Director of Operations

Deadline for application: 6 October 2022

Location: Geneva, Switzerland

Report to: Oak Foundation President

Contract Terms: Full-Time Permanent Position


About Oak Foundation

Oak Foundation ( commits its resources to address issues of global, social, and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, Oak Foundation makes grants to organisations located in around 40 countries worldwide.


The foundation currently has a staff strength of about 100 employees, and six office locations. The larger offices are in Geneva, Switzerland; London, the United Kingdom; and Chapel Hill, the United States. The foundation has six thematic programmes, four national country programmes, and a Special Interest Programme. We expect net grant commitments to total USD 400 million in 2022, which includes programme and special initiative grants to over 400 partner organisations. Oak Foundation is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, as detailed in the child safeguarding policy. They expect all staff to share this commitment.


Role Purpose

This is an exceptional opportunity to join a leading international foundation in a leadership role, which ensures the effective and efficient operation of all Oak offices and its grant-making activity. The director is responsible for oversight of Oak’s core services including: Finance; Grant Administration; Human Resources; and Information Technology. The director also has oversight for office facilities and real estate, and in the absence of in-house legal counsel, is the first port of call for matters related to contracts and Oak legal entities. The director is a strategic thought-partner for the President in clarifying how best to achieve the Trustees’ ambitions. The director will have a leading role in reimagining the organisations’ operations as Oak Foundation absorbs five new Trustees over the next decade. Based in the Geneva office, the director has management responsibility for five direct reports and an overall team of approximately 25 employees.


Duties and Responsibilities

  • Work with the Trustees, the President, and the senior leadership team to ensure that Oak remains a world-class environment in which staff are able to deliver their best work to fulfill the foundation’s mission of making the world a safer, fairer, and more sustainable place to live. Oversight of Oak’s core operations, including charting and realising a shared vision for flexible and adaptable systems and processes which enhance the ability of our programmes to quickly adjust and evolve to a fast-changing environment.
  • Ensure that the foundation meets the highest standards of fiscal stewardship, risk management and operational excellence, while remaining agile and innovative.
  • Work with function heads to set clear priorities and objectives to optimise institutional delivery of a knowledge-based organisation which promotes collaboration and decision-making.
  • Work with function heads to identify operational capabilities to be built in-house versus outsourced (e.g., Finance, IT, HR).
  • Benchmark Oak systems, policies, and processes against peers and constantly seek to adapt best practice to the Oak context and culture.
  • Advise the President on all aspects of our grant-making processes and operations.
  • Work in close coordination with the Secretary on ensuring board resolutions are prepared to document relevant decisions. Review any proposed changes to agreements and contracts, or language in new contracts, and raise any issues to the Secretary prior to signature. Liaise with the family office, third party Trustees, banks etc. as required to ensure optimal coordination and respond to any queries.
  • Forge, manage, and maintain excellent relationships with peer foundations, with a view to encourage collaboration and information sharing.
  • Represent Oak on various philanthropy networks and contribute to building the field through participation in various initiatives (e.g., Funders for Real Cost, Real Change, IFR4NPO).
  • Promote a creative, solution-oriented, and enabling mindset among the Operations team.
  • Lead the Operations team with a collaborative, supportive, and empathetic leadership style that is able to achieve and maintain clarity, performance, and decision-making.
  • Maintain and strengthen the strong business partner relationships between programme teams and operation staff, and foster a collegiate culture where team members share targets and responsibilities.


Education, Qualifications & Experience

  • Advanced University Degree in a related field, with a minimum of 10-15 years of proven management experience in overseeing comparable complexity and scale of operations in an international environment.
  • Broad experience leading diverse operational functions and teams, and a proven ability to multi-task.
  • Demonstrated experience leading diverse, multi-cultural teams. Work and lived experience in the global south is a plus.
  • Proven ability to build consensus and successfully operate in an ambiguous, fluid environment.
  • Track record of successfully meeting or exceeding organisational targets and driving significant impact.
  • Proven ability to leverage financial and operational metrics to drive organisational decisions and achieve strategic objectives.
  • Demonstrated ability to manage and motivate a team of senior-level, diverse, international professionals.
  • Ability to represent Operations and Oak Foundation with clarity and impact to a range of stakeholders.
  • Previous work experience or board membership within a philanthropic organisation is highly desirable. A diverse experience in working with corporate, financial, and multilateral sectors would also be valuable.
  • Advanced research and analytical skills.
  • Excellent relationship-building and negotiation skills, and ability to engage internal and external stakeholders.
  • Deep knowledge of non-profit legal structures, tax exemptions, financial accounting, budgeting, and organisational strategy.
  • Strong critical thinking skills and ability to analyse information from variety of sources, including potential and current grantees, researchers, and the media.
  • Excellent written and oral English communication skills, fluency in French is strongly preferred, other languages are a plus.


Qualities and values

  • Humility, tact, maturity, a sense of humour, and a deep commitment to Oak’s organisational values.
  • Sensitivity to the relationships between funder and recipient, and the ability and willingness to listen and learn from partners.
  • Humility and deep commitment to the empowerment and voice of others, as well as to continuous learning.
  • Willingness to travel (approx. 10-15 per cent, including multiple international trips each year).


Terms of Appointment             

This is a full-time position. Salary is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience. A benefits package is also included.


Role Location

This role is located in Geneva, Switzerland with the possibility to work from home two days a week.

Candidates must be willing to relocate to Geneva, Switzerland to be considered for this role. Visa sponsorship is an option.


How to Apply & Key Steps in the Process*

SRI Executive is exclusively retained by Oak Foundation to undertake this assignment.

  • If you wish to be considered for this position, please forward a copy of your CV and a motivational letter in Microsoft Word format along with any relevant documentation to Julia Botha at on or before 6th October 2022. All information will be treated in the strictest confidence. We will revert to you as soon as possible when we have reviewed your application.
  • During the recruitment process, should you demonstrate sufficient relevant experience, SRI Executive will require your cooperation in completing a Competency Profile. You will also be required to participate in several telephone or Microsoft Teams screening discussions with the SRI Executive team to ensure there is a clear understanding of the Terms of Reference and to ascertain if there is the appropriate “fit” (technical and behavioural) for you and Oak Foundation.
  • Based on the screening discussions, SRI Executive will provide a shortlist of recommended candidates to Oak Foundation for further review. Suitable candidates to take forward for first-round interview will then be selected by the hiring committee. SRI Executive will contact suitable candidates and arrange interviews.
  • First-round interviews will be conducted by video-conference. Based on the outcome of first round interview, successful candidates will be invited to participate in a second-round  interview in Oak’s office in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Please be aware that this appointment will require that you provide us with contact information of three people who are willing to act as a referee, including former direct reports and former employers. We will not contact these individuals without your expressed permission.
  • After you meet with Oak Foundation, we will advise you of their decision and provide feedback. At the selection stage, should you be the preferred final candidate, our client will extend an offer letter subject to references.

* Please note that this process may be subject to some change.

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