Chief Program Officer

Location: Vista, CA (greater San Diego area)
Reports To: CEO
Direct Reports: 6 (Directors of Special Programs and Youth Development, Assoc. Director of Behavioral Health, Program Manager x2, Admin Assistant)
Salary: $120,000 – $140,000 DOE/neg.


Our Mission: to build self-reliance among youth, adults and families through high-quality, community-based services.

Our Vision: to foster both long-lasting personal growth and systemic change to improve the adverse social conditions impacting youth, adults and families. Lifeline seeks to build resiliency within those we serve, thereby empowering them to reach their highest potential.

Our Core Values:   

  • Prevention:to provide the earliest intervention to reduce system involvement.
  • Quality:to pursue excellence in client intervention and clinical oversight.
  • Collaboration:to build mutually beneficial partnerships to increase impact.

North County Lifeline is a community-based nonprofit organization incorporated in 1973 to help low-income youth and families to achieve self-reliance. With more than 140 staff members and 100 dedicated volunteers, Lifeline offers over 40 unique programs across our 5 focus areas: youth development, child abuse and domestic violence, housing and self-sufficiency, behavioral health, and human trafficking. With a current annual operating budget of $14M, we are continuing to grow as an organization and expand our services region-wide. From our original base in Vista, we now operate 7 sites across the county including Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista, Escondido and San Diego.

Lifeline’s clients are predominately low to extremely low-income and live in communities across San Diego County. Last year, Lifeline served over 23,000 people through intensive case-management, coaching or clinical interventions, or educational outreach services. The vast majority of of our programs are clinically based, with a focus on integrating services across the organization to break-down programmatic silos and apply a true wrap-around approach for the individuals and families we serve.

Position Summary

The Chief Program Officer (CPO) is a newly created position, working to ensure we have the organizational strategy and structure in place to support continued programmatic excellence and growth. This key leader will serve on Lifeline’s 4-member executive leadership team, alongside our CEO, Chief Operating Officer, and our Chief Philanthropy Officer, playing a key role in discussions and decisions about the strategic direction of the organization. They will also be an important sounding board and thought partner, serving as a force multiplier for our CEO, representing Lifeline at key meetings, events and public speaking engagements, as well as sitting on boards and collaboratives central to our work.

Working closely with our CEO, the CPO will oversee the overall management and day-to-day operations for all our programs, with a strong focus on both outcomes and compliance. The position requires equal parts business/operational acumen and clinical expertise, with the ability to effortlessly balance the two disciplines. Ultimately, we seek an experienced programs executive, who will keep staff and their well-being at the heart of everything we do. This is an opportunity to have major impact across almost every area of the organization, leading a strong team with a cohesive internal culture. The role requires a thoughtful change agent who listens intently before making recommendations and remains attuned to the organization’s capacity for change and adapts accordingly.

Near term (year 1) priorities for this position include:

  • Develop a deep understanding of Lifeline: go on a listening tour across the organization, visiting each program site on a regular basis to maintain visibility and build relationships at all levels.
  • Spend time with each team member, developing relationships, building trust, and getting to know their individual roles and skill sets.
  • Support the CEO in leading our efforts to transition the organization out from under the last two years of the COVID operating environment; find creative ways to reinforce our culture and foster a positive and healthy work environment for all staff.
  • Conduct a gap analysis to really understand Lifeline’s current resources and capabilities; begin working on a strategic plan specific to each of our 5 main program areas to ensure we are positioned to leverage growth opportunities.
  • Transition the agency to a common data platform, enhancing our capabilities for accessing and analyzing data; implement consistent data management practices across all our programs; ensure our data strategy continues evolving ahead of future growth.
  • Work with Lifeline’s development team to provide data on success outcomes in support of our fundraising efforts through effective storytelling.
  • Create leadership opportunities for staff to continue growing and developing; implement professional development as well as coaching and mentoring strategies.
  • Assist with implementation of our new 3-year strategic plan.

Longer term (years 2-5) priorities for this position include:

  • Fill key positions to ensure the organization is up to strength and has the staffing capacity to support future growth; work diligently to ensure staff and resources are not stretched too thin.
  • Begin implementing succession planning strategies and cross-training initiatives to ensure the organization has appropriate redundancies in place.
  • Look for silos within the organization, particularly around communication, and implement strategies for eliminating them.
  • Make recommendations for enhancing our decision-making capacity.
  • Implement creative new strategies for boosting Lifeline’s recruitment and retention efforts.
  • Implement backup systems and procedures to ensure adequate redundancies, as well as checks and balances are in place.
  • Build a new performance evaluation system across the organization including an accountability dashboard to monitor program metrics and participant outcomes.


People & Strategy:

  • Work collaboratively with the senior leadership team and actively participate in strategic planning efforts.
  • Welcome and pursue opportunities to partner with like-minded institutions to better serve the needs of program recipients.
  • Increase Board member engagement by staffing committees, providing information, making presentations and coordinating opportunities for Board involvement.
  • Conduct Lifeline manager trainings, helping them to be better managers and ensure they are well-informed and empowered to talk to their teams
  • Develop a talent acquisition strategy to help us attract and retain talent in an extremely competitive market; lead efforts to brand Lifeline as an employer of choice.
  • Create and improve employee career pathways within the organization.
  • Provide ongoing coaching and mentoring so that team members may continue growing and developing their capabilities.
  • Serve as the “voice” of the staff at the executive leadership level, advocating for programs and driving solutions that align with business goals.
  • Champion employee wellness by reinforcing a culture of work-life balance and ensure staff are practicing an appropriate amount of self-care to avoid burnout.
  • Devote significant time to developing, coaching, and empowering direct reports, thereby strengthening each of our programs.


