Vice President of Programs

Los Angeles or Oakland, CA | Programs | Full-time | COVID-19 remote


The Opportunity

The California Wellness Foundation is seeking an experienced, senior philanthropic leader to serve as its new Vice President of Programs (VPP). The VPP will have overall responsibility for the vision, strategic development and implementation of grantmaking programs to advance the foundation’s goals.

The VPP will serve as a team and organizational leader bringing new perspectives, energy, approaches and efficiencies to the work of the foundation. The VPP will lead a high-caliber, 13-person programs department and approximately $50+ million in annual grantmaking and will play a key role in guiding additional program-related investments. The VPP will be responsible for managing the foundation’s current Advancing Wellness grantmaking program and will oversee a strategic planning process to determine the foundation’s next grantmaking framework and focus areas for investments. The VPP will also serve as a trusted thought partner and advisor to the President & CEO and as a member of the Executive Management Committee (EMC), working closely with the Executive Vice President and the EMC to advance organizational priorities and enhance organizational culture.

The ideal candidate has substantive senior-leadership experience in a comparable role, expertise and deep knowledge of the social determinants of health and/or philanthropy, an outstanding track record as an empowering team leader, a deep understanding of California’s diverse communities, and perspective, knowledge and passion gained through lived experience and/or work with communities served by the foundation.

The Vice President of Programs reports to the CEO. Cal Wellness is currently working remotely. When it is safe to do so, staff will work in a hybrid environment with some required in-person attendance. The VPP can be based out of the Los Angeles or Oakland office.

The Foundation

The California Wellness Foundation is a private, independent foundation established in 1992 with a mission to protect and improve the health and wellness of the people of California. As one of the largest health-focused foundations in California, with over $1 billion in assets, Cal Wellness is a nationally recognized leader for its strategic core operating support for grantees; public policy grantmaking; and a focus on violence as a public health issue. It is Cal Wellness’ desire to promote equity and level the playing field so that everyone has access to good-paying jobs, healthy and safe neighborhoods, and quality health care services.

The foundation’s current Advancing Wellness grantmaking strategy includes four interrelated portfolios. Since its founding, Cal Wellness has awarded nearly 9,000 grants totaling more than $1 billion. As the foundation looks to the future, it is pursuing new and innovative strategies beyond its core grantmaking to advance its mission, including implementation of new technology systems, development of its public affairs capacity, and establishing mission- and program-related investment portfolios.

Cal Wellness has a diverse staff of approximately 40 located in its Los Angeles and Oakland offices and a diverse 13-member Board (including the CEO) located throughout the state of California. The foundation’s work underscores a belief that wellness requires social justice, a deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and sustained efforts to eliminate systemic barriers that prevent access to health care, education, employment and safety.

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Key Responsibilities

  • Vision and Strategy. Provide strategic leadership, vision, and oversight for all programmatic strategies, grantmaking and impact investments for the foundation.
  • Programs. Lead and advance the work of the existing Advancing Wellness portfolio. Lead a planning process to define the grantmaking and program-related investment strategies for the foundation in its next phase of work and impact. Ensure that grants and PRIs advance the foundation’s goals to be a strategic, collaborative, responsive, equity-rooted grantmaker.
  • Team Leadership. Manage and mentor a Program staff of 13 comprised of Program Directors, Program Officers, Program Coordinators, a Director of Program Operations and an Executive Assistant. Model and nurture a trusting, communicative, empowering and learning-focused team culture. Promote resiliency and adaptation to respond to changes in the internal and external environments and related shifts in strategy or focus. Partner with Human Resources on employee support, evaluation, training and professional development.
  • Direct Reports. Provide direct supervision, support and mentoring to five director-level staff and an Executive Assistant to ensure they have strategic thought partnership and are effectively supported and resourced.
  • Organization Leadership. Serve as a member of the Executive Management Committee, which includes the CEO, the Executive Vice President, the Chief Financial Officer, the Vice President of Programs, the Vice President of Operations, and the Senior Director of Human Resources. In partnership with the CEO and EMC members, play a key leadership role in ensuring the foundation meets its strategic goals and supports a values-based, collaborative culture.
  • Program Operations. Ensure operational infrastructure, systems, and processes that allow for effective and efficient grantmaking operations. Support the Director of Program Operations to work across the program team and with other functions.
  • Prepare strategy memos, briefs, reports, and presentations in a variety of formats for the board, grantees, community leaders, and other internal and external audiences and mentor staff in this area.
  • Evaluation. Guide the development of overarching strategies, tactics, and evaluation metrics across all the foundation’s programmatic work. Partner with the Director of Learning and Innovation.
  • External Relations. Engage with organizations and leaders central to the foundation, including grantees, movement partners, private and public partners, and other funders. Serve as a representative of the foundation in local, state, and national settings to advance and strengthen its alliances, reputation, and impact. Collaborate with the foundation’s public affairs department to incorporate communications, community relations and policy advocacy strategies that advance program goals.
  • Board. In partnership with the CEO, forge close and trusted working relationships with the Board of Directors. Partner with the CEO on the strategic direction and agendas and other work for board meetings. Contribute to the creation of memos, reports, and presentations for the board.
  • Cal Wellness is a statewide and responsive grantmaker. Typically, staff travel throughout California to connect with leaders and communities. Travel for site visits, conferences, meetings and events is required. Staff are not currently required to travel for business due to the Covid-19 pandemic; travel will resume once deemed safe, according to public health guidelines and relevant policies at the foundation.

