Program Director

Friends of the River

Sacramento, CA, US

Friends of the River is working to revolutionize California water in the face of accelerating climate change. We seek an innovative and strategic Program Director to lead our work to advance climate resilient solutions that secure California’s future, protect rivers, ensure water is shared justly and equitably, and make economic sense. This position will focus on scaling and deploying innovative water technologies and approaches through policy advocacy, collaboration, fundraising, and communications.

This is an exciting time to join Friends of the River as we move in this exciting and necessary direction with a new strategic plan (available to applicants we interview) and several additional staff to build on nearly fifty years of experience and success in protecting and restoring more than 2,000 miles of rivers in California. Climate change presents tremendous challenges and opportunities for water. We’ll only succeed with extraordinary people and relentless execution.

The successful candidate will be an entrepreneurial self-starter with strong written and verbal communication skills and a proven ability to advocate for policy, understand and communicate complex issues in water policy and management, and leverage collaborative efforts into action. The Program Director will report to the Executive Director and work closely with staff, board members, advisors, and coalition partners. This is a full-time position with some evening and weekend hours, an annual salary range of $60,000 – 75,000, and excellent benefits. The position will ideally be based in our Sacramento office with remote work options available.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Develop and manage the strategic direction and implementation of program and policy priorities with the Executive Director, other staff, engaged board members, and advisors.
  • Create and lead collaborative efforts with sustainable water businesses, elected officials, agencies, academics, Native American Tribes, farmers, and environmental organizations.
  • Advocate for sustainable and climate resilient water policy primarily in the state legislature and relevant local and state agencies.
  • Synthesize knowledge from various disciplines and sources to craft and support innovative and viable policies, practices, and approaches to sustainable water management.
  • Participate in fundraising activities including events, writing grant proposals and reports, developing compelling stories, and being an ambassador to funders.
  • Support and contribute to media, communications (new website under development), community engagement, and other related duties as assigned.

Qualifications and Experience Needed

  • Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree (B.A.) in water, environmental science, policy or related area from a four-year college or university.
  • 3 years of related experience and demonstrated ability in policy advocacy in the environmental or private sector preferably on California water policy, river protection, and/or sustainable water management.
  • Demonstrated ability to work collaboratively and develop credibility with a diverse array of partners and stakeholders.
  • Superb oral and written communications skills with ability to read, analyze, interpret, and accurately distill academic reports, technical journal articles, and governmental regulations for a broad audience.
  • Ability to work independently and manage a variety of key initiatives concurrently.
  • Support for Friends of the River’s mission and values and a genuine interest or personal connection to rivers and water management.


  • Medical, dental and vision (premiums paid 100%)
  • Employer matched retirement plan
  • Generous and flexible time off
  • Paid family and medical leave (2 weeks on top of California Paid Family Leave)
  • Rafting and canoeing adventures

To Apply

Please send cover letter and resume by March 31, 2021 to Eric Wesselman, Executive Director at [email protected] or mail to: 1418 20th Street, Suite 100, Sacramento, CA 95811.

Commitment to Diversity

We strive to build a team as diverse as our state. Friends of the River is committed to a policy of Equal Employment Opportunity and will not discriminate against an applicant or employee on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, national origin or ancestry, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital/domestic partner status, military and veteran status, genetic information or any other legally-recognized protected basis under federal, state or local laws, regulations or ordinances as the state.