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Team Leader/Program Director, Character and K12 Education Program

The Kern Family Foundation

The Kern Family Foundation invests in the rising generation of Americans, equipping them to become global leaders and innovators. The Foundation quietly, yet powerfully, executes its mission by promoting the value of work, developing the formation of good character, increasing educational achievement – particularly in areas of science, technology, engineering and math – and instilling an entrepreneurial mindset, especially in undergraduate engineering students.


The serene, rural setting of the Foundation's Wisconsin headquarters belies the urgency of the work and deliberation that occurs inside; the team knows that the clock is ticking and acts accordingly. As the Foundation will sunset in 2035, staff have less than 20 years to determine sustainable and scalable strategies, build strong partnerships, and invest millions of dollars across all program areas. The Foundation carefully selects grantees to execute its vision, as well as envisions and proposes entirely new programs and products. In contrast to traditional conceptions of charity, the Foundation strongly believes that it is possible to produce systemic, transformative results that are scalable and sustainable, ultimately discouraging dependence on philanthropy.


The Kern Family Foundation operates on the belief that the United States’ flourishing depends on the ability of its communities to form citizens of good character, while also instilling the technical abilities that allow young people to support themselves with meaningful work in well-paying, high-demand jobs.

The Character and K12 Education Program teams are dedicated to restoring these two objectives—character formation and technical aptitude – to educational institutions. In the area of academic achievement, the Foundation places emphasis in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – disciplines that will allow young people to adapt to an increasingly technological world.


The Character and K12 Education Team Leader/Program Director will lead the team on the creation, implementation, assessment, and evaluation of strategies for the Character and K12 program. The Team Leader/Program Director is responsible for articulating the Foundation’s vision both internally and externally, inspiring all stakeholders, and driving day-to-day grant making activities in keeping with the Foundation’s current policies and procedures. S/he will develop and maintain strong relationships with regional organizations and peer foundations, and win hearts and minds in the community by enthusiastically conveying Foundation goals, raising awareness of its mission-oriented programs.

The Team Leader/Program Director will be an innovative and collaborative leader who naturally and proactively challenges assumptions while understanding and embracing the concept and urgency of entrepreneurial philanthropy.


  • Maintaining broad, up-to-date knowledge and understanding of trends and issues in education reform and character development;
  • Overseeing and cultivating a small team of K12 Education Program Directors;
  • Identifying and developing program areas within the focus of the Foundation’s strategic plan, tailoring them to fill gaps in services offered;
  • Reviewing requests, conducting site visits, and providing technical assistance to support applicants and grantees and more effectively develop grant partners;
  • Monitoring grants to establish that they continue to support the Foundation’s priorities and are within budget and providing feedback to grantees to encourage maximum achievement of project goals;
  • Providing management and the Board with timely status reports on projects;
  • Establishing policies and procedures to maximize the efficient management of programs;
  • Determining an evaluation process, and proposing funding recommendations to be presented to the president;
  • Assisting with briefing and training of new program personnel;
  • Developing Foundation activities to foster the development of collaborative networks of grantees and other allied organizations;
  • Representing the Foundation at gatherings of potential or actual grantees for the purpose of communicating good will or serving as an informed representative of the philanthropic community;
  • Work as a team player with an egalitarian approach including the flexibility to fulfill a variety of duties including, but not limited to, event planning/hosting to team scheduling and portfolio member engagement;
  • Vetting the financial health and management of applicants;
  • Helping to develop and negotiate grant terms that result in the development of financially sustainable programs;
  • Supporting portfolio members with the development and execution of their business plans, and
  • Increasing the team’s ‘fluency’ in evaluating the financial dimensions of every organization that we work with.


  • Ability to articulate a vision and inspire internal and external stakeholders;
  • Intellectual capacity and rigor to synthesize information and ideas and recognize opportunity contained in them, paired with a track record of acting to seize opportunity;
  • Ability to use quantitative methods to measure program effectiveness including analytical skills customary to fields such as finance and economics;
  • Ability to identify and support partners with business planning, financial management, market research and achieving program sustainability through the design and development of earned revenue models;
  • Pattern of achieving goals on time and to high standards;
  • Outstanding communication skills, both written and oral, including the energy and charisma to articulate a compelling vision and galvanize stakeholders;
  • Ability to balance day-to-day operations with strategic planning;
  • Ability to identify the overlapping aspects of an organization’s diverse work to identify points of synergy and reinforcement;
  • Gravitas and credibility to leverage the his/her own network to serve Foundation goals
  • High level of integrity, trust and accountability including a strong work ethic and strong personal beliefs/values system;
  • Sound discernment and judgment with the ability to work independently as needed;
  • Flexibility to respond to changing situations, shifting priorities and new opportunities;
  • Strong judgment in navigating relationships and complex decisions;
  • Entrepreneurial approach to work;
  • Collaborative style that fosters synergistic, cross functional cooperation, collegiality and team spirit approach to work;
  • Ability to learn quickly, be receptive to professional development, and take an optimistic approach to work, and
  • Ability to travel 20% of the time.


  • A minimum of ten years of employment experience preferred
  • Experience developing and applying tools and methods to evaluate program success, non-profit or business start-up and expansion experience preferred
  • Financial acumen, including ability to review audited financial statements, pro-forma projections, and compile a complete financial review of an organization
  • Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, Graduate degree preferred


The review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.  Applications, including a cover letter and resume, should be submitted electronically, and will be considered on a rolling bases. Nominations, applications, or inquiries about the position and/or the search process should be directed to Leslie Nair, Associate Partner, via