Skills and Experience

The ideal candidate will have the following qualifications:

  • A leader in social justice. A deep knowledge of and passion for social justice, including work related to health, equity and California communities. An individual with experience building and managing programs that have had an impact in these areas.
  • An inspiring leader and manager. A track record in a leadership role in philanthropy, nonprofit, government and/or business; someone who is both able to manage their own team to achieve impact, while also being a key member of an organization’s senior leadership team, contributing to enterprise-wide priorities. Experience in change management and organizational development is helpfu
  • Community-based track record. A track record and credibility in community-based work. Professional experience in equity-focused work, including grassroots, movement-building and public policy work to address the needs of vulnerable communities.
  • Community investment experience. A track record of directing and managing grants and program-related investments in creative and impactful ways and partnering closely with other funders. A nuanced understanding and depth of expertise in philanthropic strategy, operations, processes, and knowledge of larger issues and trends in the field is a plus.
  • Strategic planning. Strong strategic planning skills, intellectual capacity and curiosity. Able to listen deeply, develop shared vision and agreed-upon paths forward, and then move ideas to action. Willing to take risks and push the boundaries of philanthropy to meet community needs in creative ways. Excited by the prospect of leading a planning process with the organization to determine the next chapter of foundation work.


Personal Characteristics & Values

  • An empowering and authentic leader, an excellent listener who seeks and values a range of viewpoints but is also comfortable making a final decision.
  • Maturity and sound judgment to act thoughtfully and lead effectively.
  • An analytical thinker who can develop and apply strategy using a thoughtful and inclusive approach. Keen analytical skills and the ability to think critically, evaluate risk, make sound decisions, solve problems, and explain and justify recommendations to diverse audiences.
  • Superb written and oral communication skills, including solid presentation and facilitation abilities. Executive presence that inspires confidence and can well represent the Programs team and the foundation.
  • Enthusiasm for organizational change and the patience and confidence to serve as a leader in team building and change-management processes.
  • Sensitive, respectful, and empathetic in understanding staff and grantees’ needs. Able to build trusting relationships.
  • Collaborative, transparent, humble leadership style with board, staff, grantees, and other stakeholders; ability to interact with directness, empathy and perspective.
  • Unquestioned integrity, ethics, and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation.

Compensation and Culture

Salary is competitive and commensurate with background and experience. The anticipated starting salary is $285,000. The full salary range for the position is $250,000 to $375,000. The benefits package includes a variety of health plan options, a generous 401(k) retirement savings plan, paid time off, professional development and educational opportunities, matching gifts, and the opportunity to work at a mission- and values-driven organization. Cal Wellness will consider a modest relocation stipend for candidates located outside of the Los Angeles or San Francisco Bay Area.


Cal Wellness is proceeding with hiring during the COVID-19 crisis. Interviews will be conducted utilizing videoconferencing. A socially distanced in-person interview for one or two finalists at the end of the process may be requested, subject to safety. New staff will be onboarded in a virtual or hybrid environment. Cal Wellness looks forward to returning to its offices in downtown Los Angeles and Oakland and being able to see everyone face-to-face when public health conditions allow it.


To Apply

Martha Montag Brown & Associates, LLC has been retained for this search. Interested and qualified candidates should apply by sending a cover letter, resume and salary requirements by email to All correspondence will remain confidential.

The California Wellness Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes a diverse candidate pool. Candidates selected for advancement will be asked to participate in several rounds of interviews and complete a writing/presentation assignment. The final offer will be contingent upon a background check and professional references. If you require reasonable accommodation to participate in our interview process, please let us know.