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Program Associate, Strong Local Economies

Department: Strong Local Economies
Location: New York, NY


Position Vacancy

Program Associate, Strong Local Economies 


The Surdna Foundation
Created by John E. Andrus in 1917, the Surdna Foundation has assets exceeding $1 billion and an annual grantmaking budget of more than $40 million. The Foundation has a staff of 25, based in its Midtown Manhattan offices. Governed by a Board of Directors that includes fourth and fifth generation family members, the longstanding values of the Andrus family – practicality, modesty, excellence, and an appreciation for serving those in need – underlie all of the Surdna Foundation's work. The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster just and sustainable communities in the United States—communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy and sustainable environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.

The Surdna Foundation has three grantmaking areas: Strong Local Economies, Sustainable Environments, and Thriving Cultures. The Foundation provides grant support for efforts at the national, state, regional, and local levels throughout the United States. Surdna invests in the exchange of ideas across networks of people, institutions, and places with the intent of seeding innovative projects, programs, and policies and bringing them to scale across the country. The Foundation seeks grantmaking opportunities that include balanced efforts to: demonstrate the effectiveness of specific, targeted projects, practices, and models; advocate for and implement federal, state, and local public policies; and empower, mobilize, and develop leadership in communities and agencies to encourage civic participation. Surdna recognizes its programmatic interests as interrelated and is committed to working cross-programmatically. At the same time, program staff have considerable autonomy and are expected to balance responsibilities to the Foundation, to their program, and to each other.

The Strong Local Economies Program
The Strong Local Economies Program aims to create robust and sustainable economies that include a diversity of vibrant businesses and sectors, improved access to quality jobs for low to moderate income individuals, people of color, women, and immigrants (the Program’s priority populations), economic development practices that produce equitable outcomes and ultimately, opportunities for economic stability and upward mobility. Surdna works to ensure that people of color and members of lower income communities are a part of the decision-making process and have the ability to participate in the renewed economic promise of their regions and cities.

The Strong Local Economies Program has an annual budget of $9.2 million and we anticipate making between 30-45 project specific and general operating support grants each year. Our resources also support research, communications, leadership development and capacity building efforts across the portfolio. In addition, we manage a $10 million Program Related Investment fund primarily focused on addressing access to capital (debt and equity) challenges for minority owned businesses.

Overview and Responsibilities: 

The Strong Local Economies Program Associate plays a key role in managing the day-to-day grantmaking activities of a three-person team composed of the Program Director, a Program Officer, and the Program Associate. The position combines program and administrative responsibilities with active engagement in grant making, relationship management, and internal/external communications.  The Strong Local Economies program has two core objectives; advancing the development and growth of minority owned businesses and fostering accountability and inclusion in economic development in the field of economic development.   In addition, the program supports leadership development, communications and capacity building in the field.  It is assumed that the Program Associate will develop an understanding of the various issues and fields at the center of the program strategy and find an area of work that they want to explore and develop expertise in.


On the administrative side, the Program Associate's general functions include the following activities: scheduling and managing a high volume of meetings and calls, for Strong Local Economies Program staff; actively tracking and managing grant proposals,  progress reports and other related materials through Surdna’s grants management database system; assembling and proofing grant materials; supporting the management of the program budget; providing technical support and counseling to grantees related to submission processes; managing contractors and consultants; organizing meetings and special events that support the program’s goals; contributing to agendas and taking notes during team meetings; managing overall workflow of grantmaking, event planning, internal operations, etc. for the team; compiling expense reports for staff; facilitating payment of invoices and other matters related to accounts payable; and supporting communication activities that range from story generation to content editing. 

In addition to program administration, the Program Associate will have opportunities to engage in substantive programmatic and grantmaking support to the portfolio through the following: review and response to letters of inquiry submitted by grant seekers; some due diligence tasks for potential grants; managing and writing grant recommendations; monitoring the progress of existing grantees; and regular contribution of program-relevant news and policy developments. The Program Associate is also responsible for planning and coordinating special events. The Program Associate helps to ensure strong connections with Surdna’s other programs, departments, foundation-wide initiatives, and outside partners. In addition, this position acts as a liaison between the Strong Local Economies program and the Office of Grants Management, Human Resources, and Finance departments, raising awareness of internal developments and outstanding issues that staff need to address.  The Strong Local Economies Program Associate is also part of an administrative cohort at Surdna whose members provide support on foundation-wide projects and add staff capacity during peak periods.  Overall this position offers exceptional access to the economic and community development field and to the practice of philanthropy. The position also provides opportunities for travel to attend site visits and various conferences. 

The ideal candidate is a detail oriented systems thinker with a commitment to social justice and equity.  She or he is also able to manage several tasks simultaneously, and has the ability to gather information, draw conclusions, and make recommendations regarding complex problems and issues. The candidate should be able to manage a high volume of email traffic and be very adept at proofreading and editing large numbers of written documents in a timely fashion.  The candidate should be a strong team player and place a high value on collaboration with peers and colleagues. The candidate should also possess a high level of initiative, and be comfortable working independently, as well as with peers and colleagues.   The candidate will need to be comfortable directing team workflow, deadlines and sequencing from an administrative position – a critical skill to contribute for overall team success.



  • BA/BS degree required. A degree in a relevant field, interest in the nonprofit sector, and experience in the field of economic development/economic justice is highly preferred
  • Minimum of 2 years work experience, with previous office/administrative experience required
  • Previous nonprofit or foundation experience is a plus
  • An understanding and commitment to social justice and building inclusive practices to effect structural change
  • Experience planning events is a plus
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook
  • Excellent analytical thinking, writing, speaking and editing skills
  • A strong team-player, with a diplomatic, professional manner, and a sense of humor
  • Commitment to applying skills broadly within Surdna in support of the foundation’s mission

Compensation & Benefits:

  • Salary commensurate with experience
  • Excellent comprehensive employee benefits package 

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