Foundations / Philanthropy
General Management / Strategic Planning
IL - Chicago metropolitan area
About the Organization

A Better Chicago is a venture philanthropy fund devoted to changing the way Chicago fights poverty by investing in bold ideas that provide opportunity for our youth. Driven by the core beliefs that education changes everything and that charity as usual doesn't work, A Better Chicago invests in and supports a select portfolio of high-performing nonprofits that are putting low-income students on a path toward high school, college and career success. Through its approach to selecting and supporting outstanding organizations and attracting and stewarding donors to support these organizations, A Better Chicago seeks to improve opportunities while setting an example of how philanthropy can drive compelling results at scale.

In 2015, A Better Chicago launched a bold strategic plan, with the goal of dramatically improving educational outcomes for Chicago's low-income youth by helping exceptional organizations expand their reach and elevate their impact beyond their already compelling outcomes. As part of its strategic plan, A Better Chicago developed two primary portfolio objectives: 1) expand the service capacity of outstanding organizations in Chicago by 80,000 students, and 2) achieve an aggressive set of portfolio performance targets, including a 60% college graduation rate of 9th graders compared to a current average in Chicago Public Schools of 18%. A Better Chicago seeks to achieve these goals by raising the bar on analytic rigor in philanthropy and amplifying the impact of funding with thought partnership and capacity-building support. Backed by a brand that connotes rigor and excellence within the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, A Better Chicago is at the forefront of changing the way philanthropy is done.

About the Position

To achieve the objectives set out in its strategic plan, A Better Chicago seeks a Portfolio Director to engage with portfolio organizations to dramatically expand their impact. In this role, the Director will shape A Better Chicago's approach to grantee support and will collaborate with grantees to set shared goals that are actionable, aspirational, and mission-aligned. As the core link to A Better Chicago's grantees, the Portfolio Director will ensure that organizations within the portfolio are effectively pursuing these ambitious goals, are held accountable for delivering upon shared expectations, and are benefitting from the best support A Better Chicago has to offer. Reporting to the President and managing 1-2 high-performing colleagues, the Portfolio Director will serve as a member of A Better Chicago's management team and play a critical role in shaping and building the future of the organization.

Why this is your dream job:

This is an ideal role for an entrepreneurial and influential leader who believes that thoughtful advice, guidance, and deployment of additional resources can have a game-changing impact on organizations and the students they serve. This role provides an unmatched opportunity to 1) engage with and support top nonprofit leaders to accelerate impact; 2) grow professionally through working with senior leaders at a diverse set of outstanding organizations; 3) apply creative and strategic thinking to identify the highest-impact ways to support organizations tackling a range of tough issues; and 4) work with an amazing and collaborative team to take on new challenges and achieve ambitious goals. If using your skills and experience to advise and support great leaders in service of dramatically enhancing opportunities for low-income students is exciting to you, this is your ideal job.

Why this is a challenging job:

This is a demanding role. As a young organization with a lean team, A Better Chicago is highly entrepreneurial and maintains high standards and ambitious targets. Each member of A Better Chicago's team relishes the opportunity to be a part of building something great – and not wait for it to be built. As a senior leader at A Better Chicago, the successful candidate should expect to work hard, spend plenty of time outside their comfort zone and embody the mindset that no task is too big or too small. Furthermore, as new opportunities emerge and others prove less promising, the organization readily flexes its time and attention to ensure it is spending energy on those things that will make the greatest difference for students. The Portfolio Director will need to bring their experience to bear in order to make thoughtful tradeoffs in service of maintaining a portfolio of high-impact organizations. At times, this requires the difficult decision to exit a grantee from the portfolio. While this is never ideal, the Portfolio Director will need to be ready to have tough conversations and make hard decisions regarding an organization's future investment status.

Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

Oversee A Better Chicago's portfolio of grantee organizations – engaging, partnering, and deploying resources to help them expand their impact (~75%)

  • Develop an aligned vision of long-term impact and success with grantees
  • Build a deep understanding of grantees' strengths, challenges and opportunities
  • Bring that insight to bear in aligning on priorities and performance milestones for the partnership in service of building capacity, accelerating growth, and improving on already compelling performance
  • Develop and execute a strategy to maximize the impact of A Better Chicago's support budget and other resources in service of grantees' and A Better Chicago's objectives, including:
  • Providing compelling thought leadership and partnership
  • Deploying and overseeing high-impact management support projects with external partners (developing RFPs, building and stewarding a portfolio of highly effective external management support providers, providing thought partnership and guidance as projects unfold)
  • Designing and implementing topical cross-portfolio opportunities (e.g., workshops, professional learning communities, trainings)
  • Regularly soliciting feedback from grantees to continue to evolve the strategy in service of our aligned goals for long-term success
  • Develop trust-based, influential relationships with the senior teams and boards of a set of grantees
  • Represent A Better Chicago on a diverse range of grantee boards, thoughtfully sharing perspectives and effectively influencing discussions as appropriate
  • Effectively manage a Portfolio Associate and Portfolio Manager to deliver on the above objectives

Build and maintain a high-impact portfolio as an effective steward of A Better Chicago's donors' funds (~15%)

  • Regularly review grantee progress and status in order to make annual recommendations regarding continued investment based on grantee outcomes, growth, aspirations and long-term potential
  • Develop data-driven investment recommendations on current and potential grantees; conduct deep-dive interviews and analysis of high-potential prospective grantees as part of A Better Chicago's due diligence process and make investment recommendations to A Better Chicago's board or leadership council
  • Regularly share grantee updates with external audiences via quarterly reports, web content development, and conversations

Build a great organization (~10%)

  • Serve on A Better Chicago's management team, engaging in shaping organization-wide strategy and priorities, presenting to A Better Chicago's board and leadership council, and embodying the "owner" mindset in building a great and enduring organization
  • Play a lead role in identifying additional areas – big or small – for impact and then leading the charge to take action
  • Mentor and develop other staff members in building their skills to deliver more impact to the organization, grantees, and donors
  • Embrace and model A Better Chicago's values by living them in day-to-day work
Candidate Requirements:

The ideal candidate will possess the following qualifications and attributes:

  • Deep commitment to A Better Chicago's mission to invest in high-performing nonprofit organizations that are creating educational opportunities for low-income Chicagoans
  • 5+ years of professional experience holding challenging roles with increasing levels of responsibility in high-expectations, high-performance environments; experience in management consulting or education nonprofit leadership a plus
  • Demonstrated ability to quickly assess situations, identify trends, develop creative solutions, and translate insights into high-level guidance and tactical execution
  • Compelling ability and credibility to rapidly build high-impact, trust-based advisory relationships with senior leaders, board members and other stakeholders
  • Demonstrated ability to lead colleagues to achieve high aspirations in challenging and ambiguous situations while building an engaged and energizing team culture
  • Strong sense of ownership, a deep commitment to excellence, and a desire to be continuously learning to bring the best advice and resources to grantees
  • Strong ability to prioritize and execute effectively across competing priorities
  • Belief in the power of smart philanthropy and comfort navigating the tension between building trusted partnerships with grantees while holding them accountable to meeting agreed-upon expectations
  • Bachelor's degree required
  • Demonstrated commitment and track record of excellence across A Better Chicago's values:
    • Courage: We proactively step up to challenges, make tough decisions and act decisively. We say what we believe, even if it's unpopular.
    • Empathy: We respect and seek to understand a diverse range of perspectives from our teammates, partners and the communities we serve.
    • Judgment: We make wise decisions despite ambiguity. We cut through noise to focus on the most important issues.
    • Drive: We bring an ownership mindset and hold ourselves accountable to delivering results. We have a bias toward action.
    • Innovation: We develop creative solutions that enable us to overcome obstacles and achieve more for Chicago's youth.
    • Stretch: We get better every day through feedback, reflection and growth.
    • Self-awareness: We work to understand our abilities, our growth opportunities, and the impact of our actions on others.
    • Positive attitude: We bring energy, optimism and a sense of possibility to our work, especially in difficult times.
    • Teamwork: We support our colleagues to be their best. We work collaboratively to solve problems. We put our team above ourselves.
  • As a growing organization in a critical phase of its strategy that relies on strong relationships with its grantees, A Better Chicago is looking for individuals with an appetite for growth and development, who are excited to be a core part of building the organization for at least the next 3-5 years
Compensation and benefits:

A Better Chicago recognizes that the Portfolio Director role requires a highly skilled and seasoned leader. Therefore, the compensation for this role is very competitive and includes medical, dental and vision insurance, short-term and long-term disability insurance, and four weeks of paid vacation.

A Better Chicago is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes candidates from diverse backgrounds.