Senior Program Officer, Humanitarian Action

Senior Program Officer, Humanitarian Action

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

Westlake Village, CA   |   September 4, 2019

The Opportunity

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation (“The Foundation”) is seeking a bold, dynamic and strategic leader for their Senior Program Officer, Humanitarian Action (“Senior Program Officer” / SPO”). The Senior Program Officer serves as the portfolio manager for one of the Foundation’s seven main program areas and is a critical hire for the Foundation’s continued emphasis on humanitarian action as a strategic priority. This role will advance the Foundation’s work to improve the lives of individuals living in poverty and experiencing disadvantage, specifically by making a significant difference in refugees’ livelihoods through direct services and by strengthening the humanitarian-development nexus.

The Senior Program Officer will provide informed leadership to the strategic development and day-to-day management of the Humanitarian Action portfolio. The Senior Program Officer will have a broad knowledge of the issues facing refugees and displaced populations, as well as the ways in which municipal actions, local organizations, and economic development work together to maximize both immediate and long-term impact. The SPO must be a creative and analytic thinker and attentive to the ways in which Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and refugee assistance complement and enhance one another. The SPO presently manages a team of two, however, they will be expected to grow and further develop their team.

Reporting to the Vice President of Strategy and Programs, the Senior Program Officer will have the opportunity to work with various leaders across the Foundation to expand the reach and maximize impact. Recognizing and supporting humanitarian efforts has been a longstanding area of support for the Foundation as evidenced by the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, a $2 million award presented to a nonprofit organization and presently the world’s largest annual humanitarian award. The Senior Program Officer will not only have the unique opportunity to build on the Foundation’s strong reputation in this space, but to identify synergies and further develop capacity with other programs and initiatives including Catholic Sisters, Foster Youth, Homelessness, Hospitality Workforce Development, Safe Water, and Young Children Affected by HIV and AIDS.

About The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is a family foundation established in 1944 by the man who started Hilton Hotels. The Foundation provides funds to nonprofit organizations working to improve the lives of individuals living in poverty and experiencing disadvantage throughout the world. Since its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1.8 billion in grants globally through grantmaking programs and Humanitarian Prize work. The Foundation’s assets are approximately $2.8 billion, with a growth in the endowment expected in the future. The Foundation is located in the renovated former headquarters of Dole Food Company in the Westlake Village, California, a city in Los Angeles County on its northern border with Ventura.

The Hilton Foundation is guided by the last will of its founder. The Foundation works to improve the lives of individuals living in poverty and experiencing disadvantage throughout the world. Conrad N. Hilton’s humble beginnings in San Antonio, Territory of New Mexico, formed the fabric and foundation of his life. Grounded by the values and principles that embody the entrepreneurial spirit an ethic, Conrad dreamed big, thought big, and acted big – building a worldwide hotel empire. Today, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation seeks to exemplify the values and principles practiced by its founder:

Integrity, Thinking Big, Humility, Stewardship, Compassion

The Conrad. N Hilton Foundation incorporates these values not only into their workplace culture, but also into their philanthropic activities where they strive to fulfill Conrad’s directives. Every member of the team is expected to cultivate the work environment in a way that contributes to respectful, open, and engaging dialogue and connection that support meaningful innovation, learning and progress.

Guiding the grantmaking, workplace culture and values of the Foundation is an overarching Philanthropic Approach. The Foundation’s Philanthropic Approach employs four key pillars; grantmaking, communication and advocacy, collaboration, and learning. Together, these global and inter-related channels work to achieve impact by:

  • Supporting programmatic solutions to sustain and test recognized and exploratory approaches.
  • Investing in strengthening systems support efforts to scale solutions, improve public policy and infrastructure, and drive funders, providers and public leaders to invest resources and improve efficiencies toward shared goals.
  • Developing knowledge from both direct service and system strengthening programs, integrating this knowledge with what was known before, and disseminating the knowledge to create continuous learning and to support the application of knowledge in each area where they work.