  • Develop and maintain positive working relationships with community partners and referral sources. Serve as a liaison to various county departments including Behavioral Health, Probation, Health and Human Services, and Child Welfare; ensure staff assignments are in place for additional liaison roles at the appropriate levels.
  • Represent Lifeline on various associations and task forces, working collaboratively with city stakeholders, law enforcement, probation, school districts and community-based organizations to identify, develop and implement solutions to community needs.
  • Make presentations on Lifeline’s programs and services and assist in other organizational marketing and development activities.
  • Oversee an internal committee structure to break down silos and ensure strong communication within and between all of our programs.

Data Evaluation & Interpretation:

  • Conduct a thorough review of all existing programs, coordinating data collection and analysis efforts across the agency.
  • Determine and coordinate metrics for tracking each program’s success, measuring and reporting behavioral changes that enhance self-sufficiency and quality of life metrics.
  • Conduct cost-benefit analyses and performance management evaluations.
  • Identify opportunities for efficiencies and cost savings.
  • Strategize with our grant writing and fundraising teams to support new funding efforts by providing outcome data and participant stories.

Technology & Operations:

  • Stay current on innovations and best practices for nonprofit executives and program management, particularly in relation to technology integration.
  • Increase efficiency by streamlining systems, contracts, procurement and vendor management.
  • Integrate the program portfolio to ensure programs complement and enhance one another.
  • Oversee the integration of a universal client intake form and refinement of management systems and processes to track program outcomes.
  • Work closely with the Senior Leadership Team to modernize programs and structures.
  • Ensure programs are operating at full capacity / enrollment.


  • Compassionate:cares deeply for the populations we serve and appreciates the barriers they must overcome to achieve success in life.
  • Solutions-oriented:extremely creative at leveraging resources and identifying solutions to any challenge; finds a way to make it happen.
  • Determined:a resilient professional who is excited by the opportunity to lead during a time of significant institutional and social change.
  • Strategic:ability to see across the entire organization, with an appreciation for the interconnectedness of all the various people and functional areas; understands “the big picture”.
  • Collaborative:ability to build professional relationships and work effectively with a diverse range of people inside and outside the organization; always open to new ideas, strategies, and opinions.
  • Team player:always looking to highlight and elevate the work of others; takes genuine interest in supporting the success of team members.
  • Connected:keeps a pulse on the organization by remaining highly visible across all our sites and programs; maintains a robust network of healthy internal and external relationships.
  • Creative:a connector of ideas and strategies who enjoys doing what has never been done before.
  • Listener:brings a highly developed sense of self-awareness and emotional intelligence who seeks first to understand, then reflect and act.
  • Customer focused:excellent relationship management and communication skills across all mediums (in-person, phone, email and virtual); demonstrates judgment, tact, and diplomacy at all times; polished and articulate; keeps the customer at the center of everything.
  • Self-actualized:ability to work with minimal supervision, someone who is innately driven and goal-oriented and enjoys “figuring it out”.
  • Business savvy:a results-oriented leader who can translate business and operations plans into programmatic strategies and results; comfortable with the budgeting and planning processes.
  • Accountable:ability to take full responsibility for every aspect of our programmatic operations and strategy; highly reliable.
  • Charismatic:a true “people person” who enjoys “getting out from behind the desk” to regularly visit staff in the field and across departments; highly approachable.
  • Organized:incredible attention to detail, with the ability to manage several projects simultaneously; someone who naturally checks and rechecks their own work.
  • Empathetic:able to see things from the perspective of managers and front-line staff, serving as the “voice” of the employee in leadership discussions.
  • Communicative:a natural communicator who can translate complex clinical information into terms easily comprehended by non-clinical staff and partners.
  • Optimistic:someone who instinctively starts at “yes” and then finds a way to make it happen.
  • Proactive:constantly looking ahead, anticipating potential changes, and proposing new solutions and alternatives.
  • Confident:brings a “can-do” attitude, remaining calm and focused under pressure, self-assured in their skills and abilities.
  • Ethical:possess the highest ethical standards; ability to exercise discretion, professionalism, and uncompromising integrity.
  • Thick-skinned:can defend a position tactfully and diplomatically, with the ability to push back and say “no” as appropriate; not afraid of having the difficult conversations.
  • Focused:works diligently to prevent mission creep, ensuring Lifeline only takes on projects and contracts that align with our mission, vision, values and capabilities.
  • Deliberate:knows when to slow things down, take a step back and allow adequate time for discussion, planning and thoughtful implementation.
  • Decisive:an effective decision maker who can act quickly when required and is not afraid to innovate, pivot and adjust as the situation might require.
  • Flexible:able to respond calmly and appropriately to the unpredictability of daily operations in the human services sector.
  • Analytical:capable at analyzing data and tracking trends at the programmatic and organizational levels.
  • Hands-on:someone who enjoys being on the front line and making things happen yet knows when and how to delegate effectively.


  • 10+ years of experience with a strong background in direct services management and clinical supervision.
  • Education equivalent to a master’s degree in social work, counseling, or psychology.
  • State-licensed LCSW, MFCC, or Licensed Psychologist
  • Experience creating, launching, and managing programs of various size and complexity.
  • Comfortable attending donor meetings and participating in site visits on occasion.
  • Experience working within a large, complex and multifaceted human services organization.
  • Strong business acumen: comfortable with the budgeting process and managing across multiple funding streams, including federal, state, county and private foundation grants.
  • Experience participating in and supporting program audits from government agencies.

For more information or to apply, please contact:

Sarah Thompson, Director, Blair Search Partners
1855 First Avenue, Suite 300, San Diego, CA 92101