Executive Director

Powell Foundation | Houston, Texas


The Powell Foundation is a private, family foundation that strives to be a catalyst for impactful initiatives that enhance the quality of life in the communities it serves.  It prioritizes funding organizations that serve residents in Harris, Travis, and Walker Counties, principally in the fields of public education, the arts, conservation, and human services. A primary focus of the Foundation is ensuring that all children have access to a robust, first-class public education and the support needed to develop to their full potential. The Foundation is incorporated in Texas and governed by a board of eleven directors comprised of two generations of the Powell family and three independent directors. It is operated by a small staff located in central Houston.

Job Summary

The Powell Foundation seeks a dynamic, dedicated team player to serve as its next Executive Director. The Executive Director provides the Foundation with strategic leadership and manages its daily operations. Key responsibilities include creating and implementing philanthropic strategies and programs, financial management, team leadership, and external community relations. The Executive Director must be comfortable providing leadership, inspiration, and support to the Board, Advisory Board, and staff, as well as serving as a thought leader to the philanthropic and nonprofit community at large. This is a great role for an excellent communicator and facilitator who wants to work closely with a hands-on, multi-generational family and its independent directors to pursue quality grantmaking that enables communities to thrive through distribution of more than $10 million in grants per year. 

Reports To

This position reports to the Board of Directors and works very closely with the Board President.


Leadership and Management:

  • Develop organizational, programmatic, and financial plans that are aligned with industry standards, best practices, and the Foundation’s strategic goals. 
  • Ensure that goals are met by effectively translating plans into actionable operational policies and procedures and by driving and monitoring performance.
  • Ensure that staff are properly selected, supervised, and supported.
  • Provide ongoing leadership, guidance, and mentorship to staff and other Foundation stakeholders.
  • Create a positive, mission-driven organizational culture conducive to learning, growth, and continuous performance improvement. 
  • Create a shared understanding of the Foundation’s history, donor intent, mission, strategic goals, and guidelines. Ensure adoption of and adherence to the Foundation’s values and ethical standards.
  • Facilitate strong working relationships and communication among/between staff and the Board.

Governance, Board Administration & Support:

  • Implement the Foundation’s strategic goals, policies and guidelines; periodically review and recommend changes to the Board for approval. 
  • Support the Board in carrying out its mission and vision through regular communication and updates regarding Foundation business. Inform the Board in a timely fashion of any new information or development that may be relevant to or seriously impact the Foundation. 
  • Ensure the Board fulfills its duties and fiduciary responsibilities by training new members and providing ongoing support. 
  • Provide counsel and guidance to board members and individual family members regarding the Foundation’s grant funding, policies, procedures and other items as needed.  Support the development, training and inclusion of the Next Generation of the Powell Foundation. 
  • Orchestrate board and committee meetings by effectively communicating with Board/family members between meetings, implementing board directives, preparing agendas, overseeing materials development, and ensuring that minutes are taken for all meetings. 
  • Provide the Board with information on philanthropic and community needs, issues, and priorities so that it may make sound policy decisions.
  • Apprise the Board of opportunities to participate in community, grantee, and philanthropic functions to further its understanding of the field. 

Grants and Grant Partnerships:

  • Provide leadership and direction for the Foundation’s grantmaking to ensure appropriate information for Board decision-making.  This includes, but is not limited to: application procedures, proposal analysis, technical assistance to applicants, site visits, written reports to the Board and its committees, and monitoring and evaluation of grantee performance. 
  • Prioritize requests in conjunction with the Board’s strategic objectives and ensure that grant recommendations are also consistent with these objectives.
  • Engage with key leaders in the Foundation’s fields of interest in order to develop and add depth to programming ideas and initiatives.
  • Proactively identify grants that have the potential to foster positive change in the community and advance the Foundation’s goals. 
  • Coordinate and manage multi-dimensional projects and activities, including collaborative efforts with external partners to further grant strategies and impact.

Administration, Legal, and Financial:

  • Supervise the Foundation’s day-to-day operations: lead the design, maintenance, and implementation of all strategies, goals, and operational policies, procedures, and guidelines. Periodically review and recommend operational adjustments for Board approval as necessary. 
  • Understand all administrative, legal, and fiduciary requirements and best practices that apply to private foundations. Ensure compliance with these requirements and create an environment in which all activities reflect accepted best practices. 
  • Act as liaison with the Foundation’s investment advisors, bank custodian, accountants, auditors, legal counsel, payroll provider, and other contracted service providers. 
  • Provide sound financial oversight and management; develop and implement an annual operating budget for review and approval by the Board; provide financial reports, investment statements, and audits to the Investment Committee and the Board.
  • Ensure that the Foundation meets its legal minimum distribution requirement, and that approved grants are paid out in a timely manner in service to this requirement.

Community Relations:

  • Develop and maintain strong working relationships and communications with current/prospective grantees, other funders, philanthropic organizations, and community stakeholders in a manner that is consistent with the Foundation’s values.
  • Serve as the Foundation’s spokesperson and representative to the general public, non-profit community, and philanthropic sector.
  • Oversee all external communications, including the Foundation’s written publications and website.  
  • Engage in permitted advocacy efforts as appropriate to further the Foundation’s philanthropic goals.


The ideal candidate will have at least ten years of leadership experience, with a substantive background in strategy, non-profit management, and team building. Additional qualifications include the following:

  • A demonstrated leader with extensive experience in the charitable sector at the senior management level; comprehensive understanding of the sector; knowledge of the education space preferred.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of and involvement in the Houston community.
  • Proven ability to lead others and to manage relationships effectively (a leader who can inspire, guide, support and act).
  • Ability to recruit, hire, and retain highly competent staff; ability to identify the need for and to secure external expertise and resources as necessary. 
  • Exceptional written and oral communication skills; experience and comfort in communicating with all levels within an organization/family.
  • Strong project and time management skills; ability to think independently and initiate action; must thrive working under deadlines and handling multiple tasks without sacrificing attention to details; must be able to work with the Board of Directors to expedite its desired goals.
  • Detailed understanding of nonprofit governance; strong budget management skills; working knowledge of the principles of financial accounting and fiduciary responsibility applicable to a Financial Review Committee and an Investment Committee.
  • Strong analytical skills; must be able to read, analyze and interpret complex documents.
  • Strong results and performance-orientation; ability to take a big picture view, to think boldly, and to challenge others to do so; ability to plan strategically, and to balance planning and execution.
  • Impeccable reputation for integrity and judgment; strong ethics and trustworthiness; ability to maintain confidentiality and use discretion. 
  • Ability to promote and maintain a respectful, productive, inclusive, and healthy workplace.
  • Bachelor’s degree and relevant professional development required; advanced degree preferred.
  • Proficient computer skills and familiarity with database systems.


The compensation package is commensurate with experience and includes a competitive base salary as well as benefits and vacation. The position is located in Houston, Texas. 

How to Apply

Interested candidates should apply here.  If you have questions, please email Denise Smith at PowellED@denisesmith.net.  Letters of interest will be received until March 6, 2020. 

We will contact those candidates who most closely match the requirements. We thank you in advance for your interest.

Powell Foundation