The Foundation also has practiced a deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion as core principles interwoven throughout the fabric of the organization. With an understanding that the most vulnerable communities are those disproportionately impacted by systemic barriers and forms of discrimination, the Foundation strives to elevate the voices of those impacted by systemic disparities across race, gender and class lines to support long-lasting social change.

Key Responsibilities

Strategic Initiative Planning and Implementation:

  • Provides strategic leadership and develops a long-term vision for the Humanitarian Action strategic initiative
  • Contributes to development of long-term vision and strategic planning to achieve significant impact of humanitarian action, bringing in innovation, best practices and learning; especially on humanitarian action responses, he intersection of urban displacement and livelihoods, and disaster management.
  • Serves as leader for the strategic initiative at Board meetings, program and grantmaking conferences, and other stakeholder meetings
  • Works collaboratively with Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) partner to track progress toward initiative goals and provide guidance and input into MEL strategy. This includes efforts to share learnings and co-organize annual grantee convenings.
  • Supports the Vice President, Strategic Programs in advancing the mission of the Foundation through its programmatic work
  • Supports implementation of program team goals

Grantmaking and Grantee Relations:

  • Oversees the development and management of a multi-year, large-scale strategic initiative
  • Identifies potential grantees and projects
  • Investigates and evaluates grant proposals and presents recommended proposals for funding at Board meetings
  • Monitors and evaluates strategic initiatives and grantee performance
  • Conducts site visits
  • Conducts due diligence to assess grantee work
  • Provides advice/area expertise assistance to and maintains an open, ongoing relationship with grantees
  • Nurtures partnerships among grantees and other stakeholders
  • Participates in meetings with the VP, SP to review grant recommendations, provide updates on grantee progress, determine technical assistance needs of grantees, plan convening, evaluation and communications activities, and share and reflect on experiences in the field and related program activity

Issues and Trend Analysis:

  • Remains informed of current research, policy, activities, and trends in the issues related to the humanitarian and emergency response sectors
  • Directs and guides additional research and development specific to the Humanitarian Action strategic portfolio
  • Responds effectively to the broader knowledge in the filed by aligning grantmaking with emerging learning and opportunities in the field
  • Pursues and promotes learning throughout the field

Thought Leader and Coalition Building:

  • Engages and develops external relations to strengthen strategic coalition-building within the humanitarian sector
  • Convenes meetings of key government, philanthropic, and nonprofit leaders to mobilize coordinated efforts and funding in strategic initiatives
  • Develops collaborative relationships within philanthropy by serving on affinity groups, initiating philanthropic partnerships, and leading educational opportunities for other foundations on topics related to the Humanitarian Action strategic area
  • Represents the Foundation to various constituencies through verbal and written communications (annual reports, brochures, correspondence) and through participating in outside conferences and meetings
  • Works with other leaders in the field to strengthen and further build the field

Management and Program Team Relations:

  • Builds collaborative and positive working relationships and effective communication channels with team members and staff
  • Effectively manages direct reports and provides mentorship in developing professionally
  • Builds out a team structure to support the work of the new strategic initiative
  • Participates in team meetings to review grant recommendations, provide updates on grantee progress, determine technical assistance needs of grantees, plan convening, evaluation and communications activities, and share and reflect on experiences in the field and related program activity.


  • Works with communications team to develop communication strategy
  • Writes blogs/articles for the website and supervises website content and updates
Core Competencies

The Senior Program Officer will be a creative thinker and solutions-oriented leader who can comfortably and authentically advocate for the lives and livelihoods of human beings in the most precarious of situations. This role will require someone who is mature, committed, passionate, and innovative who embodies humility, integrity, and strength of character.

The Senior Program Officer must be a subject matter expert with established networks and relationships in the field, as well as a reputation for being a bridge- and coalition-builder. The Senior Program Officer will be a leader working at the crossroads of global humanitarian and development efforts and must therefore have a demonstrated track record of accomplishments in current and previous roles. The Senior Program Officer will be responsible for strategy development, grant monitoring, management, and integration across the portfolio. Audience-recognition, a high emotional intelligence, and extraordinary communication skills will be imperative to the success of the SPO in initiating and sustaining external partnerships with grantees, stakeholders, policy decision makers, and other funders.

