Chief Operating Officer

Req Number: IW388
Location: Washington, DC
Posted: 7/12/2021
Category: Government/Not-For-Profit : Education
Job Type: Permanent

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Each year, NED makes more than 2,000 grants to support the projects of non-governmental groups abroad who are working for democratic goals in more than 100 countries. NED is at an incredible juncture at a time of new leadership, significant growth, and tremendous institutional opportunity. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) serves as the collaborative leader of the top-management team with a keen focus on solutions and results.


NED is a unique institution. The Endowment’s nongovernmental character gives it a flexibility that makes it possible to work in some of the world’s most difficult circumstances, and to respond quickly when there is an opportunity for political change. NED is dedicated to fostering the growth of a wide range of democratic institutions abroad, including political parties, trade unions, free markets, and business organizations, as well as the many elements of a vibrant civil society that ensure human rights, an independent media, and the rule of law.

This well-rounded approach responds to the diverse aspects of democracy and has proved both practical and effective throughout NED’s history. Funded largely by the U.S. Congress, the support NED gives to groups abroad sends an important message of solidarity to many democrats who are working for freedom and human rights, often in obscurity and isolation.

The Endowment is guided by the belief that freedom is a universal human aspiration that can be realized through the development of democratic institutions, procedures, and values. Democracy cannot be achieved through a single election and need not be based upon the model of the United States or any other particular country. Rather, it evolves according to the needs and traditions of diverse political cultures. By supporting this process, the Endowment helps strengthen the bond between indigenous democratic movements abroad and the people of the United States — a bond based on a common commitment to representative government and freedom as a way of life.


From its beginning, NED has remained steadfastly bipartisan. Created jointly by Republicans and Democrats, NED is governed by a board balanced between both parties and enjoys Congressional support across the political spectrum. NED operates with a high degree of transparency and accountability reflecting our founders’ belief that democracy promotion overseas should be conducted openly.

 Democracy involves the right of the people freely to determine their own destiny. The exercise of this right requires a system that guarantees freedom of expression, belief and association, free and competitive elections, respect for the inalienable rights of individuals and minorities, free communications media, and the rule of law.

 Statement of Principles and Objectives, 1984



NED Leadership

Damon Wilson – President and Chief Executive Officer

The Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy unanimously voted to approve Damon Wilson as NED’s next president and chief executive officer, effective July 26, 2021. Wilson succeeds Carl Gershman, who has led the Endowment since its founding in 1983.

Mr. Wilson previously served as the Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council where he oversaw its rapid growth in size and impact, developing Council strategy and managing its 14 centers and programs. Earlier, Wilson served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council (2007-2009). He was Executive Secretary and Chief of Staff at the US Embassy in Baghdad (2006-2007), where he helped manage one of the largest US embassies during a time of conflict. Prior to this posting, he worked at the National Security Council as the Director for Central, Eastern, and Northern European Affairs (2004 to 2006) and served as Deputy Director in the Private Office of NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson (2001-2004). In these roles, Wilson helped expand the NATO Alliance to secure freedom, deter and counter Russian aggression, and played a lead role on the Alliance’s response to 9/11 and its operations in Afghanistan and the Western Balkans. He has also worked in the Department of State’s Office of European Security and Political Affairs, on the State Department’s “China desk,” and at the US Embassy in Beijing. Wilson also served with Save the Children in Rwanda from 1995-1996.

Barbara Haig - Deputy to the President for Policy & Strategy

In her prior position as Vice President for Program Planning and Evaluation, Barbara Haig led the dramatic growth of the NED’s Grants Program, which included management of the programmatic development, monitoring, and evaluation of the Endowment’s worldwide grant making and democracy support efforts. In 2009, Ms. Haig became Deputy to the President for Policy and Strategy, which allows her to continue providing strategic and policy direction to the grant making and democracy support efforts of the NED, and to advise the NED President and Board regarding broader institutional strategies that will further advance the goals of the grants program.

Chief Operating Officer

NED is at an incredible juncture at a time of new leadership, significant growth, and tremendous institutional opportunity. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the National Endowment for Democracy serves as the collaborative leader of the top-management team with a keen focus on solutions and results. 

