Program Director (Environment)

J.M. Kaplan Fund

New York, NY, United States 🇺🇸

The J.M. Kaplan Fund, a New York City-based family foundation, seeks a skilled and passionate change maker to lead its Environment Program.

Created by Jacob Merrill Kaplan, the Fund is active across the United States and beyond, operating grant programs focused on the environment, heritage conservation, and social justice. To continue its legacy of catalytic grant-making, the Fund also awards The J.M.K. Innovation Prize every two years, seeking out visionary, early-stage innovations within these fields.

Over the past 70 years, the Fund has distinguished itself with outstanding environmental grantmaking. It has addressed critical and urgent issues, often amplifying the value of grantmaking by acting as a convener within and beyond the philanthropic community. Currently, the Environment Program is focused on three areas: conserving land-based, resilient ecosystems, capable of offsetting human-caused climate change; protecting the oceans from excessive human destruction, including deep sea mining and over-fishing; and fighting the man-made causes of climate change and mitigating its impact. Although the Fund is based in Manhattan and has deep roots in New York City and New York State, the Environment Program reaches across the country and across international borders.

We’re seeking a passionate and dynamic change maker to lead our Environment Program. Your challenge will be to use strategic smarts and networks to leverage the impact of our relatively small fund (approximately one million dollars per year) to have an oversized impact on the biggest environmental challenges of our time. You’ll need a eye for opportunity and the drive and flexibility to take those opportunities when you see them. Unlike many larger foundations, we’re short on bureaucracy and can move quickly when the need arises.  By organizing convenings, commissioning new research, and cultivating networks of funders, scientists and others, the Program Director can amplify the Fund’s overall contribution and establish his/herself as a true catalyst and leader in the field.

Fundamental to the Program Director’s success is his/her ability to work collaboratively with family trustees and the Environment Committee. The Director must be able to maintain the free flow of ideas and information with trustees while confidently setting a course for the Environment Program.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Maintaining a breadth of knowledge about current and emerging issues, policy interventions, and innovations in all areas of the environment program – focusing on climate change and oceans.
  • Identifying, developing and evaluating new opportunities for high impact grantmaking.
  • Developing networks and collaborations that can leverage the impact of our grants program.
  • Monitoring and evaluating grants and initiatives.
  • Facilitating the active engagement of the Trustees and the Environment Committee in the program.
  • Assisting in communications to foster and uphold the Fund’s profile through public events and articles.
  • Aid in the vetting and assessment of The J.M.K. Innovation Prize candidates as appropriate.


  • Proven ability to develop and lead strategies that make the world a better place.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to build collaborations across diverse networks
  • Proven ability to articulate clear strategies and develop detailed plans to implement them.
  • Deep understanding of the scientific, political and economic dimensions of our environmental crisis.
  • Willingness to fight for his/her vision while working in conjunction with the trustees.
  • Track record of working well in small teams in a fast paced environment.
  • Hard-working, well-networked, and passionate self-starting team player with a direct, honest, and respectful approach to problem solving.
  • Ability to foster collaboration and contribute to a strong sense of community among staff and trustees.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills including public speaking.
  • Ability to lead big picture strategic thinking while also meeting deadlines and managing the detailed administration of the program.
  • Flexibility to travel, as needed.
  • Experience in philanthropy is preferred but not essential for the right candidate.
  • A demonstrated passion for environmental issues and climate action.
  • Advanced degree in related field a plus.

This position can potentially be full-time or part-time. Remuneration is competitive and commensurate with previous experience. The ideal candidate should be able to start employment as soon as possible.  Interested individuals should send, by email, a cover letter and resume to [email protected]. No phone calls, please.