COO / Director of Organizational Excellence 🔥

Appleseed: Our mission is to unleash the development sector's potential for impact. We are a nonprofit consultancy specializing in behavioral marketing, and we help leading development organizations make their critical solutions stick in the world's poorest communities.

COO / Director of Organizational Excellence 🔥

Many of the best solutions to poverty and environmental issues, promoted by social impact organizations around the world, are not used as intended. In Malawi, Mosquito nets are used for fishing. In Nigeria, exclusive breastfeeding is practiced by only 23% of young mothers. In Guatemala, nutrition-fortified maize seeds are available, but farmers rarely plant them. The list goes on. These organizations often struggle to reach outcomes that require behavior changes within the communities they serve.

Appleseed, a nonprofit founded in 2015, provides social impact organizations with consulting and coaching around behavioral marketing. We demystify “behavior change,” by offering a systematic and culturally-sensitive process for driving adoption of solutions that improve lives and the environment. 

We only serve organizations with the highest potential for making impact. Our nimble field team goes wherever they operate, and when we’re not joining them in the field, we are a fully remote organization.

Our current business model and partner engagements are only the initial steps, as we lay the groundwork for system change. We envision a day when all breakthrough solutions get the behavioral marketing needed to truly make impact.

For more information, please visit

An Example of our Work

A health NGO in Kenya installed clean water tanks in 200 schools, but only 8% of children drank from them. Despite receiving training from community health workers, most kept drinking untreated water from the river or from handwashing tanks. Health workers were very frustrated.

Appleseed first showed the health workers to ask the right questions. Research found that children disliked water made warm by the black tanks under the sun. Also, they had trouble telling drinking and handwashing tanks apart. Observation showed they avoided any tanks placed near teachers’ offices. So we applied behavioral nudges, such as painting tanks white (to reflect heat) and putting soap inside hand washing tanks (to discourage drinking). We also moved tanks closer to where students played (and further from where teachers congregated).

These changes, paired with a communication campaign using better signage and positive reinforcement, made drinking clean water a social norm. Within a year, we achieved 60% uptake, which reduced chronic diarrhea for nearly 27,000 additional children. 

Our real success was in getting the NGO's health workers to apply behavioral marketing throughout their programs: they now use it to successfully drive adoption of mosquito nets and nutrition supplements. By showing case studies like these to other social impact organizations, to funders, and to social impact accelerator programs, we foster more widespread use of behavioral marketing across the sector.

The Ideal Candidate

We are a small mission-driven startup (currently 2 paid full-time + volunteers + advisors and board members), using lean experimentation to create a sustainable and impactful organization. Our culture is solid, our people are engaged, and our runway is healthy. Our model is innovative and has traction. Our strategy is sound, our early projects have yielded results, and our partners rave about our work… We just have to keep building the business.

Currently, 80% of our revenue comes from philanthropy and 20% is earned from clients (impact organizations). We’d like to flip that ratio by improving our business model. This would bring growth, stability and more impact. Two things stand in the way: 1. Limited Capacity and 2. Operations that are not optimized. 

  1. Limited Capacity: Our core functions are serving our clients on project work, business development, fundraising and engaging donors, getting help from board members and advisors, and people operations (HR, culture, and systems). Though our core staff of two are highly engaged and always finding ways to work smarter, we are reaching the limit of the workload we can handle. And we don’t believe that working longer hours is the right solution. As a result, we are missing some great opportunities and we have valuable resources sitting unused.
  2. Service Operations Not Optimized: Our primary product is our behavior change methodology designed specifically for early and growth stage impact organizations (nonprofits and social enterprises). Currently, we deliver this methodology through coaching/consulting services that help their teams become more proficient at changing behavior for impact. To date, we’ve been overly reliant on one client manager expert; now we’re trying to use lower cost options like associates, volunteers, or technology to handle parts of the method. We need help iterating our services: making them more affordable, accessible, attractive, and impactful.
  3. Internal Operations Not Optimized: we’ve created various systems; e.g. goal setting and alignment; experimenting with our business model; recruiting and onboarding; payroll and accounting; performance management and professional development; managing new business leads; tracking and engaging our donors; capturing and curating media content from the field; daily project management, etc. These systems have gotten us by, but each has cracks and inefficiencies, which add up. A bit of administrative house cleaning is needed, along with thoughtful design to support future growth.

We need someone who can take ownership for the efficiency of our operations (build routines that enshrine the essential, making execution almost effortless); lend a hand with our efforts to find, grow, and keep good people; support efforts to make our work of changing behavior more replicable for both partners and staff; and positively shape our culture, keep us focused on mission, and ensure that our core values are always upheld.

