold solutions to fight climate change by decarbonizing the power, transportation, buildings, and industrial systems; protect endangered species and wilderness; create a roadmap for sustainable cities; eliminate toxic chemicals in the air, food, and water; and engage millions of people in the movement for a healthier world. This is an exceptional opportunity for a dynamic, collaborative, inspirational leader. Our next Chief Program Officer will be thoroughly committed to NRDC's strategy and mission and bring demonstrated leadership, coaching, and relationship management experience.   


Required Leadership Skills


Program Strategy and Management: This individual will take a firsthand approach in leading various initiatives. The ideal candidate will have a history of effectively leading a performance-based and outcome-based program and staff. They will have developed and operationalized strategies that have taken a program or organization to the next stage of growth. Expertise in one or more of NRDC’s current areas of programmatic work is highly desirable.  

Exceptional Communication and Influencing Skills: As a voice/advocate for NRDC, the Chief Program Officer will have strong written and oral communication skills. They will be persuasive, credible, and articulate communicators with excellent interpersonal and multidisciplinary project skills. This person must work with internal and external partners and other organizations, providing exposure for program impact in a variety of professional settings and other media outlets. Ideally, this person will have served as an effective spokesperson at the national level.  

Team Building and Development: The successful candidate will have recruited, managed, and developed a strong team of staff, program/project managers, and development professionals. This individual will serve as a “player/coach” to motivate and mentor their team, working to inspire action both inside and outside of NRDC.   


Qualifications and Experience

  • Deeply committed to NRDCs mission and purpose and an ability to communicate this passion to others.  
  • Integrity, positive attitude, mission-driven, and self-directed with demonstrated passion for NRDCs mission and commitment to working collaboratively with a management team of senior professionals.  
  • At least 15 years of management experience overseeing programs and proven leadership skills.  
  • Demonstrated experience managing a high-performing team with a deep commitment to the values of diversity, inclusiveness, and empowerment.  
  • Comprehensive working knowledge of program planning, organizational structure, budgeting, and administrative operations.  
  • Unwavering commitment to quality programs and excellence in organizational and project management to achieve strategic objectives. 
  • Strong demonstrated fundraising experience with the ability to engage a wide range of stakeholders such as advisory groups, coalitions, forums, trade associations, foundations, corporate sponsors, and practitioner groups.  
  • Ability to establish credibility and work in collaboration with diverse groups of people, including attorneys, scientists, advocates, policy experts and grassroots organizers.  
  • A team player, who can interrelate and operate effectively with peers and other associates within a collegial, yet demanding, work environment.  
  • An individual who can handle a variety of constituencies, manage multiple tasks simultaneously and thrive in a complex environment with multiple priorities.  
  • DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) and Equity minded leader who builds bridges and engages staff at all levels in institutional dialogue. 
  • Brings impeccable integrity, strong analytical skills, and a dedicated work ethic.  
  • Has a good sense of humor; listens to others and accepts different opinions; is a leader and a team player; is cooperative and able to build bridges.  


NRDC is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, both in our work and in our workplace. We believe that celebrating and actively welcoming a diversity of voices and perspectives is essential to solving the planet's most pressing environmental problems, and we encourage applications from candidates whose identities have been historically under-represented in the environmental movement. We are an equal opportunity employer and do not discriminate in hiring or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state, or local law. Pursuant to the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance, we will consider for employment qualified applicants with arrest and conviction records.  


We offer competitive salaries, excellent benefits, and a supportive working environment. Salary is based on a nonprofit scale and commensurate with skills and experience. For this position, the salary is $350,000 to $400,000. Internal equity considerations and the average salary of the peer range will be reviewed before making a final offer.


Our offices are open and we are operating in a hybrid model. We offer NRDCers flexibility, we ask them to come into the office and spend meaningful time there in collaboration with their colleagues.  We call this purposeful presence.


As a science-based organization, NRDC aims to do our part to help contain the COVID-19 public health crisis. For the sake of health, safety, and equity, we ask that people be vaccinated unless they have an approved medical or religious accommodation or other exemption in accordance with state and local law. We consider a person to be vaccinated two weeks after receiving one full course of a CDC-approved vaccine. In accordance with state or local law, new hires will be asked to attest to vaccination, those wishing to do so may request medical or religious accommodations or other exemptions via NRDC Employee Relations. NRDC treats all vaccine-related data confidentially, in keeping with local, state, and federal laws. 


To apply, visit and upload your résumé and cover letter. Please mention where you saw this posting and upload any additional materials that showcase your abilities. Due to the high volume of applications, we will contact only those candidates we would like to interview. Please no phone calls, emails, or in-person résumé drop-offs.


If you experience technical problems while applying or if you are a person with a disability and need assistance applying online, please reach out to iCIMS Customer Care at 1-800-889-4422. 


For more about NRDC, visit 


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