Senior Director Innovation

Senior Director Innovation

Northern Illinois Food Bank is dedicated to building community awareness and creating a human-centered design based, efficient food distribution network to eliminate hunger. Our staff is committed to embodying these values in all activities. Relationships are based on collaboration and respect. Resources are leveraged in a manner that is focused on neighbors’ needs, in line with the Food Bank’s strategic plan, and cost-effective in order to achieve the Food Bank’s mission and goals.

The Senior Director of Innovation is responsible for the exploration and development of innovative strategies and initiatives that have the potential of accelerating Northern Illinois Food Bank’s progress toward the vision of everyone in Northern Illinois having the food they need to thrive. This role facilitates the developing of cross-cutting, transformational ideas and opportunities at the organizational level that can increase the effectiveness, efficiency and impact of Northern Illinois Food Bank’s programs and services.

Another important responsibility of the Senior Director of Innovation and the Innovation team is to help to bring about a more human-centered network that enables Northern Illinois Food Bank to co-create initiatives that provide nutritious food and resources for our neighbors, with dignity, equity and convenience.
The Senior Director of Innovation will report to the Chief Impact Officer. They will manage 2-3 direct reports and will provide cross-functional leadership to other functional areas including our Operations, Marketing, Fundraising, Finance, IT and Agency and Programs teams.

End date
Opportunity type
Programs / Agency Relations / Clients
Job responsibilities

Innovation Strategy Development:
• In partnership with the CEO and CIO, identify areas of greatest opportunity to pursue and apply innovations to transforming the charitable food model, working with the teams to identify and pursue innovations that launch new opportunities and transform our support of people facing hunger and the fight to solve hunger.
• Develop a team of experts in human centered design and collaborate with the people we serve, the network of member Agencies and other external partners to define, design, develop, deploy and scale new capabilities, programs and services that can transform the charitable food model to improve impact and effectiveness. Initial focus in this area will be on developing and franchising the My Pantry Express online food pantry to the Member Agency Network.
• Partner with the CIO and CEO and other functional leaders to develop a vision and identify strategic opportunities for leveraging technology to accelerate our mission.
• In collaboration with other Food Bank teams, monitor and evaluate innovation happening throughout our network for the dual purpose of sharing promising practices and scaling what works.

Innovation Coaching, Delivery and Scaling:
• Lead cross-functional teams to develop qualified, validated ideas into programs and services that can be effectively operationalized across our organization, our network, and our partners and attract new sources of funding.
• Guide and coach teams to properly define the challenge or opportunity they are using the innovation process to solve for. Push teams to use their most expansive and non-conventional thinking to generate a broad set of ideas and possibilities to help them extend to meet longer term goals.
• Develop high-impact strategic partnerships to participate in project development and take innovations to scale. In partnership with the Chief Philanthropy Officer and other Executive Team members, Identify and cultivate relationships with public and private sector organizations for potential funding and partnership opportunities
• In partnership with functional leaders, develop “business case” support for recommendation of qualified solutions, including goals, operational needs, financial assessments and the creation of exit strategies and contingency plans, should risks materialize.

Innovation Research/ Insights & Evaluation:
• Promote best practices in human-centered, lean experimentation and other rapid testing methods to evaluate, qualify, manage and develop new ideas, using proven systems and processes to measure and evaluate success.
• Serve as a key partner to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team to think strategically, creatively and holistically about neighbor program strategy development to improve the effectiveness of feeding programs for vulnerable populations and strengthen partnerships to mitigate resource gaps.

Team Leadership:
• Lead communication of the Innovation Team vision, projects and progress, both internally and externally.
• Develop and coach Innovation Team members as well as other Food Bank staff.
• Other duties as assigned.

Other Duties:
Please note this job description is not designed to cover or contain a comprehensive listing of activities, duties or responsibilities that are required of the employee for this job. Duties, responsibilities and activities may change at any time with or without notice.

Application qualifications

Required Education, Skills, and Experience
• BA/BS or relevant experience.
• Master’s degree preferred
• 8 or more years of experience in non-profit or private sector innovation roles at increasing levels of responsibility.
• Mission Focused - Demonstrates a commitment to Northern Illinois Food Bank’s mission through word and action. Ensures the mission informs the development and implementation of initiatives and projects. Makes team/department decisions in the context of what is best for our mission and people facing hunger.
• Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – Demonstrates a commitment to an organization that values different backgrounds and life experiences through word and action. Builds culture and process to ensure that everyone can fully contribute based their unique talents, skills and perspective and feels welcome and valued. Builds equity into projects and programs for our employees and the communities we serve. Committed to continuous personal DEI development and supporting others in their own journey.
• Significant experience leading innovation and/or product or solution development for large, complex, organizations to shape expansive thinking that is also practical and executable. Ideally has experience leading innovation in a not for profit social services/poverty relief context.
• A track record of successful design, testing and launch of products, services or solutions using human-centered design methods.
• Experience leveraging technology to advance innovation and enable implementation of key strategies, with a working knowledge of and experience with mobile and digital platform development.
• Demonstrated effectiveness in developing robust metrics to develop and evaluate ideas at key points in the innovation process.
• Experience in fundraising and partnership development, with a track record of cultivating successful relationships a plus.

• Fosters Innovation and Continuous Improvement - Ensures that systems and processes are in place to identify new ideas, scan for best practices and drive continuous improvement. Pushes department to draw on internal and external ideas and solutions in developing initiatives and processes. Creates a learning environment.
• Collaborates Internally and Externally - Understands and promotes process and structure to facilitate collaboration. Identifies key stakeholders and ensures collaboration occurs between departments, across the Network and with external partners through words and actions and by removing barriers when necessary. Collaborates and models positive engagement resolving issues and elevating conversations to focus on mission and what’s best for the people we serve.
• Communicates Effectively - Communicates department strategy to a broad range of audiences including staff, member agency network, donors and other key audiences. Adjusts message and content based on insights gained through deep individual listening and perceptive observation of group dynamics. Communicates clearly and effectively through verbal and written communication across individual, small group and large audience settings.
• Leverages Functional Experience - Leverages industry and functional expertise to shape strategic and operational decisions. Tracks latest practices and innovations and ways these could improve processes within the department. Identifies potential challenges or threats and develops plans to respond.
• Drives Change - Diagnoses challenges looking at political and systemic barriers to change. Leverages data-based observation, interpretation and intervention to engage stakeholders in shaping and implementing solutions. Mobilizes department through effective interventions orchestrating dialogue and productive conflict to drive movement through the change process.

Supervisory Responsibility: This is a supervisory position.


Northern Illinois Food Bank offers extensive benefits including health, vision, dental, short & long-term disability, life insurance, etc. We have a 401k with matching.

How to apply
About the organization

Our vision at Northern Illinois Food Bank is for everyone in Northern Illinois to have the food they need to thrive. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and proud member of Feeding America, we serve our neighbors in 13 counties with dignity, equity and convenience, providing 250,000 meals a day. We bring together manufacturers, local and corporate grocers, area farmers, corporations, foundations, and individuals who donate food and funding, and each week nearly 1,000 volunteers help us evaluate, repack, and distribute food. We also proudly partner with more than 900 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and youth and senior feeding programs to provide nutritious food and resources. Our distribution centers are located in Geneva, Park City, Rockford and Joliet.