To summarize, our team has been missing one key person... a skilled generalist who happens to be obsessed with operational excellence and has the chops to achieve it within a fully remote startup. This is where you come in.

  • You are ready to become the 3rd paid full-time staff member of Appleseed
  • You have significant experience designing, refining, and implementing frictionless business processes, user experiences, and tools for building good organizational habits.
  • You are more naturally a “disciplined organizer” than a “free-flowing juggler”
  • You are more naturally a “driven concrete doer” than an “pensive abstract thinker”
  • You lean a bit more towards being an "independent decision maker" than a "collaborative decision maker"
  • You fall somewhere near the middle of the extraversion / introversion spectrum
  • You prefer "routine and structure" over "flying by the seat of your pants"
  • You will make us hum as a unit and join us in doing whatever it takes to get this startup off the ground.

In many ways, you are sought precisely for how you complement Appleseed’s Executive Director (Philip), so that you can free each other up to do your best. This will be an ongoing conversation that takes shape as the working relationship develops. Some examples of how you might help each other play to strengths and manage weaknesses:

  • You excel at prioritizing critical needs and putting resources to good use by skillfully managing deployment. This complements Philip, a resource-magnet who consistently attracts funding, business, skilled and passionate people, professional support services, mentorship, and partnership opportunities.
  • You excel at finding what’s working and designing ways to make essential work replicable. This ensures long term sustainable impact. This complements Philip’s deep experience on behavioral marketing projects, where he uses intuition and methodology to manage diverse clients and run change campaigns.
  • You excel at improving processes, tools, and management so that we can channel inspiration and energy to make vision a reality. This complements Philip, who articulates a compelling vision and is a leader who inspires and energizes others.

You’ve been seeking a role where you don’t have to choose between making a difference and making a living. You see an amazing opportunity here, where by joining and growing up with Appleseed as early stage organization, you would have the chance to craft your own role, learn and grow every day alongside loyal teammates with a passion for making a difference, and unlock the potential for massive positive impact in the world. 

You’re also realistic about what it means to build a startup nonprofit: you’d be ready to work with a small team and limited budgets (until we grow), be able to accept lower pay than you could probably command elsewhere (to start), be willing to roll up your sleeves and help fundraise (for now), be fine with wearing many hats including some you might dislike (until we grow), and be comfortable navigating uncharted territory as a startup.

Target remote start date: November 2019; in-person attendance at team retreat soon thereafter.

Must-have Skills & Qualifications

  • Experienced with behavior change / design / systems implementation: creative and analytical; strong gift for empathy, design thinking, and a user-first mindset; Has conducted user testing, iterated with feedback, and created elegant UX to help people meet goals.
  • Experienced with leveraging cloud technology: must be digitally native and fluid, interested in how humans interact with tech; has experience implementing, integrating, and automating apps and platforms for cloud collaboration and productivity; up to speed.
  • Strong team management track record: has an established management style that brings results; Data-driven, keeps teams on time and on track using objectives and key results; Proven experience mentoring others, fostering professional and personal growth.
  • Effective in a remote startup culture: is flexible, adaptable, self-driven, and accountable; Comfortable with ambiguity, variety, and complexity in a lean startup environment; willing and able to take on various roles at a time and embrace new roles in service of our mission. Minimum 4 hour time-zone overlap with 8a-6p Pacific Time workday


  • Flexible and unlimited paid time-off / vacation policy (self-managed)
  • 90% remote work from any location
  • Paid salary $60,000 to start, with rapid growth plan in place.

Context about salary:

  • From 2015-2017, the founding team took no salary.
  • In 2018 we started paying ourselves salary at 40% of “ideal salary level”
  • We're committed to +10% automatic increase towards “ideal salary level” every 12 months; not tied to performance; every 6 months, the team discusses the option to accelerate
  • As of Q3 2019, all staff are making 60% of “ideal salary level”
  • Currently, “ideal salary level” for this COO position is $100,000; will start at 60%: $60,000
  • Within 2 years (2021), "ideal salary level": $120,000; at 80%: $96,000

Other Expectations

  • 90% remote work from any location
  • 10% travel to team retreats, annual conferences, and project sites occasionally
  • In-person attendance at 5-day team retreats 2X / year
  • Minimum 4 hour time-zone overlap with 8a-6p Pacific Time workday

How To Apply

Please visit and follow instructions there to apply. If you have any questions, please email us: [email protected]

We look forward to hearing from you!

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