Executive Director

Research for Action | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Research for Action (RFA) is a Philadelphia-based, national nonprofit research organization that conducts research to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for traditionally underserved P20W (preschool through postsecondary education into workforce) students and the policies, practices, institutions, and systems that serve them.

Job Summary

RFA now seeks nominations and applications for an Executive Director (ED) to lead a dedicated staff and partner with a committed volunteer Board of Directors in the organization’s next phase of growth and achievement. The ED will develop and lead a strategic planning process to position RFA to respond to the evolving and complex needs of students, families, educators, schools, communities, and policymakers.

For 30 years, RFA’s research has demonstrated a commitment to contributing knowledge to the field to improve programmatic and policy decision-making at local, state, and national levels, that improves access to high-quality education for all and addresses systemic racism through advancing equity in education. RFA’s approach—spanning qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods, as well as timely, actionable policy research—is tailored to meet the needs of clients, partners, and the field.

The ED will work with a diverse to ensure that RFA’s external commitment to using research as a tool to identify and address systemic inequities in education is reflected in its research products and public reports, as well as its internal organizational systems and culture.


In close partnership with the RFA Board and staff, the new Executive Director will develop and lead RFA’s next strategic planning process to define the next phase of the organization’s future. The new Executive Director will engage the following opportunities and challenges:

Vision and Leadership

The ED will bring a broad field-level perspective on the critical and emerging trends, priorities, and policies in education research and its connections to practice, policy, and communities. The ED will create new opportunities for RFA by identifying and pursuing new projects and funding that build upon RFA’s profile and reputation as a field leader and trusted source of high-quality, actionable research. The new ED will bring strong networks and a public profile as a research thought leader and content expert, speaker, writer, and/or policymaker and a desire to raise RFA’s profile as a leader and field-builder. S/He/They will bring bold vision, capacity for leadership, and profound personal and professional commitment to deepening RFA’s focus on learning and action to support racial equity, diversity, inclusion, and sustained awareness of how dynamics of power and privilege affect educational outcomes, the institutions, and policies that serve students and RFA itself.


Culture and Team Leadership

The ED will support an inclusive and supportive team culture that values transparency and consistent communication. S/He/They will demonstrate a sensitivity to the work environment in which RFA staff is currently operating (a combination of virtual and hybrid), while balancing the realities of fast-paced project- and client-driven work. The ED will lead staff and board through intentional and internally reflective work required to move toward becoming an anti-racist research organization. As a leader and culture contributor, the ED will work proactively to build trust, cohesion, safe/brave space, and opportunities for staff to do their best work individually and collectively while still meeting RFA’s business goals and objectives.

Organizational Management

The new Executive Director will manage a $5 million annual budget and lead a 30-35 person staff. The ED will partner with senior staff to ensure that organizational structures, processes, and support systems across finance, technology, HR, communications, and other core functions are managed effectively, efficiently, and equitably, and are continuously well-aligned to strategy and vision.

Partnership Building and Business Development

The ED will bring a significant track record in fundraising from a broad array of public and private resources, including major, multi-year grants and contracts from national funders. The ED will continue to build strategic collaborations with complementary organizations to leverage and extend RFA’s portfolio and competitiveness. The ED will also cultivate partnerships with key stakeholders at local, state, and national levels, (including philanthropic foundations, nonprofit partners and other clients, schools, school districts, postsecondary institutions and systems, researchers, state and Federal agencies, and policymakers) across the field of education research, both in Pennsylvania and nationally. The ED will bring skill in crafting compelling project proposals and approaches that distinguish RFA as a field leader and innovator and will have a creative and discerning talent for assessing potential new opportunities. To support a vision for growth, the ED will both build on existing relationships with key funders and clients and actively identify and cultivate new client partnerships aligned with RFA’s mission.

Board Development and Engagement

The ED will thoughtfully engage board members as strategic partners and key advisors in the work of RFA both internally and externally, effectively leveraging their diverse personal and professional backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to inform the strategic direction and growth of RFA and its continued financial strength and reputation for field leadership and outstanding work.

For the full position description and to apply, please visit: https://recruitcrm.io/apply/25045527

How to Apply

RFA is partnering with  Allison Kupfer Poteet, Cara Pearsall, and Catherine Seneviratne of NPAG on the search. Due to the pace of this search, candidates are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Candidates may submit their cover letter, outlining their interest and qualifications, along with their resume via NPAG’s candidate portal.

Research for Action