The SETI Institute is searching for a Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

The SETI Institute is searching for a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). This is an exciting opportunity for an experienced finance and administration leader to strengthen and maximize the internal capacity of a dynamic institute that is conducting the greatest exploration in recent history.

The SETI Institute is a global, multi-disciplinary research organization designed to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature, and prevalence of life in the universe. SETI devotes its expertise in the fields of astrobiology, astrophysics, planetary science, social science, and philosophy to answer some of the most fundamental questions in human history. SETI has a passion not only for discovery in these disciplines but also for harnessing our shared knowledge as scientific ambassadors to the public, the press, and the government. The SETI Institute creates an exemplary environment for scientific exploration and is a distinguished partner for government agencies, academic institutions, and corporations around the world.

SETI Institute, a nonprofit corporation founded in 1984, is located in Mountain View, CA. It has a $17 million budget that supports 3 programs: The Carl Sagan Center, the Center for SETI Research, and the Center for Education and Public Outreach. It employs over 120 scientists, educators, and support staff.

The CFO will bring executive strength to SETI’s financial structure through leadership and business acumen. They will report directly to the new President/CEO, Dr. David Black, and be a member of the executive team, with responsibility for managing the Business Unit, which comprises the following departments: Accounting and Finance, which includes Grants and Contracts; Human Resources; Information Technology, and Facilities. Key to this suite of responsibilities is developing a system whereby the  Institute scientists are fully supported in the administration and monitoring of their grants.

Responsibilities will include:

  • Providing leadership and advice to the Institute management and board of trustees.
  • Guiding the organization on effective use of resources.
  • Ensuring that the Institute’s financial activity is conducted in compliance with GAAP and government regulations.
  • Supervising Accounting, HR, IT, Contracts and Procurement.

SETI Institute is seeking a senior-level executive capable of and experienced in managing all operations of a publically funded nonprofit organization. Successful candidates will have 10 or more years of experience in a senior finance role and possess a track record of managing other aspects of an organization’s internal operations.

Specific Criteria:

Finance and Grants Administration:

  • Process mapping to report on multiple and complex grants (SETI receives over 200), including government grants
  • Financials preparation, analysis and forecasting
  • Experience with project management


  • Knowledge of generally accepted financial management and accounting principles, budget development preparation
  • OMB circulars A-122 and A-133 and all other relevant federal state and sponsoring agency regulations
  • Oversight of investment management
  • Financial statement preparation and analysis
  • Auditor interface

Staff Management:

  • Experience managing an HR department
  • Benefits policy analysis in the new healthcare environment

Technical Skills:

  • Fund accounting software
  • Advanced Excel spreadsheet ability, including pivot tables

Personal Attributes:

  • Superior communication skills, written and oral; experience in effectively communicating key information, including presentations to senior management, board and other outside partners
  • Proactive, hands-on strategic thinker with out-of-the-box problem-solving skills and ability to interpret beyond numbers and simple reporting to strategic information including identification of trends and new possibilities

Preferred but not required:

  • For-profit experience
  • Experience in an academic/science environment
  • CPA

To Apply: The SETI Institute has retained Leadership Search Partners, an executive search firm, to conduct this recruitment. Interested candidates should send cover letter, resume, and salary requirements as an MSWord document to: with SETI-CFO in the subject line.