Reporting to the President, this executive provides the leadership, management, and vision necessary to ensure that NED has the proper operational controls, administrative and reporting procedures, and people systems in place to achieve its organizational mission and to ensure financial strength and operating efficiency while preserving NED’s nimbleness and “demand driven” culture. In addition, the COO ensures that NED, as an institution, provides effective oversight of the expenditure of public funds while at the same time developing and maintaining the relationships of trust on the ground that helps make the work so effective.

The COO must have a clear sense of staff needs, be highly communicative and accessible, and remain focused on the vision and humanity of the NED mission. The COO must have the analytical insights to understand strategically how the support structures impact mission. The COO is responsible for deploying, maximizing, and coordinating the NED resources across all entities to achieve the NED’s objectives. As such, the COO oversees the NED’s budget and finance, human resources, and office services, and knowledge management and informational technology functions.

The COO, in coordination with the Deputy to the President for Policy & Strategy, is responsible for providing mission- and values-based leadership, direction, support, and assistance to all institutional Vice Presidents (VPs) to optimize operational effectiveness and institutional integration and cohesiveness. Although the COO primarily functions internally, the COO may assist the President externally as needed to advance the organization’s democracy leadership, including the pursuit and evaluation of strategic partnerships and the cultivation of key supporters.

A collaborative leader, the COO will keep the pulse of the organization administratively and operationally and must exercise transparency in all practices. This executive must exude an intellectual agility and political acuity and be able to engender trust and support. Given the complexity of the compliance environment, this leader must have contract experience and an informed global perspective. The COO and all senior staff need to have the intellectual integrity and diligence to manage risk and deliver and support on the NED mission.

This is a tremendously exciting time for the NED with a significant increase in budget and the new COO will help to usher new institutional change through overhauling operational practices, technologies, and systems implementation. There is an articulated need for a growth minded operations leader to conceptualize and manage new systems and practices while keeping clearly aligned to the NED mission and values. 

Key Responsibilities

  • Promote the leadership and management acumen necessary to ensure that the NED staff can fulfill the mission of effectively strengthening democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts.
  • Provide the strategic and operational direction necessary to develop and achieve or exceed operational and financial performance targets.
  • Guide staff in implementing all organizational policies, procedures, and best practices.
  • Fluently interface with knowledge and functional leaders.
  • Identify training and development opportunities for staff.
  • Serve as an intellectual and strategic partner with the President and the leadership team.
  • Assess financial and operational feasibility of current and future operational projects and approves and implements appropriate actions to achieve goals.
  • Develop the strategies to meet the identified financial and capital needs of the NED and ensures that financial conditions and requirements are clearly communicated to all staff, principally through the VPs.
  • Establish all policies, procedures, systems, and internal staff management functions of all departments and ensures compliance and accountability.
  • Ensure the measurement and effectiveness of all internal processes. Provide timely, accurate, and complete reports on the operating condition of the organization.
  • Build processes and procedures with a sustainable framework to help staff become more effective and efficient to create and maintain a distinct, independent, and more innovative culture.
  • Provide thought partnership with the senior leadership to position the next iteration of NED through modernization, new systems implementation to help usher in a new and modern ethos.
  • Oversee all VPs and staff regarding operational and financial matters, including providing leadership monitoring and training, assigning responsibilities, reviewing work processes and products, and implementing corrective actions when necessary.
  • Foster a success-oriented, accountable environment throughout the organization.
  • Help connect and integrate people and processes across the organization to ensure a more coherent, effective organization.
  • Oversee NED’s commitment to talent, including advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion and engagement with the employee union.


  • A minimum fifteen years’ leadership experience with demonstrated top management and solid business sense with an emphasis on focused planning and procedures, budgeting expertise, and a propensity towards strategic thinking and planning.
  • Developed project management skills and follow-through which includes assessing a problem, obtaining, and evaluating appropriate facts, and reaching sound and timely solutions.
  • Demonstrated digital and data proficiency and the desire to promote the use of state-of-the-art technology and data analytics.
  • Strategic mindset with a results and solutions-oriented ethos; ability to identify connections and leverage opportunities across an organization.
    • Ability to edit and to write quickly and clearly.
    • Demonstrated interest in global affairs and democracy support. Multi-cultural experience or background, previous work experience outside the United States, and non-English fluency a plus.


Advanced degree required; relevant experience may be considered as an acceptable qualification.


A competitive compensation package will be offered to the finalist candidate.


Korn/Ferry shall provide equal employment opportunity to all qualified candidates, and will refer candidates without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, veteran status or any other legally protected basis.