Organization: First Graduate

Location: San Francisco, CA

Express Interest

About First Graduate:

Imagine if every family in San Francisco could have a college-going tradition. First Graduate’s vision is to make that possible.

First Graduate, a San Francisco-based college success program, helps students finish high school and become the first in their families to graduate from college, well prepared to pursue meaningful careers. In San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), 83% of students have parents who are not college graduates. Without help, only 11% of first-generation students obtain a college degree – in comparison, 98% of First Graduate’s students graduate from high school and enroll in a two or four-year college.

About First Graduate:

  • First Graduate is the only college access program in San Francisco that starts in middle school and stays with students through college graduation. The program takes a deep approach, working with students for ten plus years;
  • First Graduate currently serves 453 students – 115 in middle school, 154 in high school and 184 in college;
  • The program takes a holistic approach involving students, parents, school, other community-based partners, volunteers, corporate partners and the broader community in each student’s success;
  • The Middle School Program, which is embedded at Everett and James Denman Middle Schools, focuses on ramping up student’s mathematics and language arts skills to a competitive level, applying to academically rigorous high schools and beginning to think about what it means to be a college-bound student and career exposure;
  • In the High School Program, First Graduate coaches students to ensure completion of college preparatory coursework to achieve CSU and UC eligibility and provides standardized test and college application preparation, financial aid workshops and access through career exploration to summer enrichment opportunities and internships to make students competitive college candidates;
  • Once enrolled in college, the College and Career Program provides First Graduate students coaching and mentoring around college persistence, career development, financial health and social and emotional well-being; and
  • First Graduate college students are attending schools across the country. 80% of First Graduate students start at four-year institutions and 75% of students graduate from college within six years.

First Graduate has a strong and unique organizational culture based on collaboration and a deep commitment to students. With a passionate and dedicated staff, First Graduate has been on a growth trajectory. In the last five years, First Graduate has moved to a school-based model, expanded its relationship with SFUSD and has doubled the number of students served.

The organization is poised for continued growth. In this next chapter, First Graduate aims to serve more students and advance its place as a cornerstone in the San Francisco educational nonprofit community and a valued City partner.

For more information on First Graduate, please visit

The Opportunity:

As First Graduate enters this exciting next chapter, the Executive Director will provide strategic leadership to fulfill the organization’s vision for growth. The Executive Director will focus on fundraising, operational effectiveness and core mission delivery. Working with the Board and staff, the Executive Director will build a clear plan for growth, acknowledging the long-term commitment First Graduate makes to students in the program.

Reporting to the Board of Directors, with primary oversight by the Executive Committee, the Executive Director directly manages the five members of the Leadership Team: Director of Development, Director of Operations and the Directors of the Middle School, High School and College Success Programs.

The Executive Director, in partnership with the Leadership Team, will have operational responsibility for First Graduate’s staff and programs. S/he will ensure First Graduate’s staff of twenty are working effectively to support and advance the mission. The Executive Director will embody First Graduate’s strong internal culture and will work tirelessly to promote the organization throughout the community, accelerating its impact and brand recognition. S/he will attract talent to the organization and ensure the First Graduate team is continually motivated by the work.

The Executive Director will be instrumental in helping First Graduate achieve its potential to continue to serve more students. Key metrics for success of this role include:

  • Partnering effectively with the Board of Directors and staff to build a plan for growth that acknowledges the organization’s long-term commitment to students;
  • Achieving strong fundraising success through deepening and sustaining relationships with committed supporters as well as expanding First Graduate’s donor base; and
  • Building programs that scale for both outcomes and cost effectiveness while staying true to the mission and culture of the organization.

Candidate Profile:

The Executive Director will be passionate about fulfilling First Graduate’s mission, building a college going tradition among first-generation students and changing the lives of families in San Francisco forever. S/he will have the character, confidence and personality to effectively interact with a broad range of constituents while fulfilling the responsibilities of this high visibility role.

The ideal candidate will have the following personal competencies and characteristics:

Strategic Leadership and Management

The Executive Director will be a strategic, yet hands-on leader, who will work with the Board and staff to build out the plan to achieve First Graduate’s vision for continued growth. S/he will offer creative, yet practical, ideas to continue to scale First Graduate’s programs, while staying focused on outcomes and cost effectiveness. Given the long-term commitment First Graduate makes to students, it is important that the Executive Director builds plans that manage both the opportunities and the risks. S/he will have strong financial and operational experience to continually challenge and fine-tune the growth model. S/he will have a successful track record in management, development and Board relations.

Fundraising and Development

The Executive Director will be a demonstrated or emergent leader in the field of development. S/he will embrace First Graduate’s strong internal fundraising culture and will have the character and confidence to expand the organization’s development capacity. S/he will work in partnership with the Board and the development team to achieve fundraising success and broaden First Graduate’s donor base. S/he will have a strong orientation towards data and analysis and an ability to use metrics to drive development decisions and achieve strategic objectives. The Executive Director will also adopt an entrepreneurial approach to expanding and deepening new and existing donor support.

An ‘Ambassador’ for First Graduate

The Executive Director will be a high-energy, charismatic leader who will serve as an ‘Ambassador’ for First Graduate. S/he will have an executive and mission-driven presence and will be able to effectively articulate and convey First Graduate’s mission and priorities to a range of constituents including the donors, partners, students, parents, SFUSD, the Board of Directors and staff. The Executive Director will have an inspirational approach to building collaboration and buy-in and generating support from all stakeholders. As the external voice of the organization, s/he will articulate the vision of First Graduate to its current supporting community and future stakeholders.

The Executive Director must be a confident public speaker ready to help expand First Graduate’s donor base and supporters throughout the Bay Area while continuing to grow its reach and impact in San Francisco. The Executive Director will be an inspirational and team-focused leader of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation.


Alexandra Corvin and Marissa Martin of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here or email Alex and Marissa directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

about koya leadership partners

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit