Research Officer

Walton Family Foundation

Bentonville, AR, US

Position Title

Research Officer

Job Title

Research Officer

Job Description

The Walton Family Foundation is seeking a skilled research and evaluation professional to join the foundation’s Evaluation Unit as a Research Officer to work across the Foundation’s investment areas, including the K-12 education area. There is a very strong preference for this position to be located in the foundation’s home office in Bentonville, Arkansas.

About the Walton Family Foundation

Sam and Helen Walton had an unshakeable belief in the power of people to transform their own lives. As Sam said, there is no limit to what individuals can accomplish if “given the opportunity, the encouragement and the incentive to do their best.” Today that “no limits” philosophy is carried forward by their descendants through the Walton Family Foundation.

Since 2000, the foundation’s grantmaking has grown from $50 million to an anticipated more than $400 million in 2015. With grantmaking projected to exceed $2 billion over the next five years, the foundation continues to move forward with increasing intensity, focus and commitment to sustaining the Walton’s timeless entrepreneurial values and their deep dedication to making life better for individuals and communities alike. By working with grantees and collaborating with other philanthropic organizations, the foundation is focused on making a positive difference in three primary program areas of collective interest to the Walton Family:

  • K-12 education

  • Freshwater and marine conservation

  • Quality of life initiatives in Arkansas and the Mississippi River Delta Region


In addition to these program areas, the foundation also supports grantmaking interests of individual and groups of Walton family members, as well as independent foundations created by family members. These individualized giving areas represent a high growth area of the foundation.

During 2016, the foundation plans to invest over $400 million in domestic and international projects that address significant social and environmental issues. The foundation continues to implement and expand grantmaking to fund a positive difference in many diverse communities – and in the lives of the people who call these communities their home.

Headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, with offices in Washington, D.C., Jersey City, New Jersey and Denver, Colorado, a staff/consultant base of approximately 80 associates conducts the day-to-day operations of the foundation.

About the Evaluation Unit

The Walton Family has made a decisive and explicit commitment to evaluation. The Evaluation Unit, established in 2010, is tasked with leading the development and application of the Foundation’s evaluation framework. Evaluation Unit staff work with program staff and, where appropriate the Foundation Board, to set performance metrics, to assess and report on performance at all levels, from grants through to strategies and initiatives, and to identify lessons learned that can strengthen future grant making.

The Evaluation Unit reports directly to the Executive Director and currently includes eight staff: a Director, a Deputy Director (who also leads evaluation in the Environment Focus Area), five Research Officers, and one support staff member. More information about the Evaluation Unit can be found at

The Research Officer will assist the Foundation’s Evaluation Unit in providing the data and analyses that program staff and others need to conduct their work, with a particular focus on education reform grant making. He or she will report to the Evaluation Unit Director and will work closely with the Evaluation Unit team, as well as with program and administrative staff from across the Foundation.

Specific duties will include assisting with or, where appropriate, taking the lead in:

  • Work with the Education team program staff and the Evaluation Director to develop and report information useful to the ongoing execution of the K-12 Education Reform Strategic Plan;

  • Coordinate the collection, analysis, and documentation of information
    – Conducting grantee reviews, including data collection, and information for staff and Board oversight;
    – Processing data, external research, and historical reviews of the work of multiple grantees;
    – Applying a common set of indicators to measure grantee performance;

  • Conduct project management responsibilities including oversight for research grants

  • Track third party-research and producing summary reviews and synopses of complex K-12 educational and public policy research.

  • Assist with the development of the foundation-wide evaluation framework and of consistent evaluation approaches.

  • Provide research support to Education team program staff.

  • Work to improve the visualization of department products.

  • Increase the outward-facing presence for the Evaluation Unit through communications, presentations, participation in convenings, and publications.

  • Increase the adaptive learning capacity of program staff, working to continue shifting the culture to one of learning and reflection, and incorporating lessons learned into strategic decision-making processes.

  • Manage new bodies of research and evaluation work within the K-12 strategic plan.


Physical Demands
The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

While performing the duties of this job, the associate is regularly required to stand, reach with hands and arms, and use hands to touch, handle or feel objects and/or controls. The employee is required to sit, walk, talk and hear; and move/carry files. The associate must occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 lbs.

Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, color, and the ability to adjust focus in order to handle extensive data collection, analysis and summary reporting. Computer work will be a part of the daily workflow and process.

Work Environment
The work environment characteristics for this job are typical for this type of job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. The noise level in the work environment is reflective of a mid-sized office.

Compensation and Benefits
The Foundation offers an excellent benefits package and a competitive salary that is commensurate with skills and experience. As noted above, there is a very strong preference that this position be located in the Foundation’s home office in Bentonville, Arkansas. Some travel will be necessary (approximately once per quarter).


Basic Qualifications

The position calls for an understanding of, or a willingness to learn about, the foundation’s Evaluation Unit and Education Program. The role requires initiative and decisiveness combined with flexibility and a capacity to give and receive feedback graciously.

The Foundation seeks a strong individual with excellent interpersonal, technical, and communication skills. Research Officer candidates should have a minimum of 5-7 years of experience and formal training in research and evaluation. The successful candidate will be both a self-starter who knows how to take the initiative and a collaborative colleague who can work effectively in a small and dynamic office.

Key qualifications include:

  • A commitment to the mission of the Walton Family Foundation and a passion for education and school choice.

  • At least five (5) years of experience in a professional setting, ideally with a strong focus on data analysis, research, and analytical writing.

  • Excellent written and oral communication skills, including the ability to communicate effectively detailed technical material to non-technical audiences.

  • Experience and comfort working both independently and under close supervision, as required by the task.

  • Unquestionable ethics and personal integrity
  • Proactive approach to problem-solving and sharp thinker.

  • Diplomatic approach and an innate understanding of customer service.

  • Technologically savvy, with demonstrated competency with the Microsoft Office suite of programs, including the ability to retrieve, array, summarize, and graph data using Excel. Additional capabilities with a statistical package (e.g., SPSS, STATA, or SAS) preferred.

  • A high level of discretion and confidentiality for both business and personal affairs

  • Intellectual agility and the ability to analyze, think critically, and understand emerging issues that are directly relevant to evaluation and the Foundation’s focus areas.

  • Master’s degree in a relevant field required (e.g., economics, education policy, public policy)