Director of Operations

Palo Alto, CA / Remote possible | Full-time


Comprehensive Position Profile

Reports to: President of Science Philanthropy Alliance


About the Organization:

The mission of Science Philanthropy Alliance is to increase philanthropic support for basic scientific research. 

Since its inception in 2015, the philanthropic community has shown broad interest and support for the Alliance’s mission. Membership has grown to include over thirty high-impact national and international foundations, and in 2020, the Alliance is on track to once again influence significant funding in basic science. Valerie Conn was hired as President this year and is now leading the development of the organization’s first formal strategic plan. The Alliance is at an exciting juncture in its organizational history having transitioned from its start-up phase to become a highly professional, well-respected leader in the non-profit sector. Joining the Alliance team is an incredible opportunity for someone who believes in the fundamental importance of basic science research and desires to be part of a growing organization making a significant philanthropic impact in this space.  

How the Alliance Executes Its Mission:

The Science Philanthropy Alliance is a group of funders that have come together to increase philanthropic support for basic scientific research to accelerate scientific discovery in the twenty-first century. The Alliance does this by understanding the opportunities and complexities philanthropists face in their quest to fund basic science. The Alliance provides advice and learning opportunities for individuals and foundations to help answer scientific questions, solve big problems, and further knowledge about the natural world.

The Alliance empowers funders to advance their own science interests and priorities by utilizing deep connections in the science and philanthropy worlds. By serving as impartial advisers to philanthropists, promoting collaboration among those who are interested in this vital stage of scientific discovery, and bringing together donors and top scientists, the Alliance aims to substantially increase philanthropic funding for fundamental research and to create a community of funders for discovery-driven scientific inquiry. 

The Alliance’s annual operating budget is over $4M with fourteen (14) full-time staff, plus a group of five (5) part-time Senior Science Advisors. The DOO reports directly to the President of the Alliance, leads the operations team, and has direct responsibility for managing the relationship with fiscal sponsor, New Venture Fund.

About the Position:

The DOO role requires significant leadership skills and ability with a bias for action.  The Alliance is looking for an innovative, inspiring, and seasoned leader able to build systems and a team to advance the Alliance’s work, organizational capacity, and capabilities.   The ideal candidate will be a forward thinker, nimble and strategic with the ability to quickly shift tactics as needed but not lose sight of overall goals. 

The DOO serves as an integral member of the senior management team. In this role, you will work side-by-side with the Alliance staff, esteemed Senior Science Advisors and Board of Directors as the organization guides investment decisions across the science sector and builds cohorts of funders interested in areas such as civic science, climate science, infectious disease, neuroscience, ocean science, and other topics.

Reporting to the President, the DOO leads the staff and operational activities of the organization to complement the work of the President and all advising staff in building a community of basic science research funders. A thought-partner together with the organization’s other leaders, the DOO supports and advises the President and board on matters of strategic importance to the organization, oversees organizational design and talent management, budgeting, financial planning, and financial reporting, and manages recruiting, hiring and training of new staff.

While not an exhaustive list, other responsibilities include: working closely with the advising team; overseeing the advising portfolio management meeting and the weekly strategy meeting; producing timely reports, including financial, board (organizational metrics), advising metrics and staff performance; overseeing data management to support organizational metrics; and establishing and refining administrative procedures, policies, and organizational norms.

Opportunities for Impact:

Conduct an organization assessment with a focus on organizational design and team alignment, developing and strengthening processes and systems throughout the organization, and assessing roles/responsibilities throughout the organization.

Establish norms and expectations about how the DOO will work within the existing senior leadership team and participate in the development of and operationalizing the forthcoming Strategic Plan. This will include establishing key performance indicators and other metrics to monitor the organization’s progress.

Provide operations support for the core program areas of the organization – Advising, Memberships, and Science as the Alliance continues to cultivate prospective advisees and retain and expand the membership base.

Review, synthesize, and implement recommendations from the recent culture analysis to strengthen and enhance the Alliance’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism work. Serve as the direct and primary contact with a DEI consultant to lead the Alliance’s DEI work across three key stakeholder groups: Board of Directors, Alliance team, Alliance members.

Provide strategic input about how the organization will grow and evolve over time specifically related to the current virtual work environment, structural changes, systems, financial metrics, policies and procedures, process mapping, workforce planning and forecasting, recruiting and hiring, professional development, performance management, and technology among other things.