Candidates should have a minimum of ten (10) years of senior management experience in the humanitarian and development field with international organizations, including substantial experience working in developing countries. A graduate degree in public policy, social welfare, or a related field is required.

Additionally, the ideal candidate will also have the following professional core competencies and personal characteristics:

Strategic Mindset and Driving a Vision: The Senior Program Officer will help articulate and lead an ambitious, inspiring and bold vision. The Senior Program Officer will need to see the big picture, establish clear goals, and outline the roadmap for success; the SPO must also be able to anticipate potential challenges and scenarios that may interfere with desirable outcomes. The Senior Program Officer will display intellectual curiosity and must have a demonstrated ability to lead a robust portfolio that includes urban displacements and livelihoods as well as immediate response/emergency relief programs. Moreover, the SPO will be able to draw on the Foundation’s mission to help imagine new possibilities and ensure the efforts and the impact of the Foundation’s many supporters, partners, and staff are recognized and appreciated.

Depth of Knowledge and a Global Perspective: The Senior Program Officer will bring a wide range of experience, a depth of knowledge, and a global perspective to this position. By working at the fault lines of the humanitarian-development nexus, the Senior Program Officer will be able provide meaningful immediate impact while cementing lasting change. The strongest candidates will have field management experience on the front lines of crisis response and emergency relief or building infrastructure and long-term development programs. The ideal candidate will be knowledgeable of policy at the global, federal, state, and local levels, and will have a practical understanding of the role of the nonprofit sector and philanthropy. With global attention focused on bridging the humanitarian-development divide, the SPO will be in a unique position to develop initiatives and support organizations that work across mandates and institutional boundaries.

Management Skills and Organizational Excellence: The Senior Program Officer will be a seasoned professional with strong management and interpersonal skills. This natural leader must have strong organizational, analytical, and time management skills. Given the rapidly changing landscape, the Senior Program Officer must be comfortable navigating through ambiguity and leading during a period of transition and growth. The SPO will have a demonstrated track record of success in managing and growing a team, including recruiting and retaining top-tier staff and providing a productive work environment with various professional growth opportunities. Lastly, the SPO must be committed to continuous improvement and seeking new ways of monitoring and mining programs to better inform best practices and their implementation.

Collaboration and Instilling Trust: As a natural bridge- and coalition-builder, the Senior Program Officer must have the ability to develop effective professional relationships with both internal and external constituents. By serving as a model of accountability and reliability, the SPO will instill trust and create a climate where people communicate effectively and fearlessly. To be successful, the Senior Program Officer must have high emotional intelligence coupled with an understanding and appreciation for diversity, equity, inclusion – including a sensitivity to global, regional, and local differences. The SPO will foster a culture of transparency and collegiality by proactively sharing information and partnering with others to achieve shared objectives and cross-functional initiatives. The SPO will coordinate, facilitate, and negotiate at all levels, including inheriting and developing strong working relationships with the Board of Directors, President, Vice President for Programs and Strategy, Vice President for Communications, and other peers, colleagues, and direct staff members.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills: The Senior Program Officer will possess advanced written/oral communication, presentation and public speaking skills to communicate to diverse internal and external audiences. The Senior Program Officer must be able to analyze and discuss complex and controversial issues and policies. A thorough and transparent communicator, this individual will demonstrate the ability to provide clear expectations and accountability measures for staff deliverables. The Senior Program Officer should be effective at communicating and translating urgency, need and impact to stakeholders who may not possess the same degree of subject matter expertise. The SPO must have the ability to effortlessly represent and advocate for the Foundation by expressing its mission and vision in a way that relatable and meaningful for others.


The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. This search is being led by Michelle Bonoan and Navid Nakai. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume here, or email Michelle or Navid at the following:

Michelle R.S. Bonoan
Managing Director

Navid Nakai

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and we seek candidates from all backgrounds and experiences.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital-consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. 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