Website Polk Bros. Foundation Polk Bros. Foundation

Polk Bros. Foundation

Chief of Staff
Polk Bros. Foundation

Polk Bros. Foundation ( is a private independent foundation dedicated to building and strengthening Chicago’s families and communities, especially those most affected by poverty and inequity. The Foundation focuses its work at the intersection of Chicago’s most pressing
issues to address the complex roots and devastating effects of poverty, challenge inequity, and ensure that all Chicagoans have the opportunity to reach their full potential. The Foundation actively partners with local nonprofit organizations, other foundations, corporations, and government agencies, working to reduce the impact of poverty and provide area residents with better access to quality  education and vibrant arts organizations, preventive health care and basic human services.

Since its founding in 1988, the Foundation has partnered with more than 3,000 Chicago nonprofits to build strong communities and families, increase access to quality education and the arts, improve health, and strengthen organizations and the sectors in which they work. Polk Bros. Foundation is one of the largest funders of Chicago nonprofits, granting more than $25 million to nearly 400 nonprofit partners every year, and managing assets greater than $400 million. During 2020-22, the Foundation’s Board approved an additional $17 million in Equitable Recovery grants to help Chicago rebuild in a way that addressed longstanding racial inequities. For the past year, Foundation staff and board have been doing a deep dive to identify how learnings from the Equitable Recovery grants and their focus on racial equity can be more fully and more intentionally infused into the Foundation’s overall grantmaking.

The Position
Polk Bros. Foundation is searching for a highly qualified Chief of Staff, an experienced, empathetic leader and creative strategist who will work closely with the CEO and leadership team in implementing strategic initiatives, developing plans, and managing special projects for the Foundation. They will be an
integral member of the senior management team, supporting the CEO and the Foundation staff as a project manager for key initiatives, meeting deadlines for strategic deliverables and effective communication plans for internal and external audiences.

This new position will help ensure the success of key strategic initiatives and special projects by developing and managing the initiatives’ implementation plans, facilitating interdepartmental communication and collaboration, conducting evaluation (quantitative and qualitative) of the Foundation’s grantmaking, and serving as a strategic advisor to the CEO. Initial focus of the role will be primarily on guiding and facilitating the implementation of the Foundation’s racial equity goals. As a new position, the Chief of Staff will be integrally involved in helping define and shape this role, in partnership with the CEO.

The successful candidate will have proven experience in project management, facilitating teams toward successful implementation, proactive troubleshooting, and monitoring efforts to accomplish the mission of Polk Bros. Foundation. The position reports directly to the CEO.

The Chief of Staff will embrace the Foundation’s service orientation and culture of accessibility, transparency, humility, and fairness and will demonstrate an open, caring attitude in working with others, as well as a high level of written and oral communication skills. The Chief of Staff should demonstrate a track record of collaborating with stakeholders with integrity, forthrightness, and genuineness. The successful candidate will share a deep appreciation and passion for Chicago and its residents, and a commitment to the Foundation’s mission.

The successful candidate will be able to think strategically and creatively, to analyze quantitative and qualitative data and draw summary conclusions from it, and to identify ways to strengthen the Foundation’s work. Key measures of the Chief of Staff’s effectiveness will be the ability to manage the planning and implementation of complex strategic initiatives and to turn data and evidence into compelling narratives and communication materials (both written and visual/PowerPoint). The Chief of Staff will use strong leadership and problem-solving skills, including:

● Work with the CEO and senior management to plan, deliver, assess, and communicate progress across all aspects of strategic planning, projects or proposals.
● Project manage key ongoing and new strategic initiatives, as identified jointly with the CEO, including developing and managing the implementation plan and deadlines (often coordinating with and facilitating the work of other Foundation staff), conducting analyses on key output and outcomes metrics, and, at key milestones, developing summary presentation materials.
● Conduct research, evaluate, and provide information and recommendations to the CEO on a range of strategic and operational matters from across the organization. Track and drive progress against organization priorities, providing relevant updates to the CEO and appropriate internal and external stakeholders, as determined in consultation with the CEO.
● Develop agendas and any needed materials for staff and leadership meetings related to strategic initiatives, and monitor and ensure post-meeting follow-up and follow-through.
● Participate in and/or lead meetings/planning for initiatives to support strong and positive workplace culture and implementation of organizational strategy.
● Work with the CEO to create Board meeting agendas and materials, and coordinate the development of the CEO report, grants docket summary, and other presentation materials for Board meetings.
● Work with the CEO and VP of Programs to shape and conduct regular assessments and analyses of Foundation grantmaking, overall and according to key metrics and priorities.
● Organize and lead internal working groups or cross-functional teams as required.
● Implement and/or manage additional priority initiative projects and other duties as necessary.

Core Competencies:
To carry out the responsibilities outlined above successful candidates will have a  minimum of 7 years of strategic management experience (or equivalent) with the following core competencies:

Strategic Planning, Implementation and Management Skills
● Proven record of strategic design, management and leadership of complex programs and initiatives with exceptional and proactive problem-solving and analytical skills.
● Strong and proven ability to think strategically and clearly and to facilitate healthy and productive group dynamics.
● Demonstrated success in project management of complex initiatives including developing, implementing, evaluating and informing long-term, client-centered projects and initiatives.
● Strong knowledge of the Chicago nonprofit community, as well as an understanding of nonprofit organizational development.
● Preferred but not essential: Field experience in programmatic areas relevant to the grantmaking of Polk Bros. Foundation.
● An understanding of the operations and role of foundations is helpful; prior grantmaking experience or previous employment at a foundation is not required.

Analytic and Communication Skills
● Superior analytic and writing skills, including the ability to assess and  synthesize complex information into a clear, concise summary, including via PowerPoint.
● Demonstrated ability to understand the feasibility, potential impact, and opportunities to improve new and ongoing initiatives.
● Ability to monitor and analyze implementation, impact, trends, and research and translate into evidence-based strategic recommendations.
● Clear, concise and engaging verbal communication skills.

Collaboration and Interpersonal Skills
● Demonstrated ability to work as part of a team with proven ability to coalesce people around common goals. Ability to work comfortably and develop relationships with people who hold diverse perspectives.
● Personal and professional commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion is evident in how they think, act and contribute to a team.
● Flexibility, commitment to teamwork, curiosity, and a sense of humor. Capacity to work amicably in a small office with high volume of work, as well as a deep sense of responsibility and accountability.
● A record of recognizing and acting on opportunities to continuously improve.

Compensation/Benefits: Salary range: $125,000 to $160,000, commensurate with experience.

The Foundation offers an excellent benefits package, including health, dental, vision, and life insurance; short and long-term disability coverage, a 401(k) retirement plan (including an employer contribution after one year of employment), generous paid time off including holidays, and a substantial matching gift program. Polk Bros. Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and seeks to maintain the diversity of its staff.

The Foundation is currently working a hybrid schedule, with at least two common days (Wednesdays and Thursdays) in its downtown office and occasional other days as needed. The hybrid schedule remains under evaluation and is potentially subject to change; any such change would be with ample notice.

Application Process: Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and interested parties are encouraged to apply early. Please submit applications to with only YOUR NAME in the subject line. Applications should include these two components: 1) your resume, and 2) a cover letter that speaks to how your experience meets the needs outlined above.

A selection is expected to be made in mid-November 2023 with a preferred start date of early January

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