Director, Upswell Programming

  • 1602 L St NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA
  • Full-time

Company Description

Founded in 1980, Independent Sector is the only national membership organization that brings together a diverse set of nonprofits, foundations, and corporations to advance the common good. From the biggest foundations to local charities, with staffs from 35,000 to 2, our membership of over 400 organizations consists of nonprofits, foundations, and corporations from around the United States engaged in every kind of charitable endeavor. We are the “vital meeting ground” for America’s change-makers and problem-solvers. We seek to be the place where vision and strategy come together, where dreamers and doers find common ground. This is “The Great Shared Task,” as our founder John W. Gardner put it.

We envision a world of engaged individuals, robust institutions, and vibrant communities working together to improve lives, improve the natural world, and strengthen democratic societies.

Job Description

Introducing Upswell

In late 2017, Independent Sector announced a rebranding and repositioning of its annual conference as Upswell.  The vision was to move boldly from a self-referential, association conference to an ongoing community engagement process that would be marked by intermittent, smaller place-based and virtual gatherings and punctuated with an annual 3-day “summit” (in place of a one and done annual conference).

In choosing the name “Upswell,” Independent Sector turned to the image of the wave and its formation to convey the purpose, process and spirit of its new community engagement process.   Just as the shape, size, power and duration of a wave are dependent upon the amount of energy gathered out in open water, so too are the shape, size, power and duration of social movements.

We know there is great power and wisdom in the cumulative experiences of the 11.4 million paid employees and 63 million volunteers working on the front lines of America’s 1.6 million nonprofit organizations.  And, there are additional reservoirs of talent to be found with changemaker allies in business and government.   Upswell activities are designed to reach beneath the surface to gather, combine, and unleash the vast collective energy of the changemaker community to create and sustain catalytic change in service of the common good.

Desired Result: Upswell seeks to build and equip an equitable community of changemakers dedicated to ensuring a society where all can thrive.

Upswell is conceived as an ongoing process of intensive community engagement designed to reach beneath the surface to identify, gather, and unleash the collective energy of the changemaker community to create and sustain catalytic social change.  Upswell participants include changemakers from Independent Sector’s traditional audiences at nonprofit agencies and grant-making foundations, as well as those working to affect social change in all sectors, including business, government, and concerned individuals with no formal affiliations.

The first Upswell summit was held in November 2018 in Los Angeles and was preceded by six smaller “Upswell Labs” held around the country.  In 2019, the Upswell summit will be November 14-16 in Chicago.

Job Summary

The Director, Upswell Programming will manage the program content development for the three-day Upswell Summit, program and design for pre-events, and a year-round engagement program and platform for Upswell attendees. The engagement program will include the Upswell Fellows Program.

Reporting to the Director, Conference & Event Management, this position will create a user-centered year-round program and platform in partnership with the Director, Design, and as appropriate, serve as an internal and external point of contact with key stakeholders.

The vision of success for this position is the creation of a programming scaffolding that can be replicated regardless of the Upswell host city but be flexible enough to adapt to the unique attributes of each future host city.

Key Roles

  • Manage the development and delivery of Upswell content, including crowdsourced and partner-generated content from design through workshop execution at the Summit and beyond, including design, speaker recruitment, setup and logistics requirements
  • Ensure Upswell program & platform supports diverse revenue sources and streams
  • Serve as the programming point of contact for Upswell host-city stakeholders and ensure they are vested in the development of programming.
  • Work closely with Upswell design and events teams as well as partners on complementary gatherings held around the country in advance of the Summit, as well as concurrently with Summit
  • Oversee infusion of year-long Upswell curriculum in appropriate Upswell Summit programming.
  • Work closely with Manager to ensure that workshop content aligns and complements the Public Square content, including engagement of traditional exhibitors.
  • Oversee Upswell Fellows Program development at the Summit and in a multi-year engagement plan so that Alumni and new Fellows will find value in Upswell.
  • Build and grow the Fellows Program working closing with Resource Development and Host cities on potential partnerships.
  • Lead small matrix teams who are charged with building out various aspects of Upswell to a year-long program.
  • Participate in the Upswell Leads internal working group to ensure program goals, milestones and deliverables are achieved.
  • Work collaboratively with peers in the Design, Logistics, Communications and Resource Development departments to ensure a cohesive, user-centered experience throughout the year and during the Summit.


  • Grounded in the desired Upswell result, you will create and manage a process to inform a year-long program design which can be modified and replicated in subsequent years.
  • Serve as thought partner with local and national stakeholders to co-create a program which advances Upswell’s desired results.
  • Excellent ability to assess data, create multiple interpretations and design various paths forward in execution.
  • Identify areas for scaling programming to serve more users.
  • Proactively identify opportunities to grow revenue-generating activities throughout the year.

Strategic Input

  • Partner with key internal stakeholders to on Upswell budget, logistics and communications planning. Participate in Upswell funder meetings and lead follow up as appropriate.
  • Present/provide updates to IS Community Building Committee which oversees Upswell.
  • Proactively identify data and evaluation needs for program refinement year over year.

 Evaluation and Research Support

  • Working closely with peers to design or modify data collection instruments and evaluation systems to promote a culture of learning and data-based decision making in the organization.
  • Analyze and summarize data outputs in a timely and accurate manner.
  • Coordinate effective dissemination of findings, conclusions, recommendations, and lessons learned from evaluations, to intended audience and management.


 The successful candidate will demonstrate the following:

  • An abundance or solutions-oriented mindset
  • Minimum of five to ten years of leadership experience in or with the nonprofit and/or philanthropic communities.
  • Experience in nonprofit management, business, and organizational learning/development/effectiveness, or curriculum design desired.
  • Expertise in leadership development plus one or more of the following processes strongly desired: program development, cross-sector collaboration, and program evaluation.
  • Extensive program and project management experience moving projects from inception through completion.
  • Experience developing, managing multiple groups and processes at one time, weighing tradeoffs along the way which drives a desired result.
  • Experience writing grant applications and working with funders to secure funding for programs preferred.
  • Ability to build relationships and collaborate effectively with current Independent Sector members and staff, as well as external partners and stakeholders, including speakers and vendors.
  • Ability to conduct sophisticated analysis of complex issues where analysis requires evaluation of often ambiguous factors, situations, and data.
  • Ability to define objectives and outcomes; develop and manage budgets; implement programs; and evaluate progress.
  • Excellent writing, editing, and verbal communication skills.
  • Team player with proven history of working collaboratively.
  • Willingness to learn, fail and iterate in real time.
  • Ability to be empathetic while driving results.
  • Good sense of humor.
  • Ability to travel 30% of the time.

Additional Information

All your information will be kept confidential according to EEO guidelines.


The salary range for this position is $95,000 to $115,000.