Program Officers, Midwest Climate & Energy

McKnight Foundation Published: November 23, 2020
Minneapolis, MN
Job Type
Energy / Program Management /
(Number of Job Posting Views: 3)

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~ Established in 1953 by William L. McKnight and his wife, Maude L. McKnight, the McKnight Foundation is a philanthropic leader based in Minneapolis and grants more than $90 million annually across the Midwest, the U.S., and internationally. The McKnight Foundation envisions a world that recognizes the dignity of every human being, a world where we celebrate the creativity of the arts and sciences and come together to protect our one and only Earth. ~

About the Midwest Climate and Energy Program:

In 2019, the McKnight Foundation Board of Directors approved a new strategic framework, resulting in a significant expansion in the Midwest Climate and Energy Program (MC&E). Now on track to double from $16 million in 2020 to $32 million by 2022, the program’s goal is to take bold action on the climate crisis by dramatically cutting carbon pollution in the Midwest by 2030.

Recognizing the importance of equity in this goal, MC&E Program envisions a thriving, carbon-neutral Midwestern economy by transforming the energy system through clean power, electrifying transportation and buildings, sequestering carbon on working lands, and strengthening democratic participation.


The McKnight Foundation is seeking two Program Officers advance the work that will bring the MC&E’s ambitious goal to fruition. The new program officers will help to shape and guide the trajectory of the Foundation’s ambitious climate initiatives.

Reporting to the Program Director of Midwest Climate and Energy, the program officers will oversee and build out significant grant portfolios and partnerships with intermediary funders and actively collaborate with McKnight’s Impact Investing team and Vibrant & Equitable Communities program team. The Midwest Climate & Energy program uses its philanthropic funding to support efforts that build power through partnership, aligning climate and equity goals to advance bold action on the climate crisis.

Key Priorities and Responsibilities

Strategic Implementation:

  • Manage a portfolio of grants that support transforming the energy system, electrifying transportation and buildings, and sequestering carbon on working lands in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with existing grantees and new prospects to learn from current work, explore emerging opportunities, and build new concepts.
  • Actively engage with McKnight colleagues in Impact Investing and the board’s Mission Investment Committee to identify and analyze mission and program-related investments that advance program goals.

External Partnerships:

  • Manage key partnerships with funding intermediaries and oversee new and expanded investments in and through these partners.
  • Convene and collaborate with advocacy organizations (including, but not limited to, those focused on climate justice, environmental protection, democratic participation, and clean energy), foundations, academic institutions, regulators, and policymakers to support cross-sector collaborations that reinforce program goals.
  • Serve as a representative of the Foundation in communities of learning and practice, helping to shape the field’s response to and support of carbon reduction.

Thought Leadership and Advocacy:

  • Represent the Foundation and the MC&E program to external audiences and provide leadership in our efforts to achieve economy-wide greenhouse gas emission reductions while advancing a commitment to racial equity.
  • Serve as a resource on technical and policy issues relating to energy transformation. Track market and political trends to identify high-leverage opportunities for philanthropic intervention.
  • Stand as a trusted voice on the interdependence of climate and racial and economic justice.


  • Candidates must have a minimum of five years of experience in climate and energy issues on a local or national level; previous philanthropy experience is not required. Because the Foundation is filling two Program Officer roles simultaneously, a diverse set of experiences will be considered with the goal of identifying Program Officers with complementary skills.
  • McKnight focuses on transforming the energy system, electrifying transportation and buildings, and sequestering carbon on working lands in the Midwest. Candidates who have direct work experience on carbon reduction—generally or specifically—in these areas are of great interest.
  • So, too, are candidates who have developed their expertise at the intersection of climate and equity, whether in movement building, running campaigns, grassroots organizing, or related activities.
    Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values at McKnight and integral to how the staff and board approach their work. Fundamental to the MC&E program goal is a belief that structural racism is a barrier to carbon reduction. Candidates must bring lived experience or a demonstrated commitment to addressing climate and energy through a racial equity lens.
    Much of McKnight’s climate and energy work is placed-based, focusing on Minnesota and the six states that comprise the Upper Midwest. Preference will be given to candidates with knowledge of or personal ties to the region and its people. The positions are based in Minneapolis, MN.

Ideal Candidate

  • McKnight seeks individuals who demonstrate an unwavering passion for and commitment to solving the climate crisis and addressing racial equity within the context of climate solutions. The Program Officers possess analytical skills and an ability to influence change in highly nuanced contexts. Highly desired are deeply curious and credible climate generalists who bring to the team either technical and policy knowledge of our decarbonization focus or experience in movement-building in climate.
  • The Program Officers lead with a strategic mindset and bring a proven ability to identify and translate strategic opportunities into tangible action and outcomes. Strong listening and synthesizing skills are essential, along with the talent and desire to capture, distill, and share what is important, why it matters, and how it relates to the overall strategy. The successful candidate organizes, prioritizes, and switches from strategy development to daily execution with ease, consistently achieving results.
  • A capacity to navigate the complexity of diverse environments and stakeholder groups, seeking to understand and driving towards common goals from, at times, competing perspectives, is essential in these roles. A high level of emotional intelligence and the ability to be versatile and diplomatic is vital. Leading with a sense of humility and intellectual curiosity, candidates display a genuine desire to listen to and learn from others. They will operate from respect for the organization’s grantees and help create an environment of continuous learning with partner organizations and sector experts.
  • The Program Officers are naturally curious, lifelong learners who are comfortable reaching beyond current areas of expertise. They have the intellectual agility to become knowledgeable across all aspects of our climate work, including scientific, technical, policy, and racial justice, quickly seeing connections, opportunities, and intersections. The ideal candidates’ innate interest in this work fuels a proactive and forward-looking approach, following trends and anticipating changes and potential impacts to the Foundation.
  • With exceptional oral and written communication skills, the Program Officers mount persuasive arguments and effectively present new and complex ideas to audiences of varying backgrounds, from community members to elected officials. With strong interpersonal skills and an approachable style, the Program Officers are team players, empathetic listeners, and natural collaborators who build strong relationships inside and outside the Foundation.
  • The Program Officers are confident and mature professionals who routinely exhibit sound judgment and a high degree of discretion and tact. The preferred candidates are humble with the self-awareness and comfort to set ego and personal ambition aside and focus on the mission and team. We expect a high degree of self-awareness and the ability to organize, prioritize, and meet deadlines in a fast-paced environment with multiple and competing demands. Candidates should demonstrate tolerance for ambiguity, with the ability to work independently yet seek input as needed.
  • Upbeat bridge-builders, the successful candidates foster a positive, professional atmosphere and connect across issues and functions, actively developing trusting relationships up, down, and across the organization. Cultural sensitivity and cultural competence are essential to success. The ideal candidates are personally devoted to growing their cultural competence, actively participating in the Foundation’s effort to integrate justice and equity into all facets of its work.

Compensation and Benefits

  • The salary range is $106,000–$112,000.
  • McKnight provides a competitive compensation package. Benefits include health, dental, life, and disability insurance; generous paid time off; contribution to a retirement plan; matching charitable gifts program; and a flexible work environment.
  • These are full-time, exempt positions based in Minneapolis. 


  • Please click "Apply on Company Website" below to visit McKnight’s career page for more information and to learn how to apply.

The McKnight Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and proudly values diversity. We encourage candidates of all backgrounds to apply.

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