Environment Program Officer (Colorado River)

Walton Family Foundation

Denver, CO, US

Job Description

The Walton Family Foundation is seeking a skilled, highly motivated, and entrepreneurial individual to join the foundation’s Denver office as a Program Officer for the Colorado River Program.

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 Environment Program
Among the largest environment programs in the U.S., WFF’s Environment Program will make approximately $85 million in grants in 2016 to dozens of organizations across multiple continents investing in two of the most important conservation issues of our time: restoring the health of the oceans and preserving the quality and availability of fresh water in the Colorado River basin and the Mississippi River basin.

The work of the Environment Program is organized under four initiatives:

Ocean. We invest in the Americas (the U.S., Mexico, Peru and Chile) and Indonesia, to significantly reduce overfishing, improve ocean health, and preserve fishing jobs.

Colorado River basin. We focus on increasing market incentives for agricultural and urban water efficiency in the Upper Basin; advancing binational and multistate water agreements in the Lower Basin; and restoring and protecting riparian habitat and flows in priority tributary river systems including the Colorado Delta.

Mississippi River basin. We align policy and market incentives to encourage farmers to adopt practices that improve water quality, build soil health and reduce pollution.

Coastal. We work to ensure that the restoration dollars from the 2010 Gulf oil spill settlement flow to priority restoration projects with an emphasis on the Mississippi River Delta.

The Role
The Program Officer would assist in the continued development and implementation of the Foundation’s Colorado River goal of a healthy and economically viable Colorado River management system that employs sustainable water management practices. This Program Officer may work in some limited capacity regarding the Mississippi River basin initiative. WFF’s Colorado River strategies to achieve this goal include: 1) promotion of market approaches in the Upper Basin; 2) support of key agreements in the Lower Basin; 3) demonstration of how healthy rivers function; and, 4) encouraging agricultural and urban efficiency through public and private funding mechanisms. This position would be located in Denver, Colorado, and would report to Ted Kowalski, Senior Program Officer.


  • Oversee grantmaking to support the Colorado River strategies including soliciting grant proposals, reviewing programs, developing internal grant documents and monitoring progress of grants.

  • Engage with NGOs and state and local partners to hone strategy and develop grant proposals.

  • Conduct site visits, attend public meetings and represent the foundation at conferences and other events.

  • Identify potential new partnerships and opportunities, including identifying other funding partners to engage in the region.

  • Provide information and assistance as needed to Foundation board members.
  • Work with WFF evaluation staff to implement and refine WFF’s monitoring and evaluation program.

  • Work in a limited capacity regarding the Mississippi River initiative.

  • Execute special projects and other duties as assigned.

  • 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 finger, 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 experience.

    Basic Qualifications

    The position calls for an understanding of issues related to agricultural and urban water conservation, freshwater systems, and familiarity with the use of market-based tools for conservation. Knowledge regarding impact investing, green bonds, and other creative public/private partnerships that could be used for future water infrastructure improvements within the Colorado River basin will be preferable. The role requires self-direction and decisiveness combined with flexibility and a capacity to give and receive feedback graciously. The Foundation seeks to recruit an individual with superior interpersonal skills, a respectful attitude for the work of grantees, and a demonstrated ability to work effectively as part of a team. The Program Officer should ideally possess the following professional qualifications and personal attributes:

    • At least 5 years of experience in natural resource management or agriculture, policy or advocacy, ideally with experience in grant or project management and evaluation.

    • Graduate degree in a related field.

    • Excellent written and oral communication skills.

    • Proven skills at organization and time management.

    • Demonstrated capacity to work in a team as well as independently.

    • Intellectual agility and the ability to analyze, think critically, and understand emerging issues that are directly relevant to programmatic funding areas.

    • Unquestionable ethics and personal integrity.

    • Experience in the Colorado River basin is a plus.

    • Experience in creating financing for water related projects is also a plus.

    • Willingness to travel.