Leadership Abilities:

Candidates will be evaluated on the full range of their lived and learned experience, professional background, volunteer activities, and direct and transferable skills. The Alliance seeks candidates with a compelling combination of demonstrated experience and skills in some, or all, of the following areas:

  • The successful candidate will bring experience with organizational design, developing a growing team, leading through organizational growth, staff management, and significant budget management experience, familiarity with philanthropy, and excellent project management skills. Experience in higher education, nonprofits, foundations, or science-oriented research institutes is desirable.
  • They must be highly organized, with strong business acumen, and a systems thinker with experience building efficiencies and optimizing complex processes while meeting stakeholder expectations and ensuring quality.

 Commitment to:

  • Increasing philanthropic support for basic scientific research.
  • Fostering a diverse, multicultural workforce, and equitable, inclusive environment that is sensitive to and appreciative of cultural differences.
  • Cultivating a focused, high-performing, accountable, collaborative, and metrics/outcomes-oriented team.
  • Leading through change with sensitivity, clear vision, excellent communication, and strong emotional and social intelligence.
  • Promoting a culture of collaboration, learning, continuous improvement, and excellence.
  • Assessing the organization's challenges and leading business process improvement.

 Ability to:

  • Attract, develop, cultivate, and manage a high-performing team.
  • Empower and inspire team members while providing the right balance of mentorship and leadership in a virtual and partially remote environment.
  • Administer the budget of an operation the size of the Alliance.
  • Develop and analyze reports that inform strategic decision making.
  • Build consensus and effectively facilitate meetings.
  • Lead and manage multiple concurrent projects and prioritize accordingly.
  • Create and foster effective interpersonal relationships.
  • Construct plans and adhere to deadlines with appropriate attention to detail.
  • Communicate effectively orally and in writing.
  • Manage through influence and use interpersonal/emotional intelligence skills and political acumen respectfully and diplomatically.
  • Cultivate a broad network of critical relationships and influence key external partners at senior and executive levels.
  • Balance time across multiple, competing priorities.
  • Facilitate conversations with multiple stakeholders to build consensus and alignment.
  • Ensure overall continuity of activities and deliverables.
  • Navigate a fast-paced environment and lead through change and growth.
  • Articulate complex concepts to cross-functional teams and to external audiences.

Possess and Demonstrate:

  • Business acumen
  • Confidence
  • Collaborative nature
  • Knowledge of organizational design, organizational development, and Human Resources best practices
  • Decisiveness
  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility
  • Systems thinking
  • High Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • Nimbleness
  • Knowledge of organization dynamics
  • Approachability

Compensation and Benefits:

This is a full time, exempt position with a starting salary range of $175,000 - $225,000 depending on experience. The Alliance also offers a generous benefits package including: employer-paid medical, dental, and vision insurance; a 401k plan and organizational match of up to 3% of your annual salary; a flexible spending account; paid vacation, sick leave and holidays; short-term and long-term disability insurance; base-term life and accidental death and dismemberment  (ADD)  insurance,  with an employee buy-up option; flexible spending account (FSA) for medical and dependent care; pre-tax transportation; smartphone benefits; and fitness benefits.

To Be Considered:

The position is open until filled with a priority deadline of September 14, 2020.  Candidate materials are reviewed on an on-going basis and initial interviews will begin by mid-August.   Please submit a resume and a two-page (or less) cover letter addressed to Ms. Valerie Conn.   Please upload the resume and cover letter as a single WORD or PDF document. You may direct questions to Mr. Ed Rogan at or 206.697.8428, or Ms. Amy Burton at or 206.718.5122.

About New Venture Fund

Science Philanthropy Alliance is a project of the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity that incubates new and innovative public-interest projects and grant-making programs. The New Venture Fund, the Alliance, and the Valtas Group are committed to attracting, developing and retaining exceptional people, and to creating a work environment that is dynamic, rewarding and enables each of us to realize our potential. The New Venture Fund's work environment is safe and open to all employees and partners, respecting the full spectrum of race, color, religious creed, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation, ancestry, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, and all other classifications protected by law in the locality and/or state in which you are working.

A note regarding the Alliance’s office space: Like many companies, the pandemic has caused the Alliance to seriously reevaluate the need for a physical office space to effectively operate the organization. It is an important and complex decision – at the center is determining the benefits that a physical space would provide and what it would take for all staff to feel safe and comfortable to go back to that physical space. The organization simply does not have enough information at this point to make that decision. At a minimum, the Alliance staff will work remotely through the end of 2020, possibly until a vaccine is available.