Natural Lands, a vibrant regional nonprofit organization and national leader in land conservation, natural resource stewardship, and public engagement, seeks a Vice President to oversee its communications and outreach efforts.
Since the early 1950s, Natural Lands has saved open space, cared for nature, and connected people to the outdoors in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Today, the organization is one of the nation’s largest land conservancies and is widely respected for its record of success, technical expertise, respectful and creative approach to partnerships, and fiscal strength, integrity, and responsibility.
Over the course of its 65-year history, Natural Lands has helped preserve more than 125,000 acres. It owns and stewards 43 nature preserves – almost all open to the public – across two states and 13 counties. These 23,000 acres include many of the most spectacular and diverse properties in the region, which are enjoyed by more than 125,000 visitors annually. Natural Lands also holds 367 conservation easements on 22,000 additional acres, and assists local communities and municipalities, governmental entities, individuals, and partner organizations in pursuing open space and conservation goals. Currently, 65% of the Philadelphia region’s residents live within 5 miles of lands under the organization’s permanent protection.
This is an exciting opportunity to join the senior leadership of a multi-faceted conservation organization, leverage major recent successes to strengthen Natural Lands’ position in the extended Philadelphia market, further the growth and impact of its public programs, and advance the organization’s burgeoning efforts to improve access to thriving green spaces in urban communities. The position calls for a strategic thinker who is deeply committed to Natural Lands’ mission. Candidates should bring strengths in marketing and communications, media relations, program development, community outreach and engagement, fundraising, and personnel management along with high integrity, intellectual breadth, political savvy, and an enterprising spirit.
Saving open space and caring for nature have been at the core of Natural Lands’ mission since its founding. The organization was among the early pioneers in private land conservation in the United States and, over the decades, has earned a reputation as expert at accomplishing complex preservation projects. Similarly, Natural Lands has maintained a long-standing commitment to owning and carefully stewarding land. Its natural resource management staff is nationally regarded and has a depth of expertise in a wide variety of restoration techniques.
Connecting people to the outdoors is a more recent area of mission focus. Over the past decade, Natural Lands has embraced fully its responsibility to share the benefits of access to nature and inspire future conservationists. As a result of this new emphasis, visitation to its preserves has more than doubled, some 5,000 people attend public events annually, and a robust volunteer program provides thousands of hours of service each year.
A commitment to public engagement has also led the organization in new directions in recent years. In May 2018, Natural Lands opened its first public garden. Stoneleigh: a natural garden is a 42-acre property in Villanova, PA. Natural Lands is transforming Stoneleigh into a showcase for blending the aesthetic beauty of designed gardens with the natural richness of native habitats. Stoneleigh is open free of charge, year-round, and represents an unprecedented opportunity for the organization to connect with new audiences.
Natural Lands also has a growing presence in urban areas in the Philadelphia area, working to provide residents in under-resourced areas with greater access to green spaces. To date, it has undertaken projects in Philadelphia, Chester, Coatesville, and Pottstown. These include helping to improve neighborhood parks and providing educational programming and outdoor experiences for school children. Natural Lands’ urban presence is one ingredient in the organization’s commitment to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in order to build a sustainable future for the region and its landscapes.
The Vice President of Communications and Engagement will arrive at a moment of remarkable growth and opportunity. Natural Lands’ visibility and base of engaged constituents has never been greater. New properties like Stoneleigh, programs in urbanized communities in the region, and other high-profile recent successes have positioned the organization to extend its impact even further. The Vice President will work with the President, the senior management team, and a Communications and Engagement department of eight talented professionals to make the most of this momentum and help guide the strategic development of our mission to connect people to the outdoors.
The key objectives for the Vice President include:
Strategic leadership: With the President, senior management, staff, and Board of Trustees, continue to develop the vision for communications, marketing, and the connecting people to nature aspect of our mission. Pursue the goals of the current three-year strategic plan and lay the groundwork for subsequent plans.
Communications and public representation: Promote an even stronger and more widely recognized organizational brand. Sustain Natural Lands’ reputation for excellence and trustworthiness. Interact successfully with the media, partners, and a wide variety of community leaders. Serve as organizational spokesperson with the press and in public venues when needed.
Marketing: Bring an analytical approach to maximizing Natural Lands’ communications activities, to include its email campaigns, social media footprint, advertising, etc. Work collaboratively with the Development Department to ensure the effectiveness of communications and fundraising activities, with a particular focus on deepening the organization’s relationship with newer constituents.
Public Programs, Volunteerism, and Partnerships: Continue to advance and optimize Natural Lands’ substantial offering of public programs and volunteer initiatives – to include our well-regarded Force of Nature® volunteer program – ensuring an excellent and inspiring experience for all participants. Explore and advance partnerships with other organizations that extend our ability to achieve programmatic goals.
Preserve Visitation: Collaborate with the Preserve Stewardship Department to engage the public at our properties in order to provide excellent experiences in the outdoors and connect visitors to the organization.
Urban Conservation: Work with the President and members of the Conservation Services department to advance our burgeoning efforts to expand access to and appreciation for green spaces in urbanized communities in the region.
Diversity: Pursue vigorously and visibly a commitment to diversity and inclusion in all communications and outreach.
Fundraising: Embrace Natural Lands’ culture of philanthropy through both relationship building and, where appropriate, direct fundraising, with an emphasis on grant fundraising and solicitation visit participation to help advance marketing, communications, and engagement aspects of the mission.
Management and operations: Ensure that the department is well managed fiscally and administratively, and that its structure and roles align well with its vision and strategy. Strengthen and update technological and administrative systems as needed. As a member of the senior management team, actively participate in the strategic and operational management of the broader organization.
Qualifications & Experience
The successful candidate will bring many of the following qualifications and attributes:
• Informed passion and sense of urgency for the mission of Natural Lands
• Minimum of 10 years of experience in communications, public relations, and program development in a complex organization. Past experience in conservation is preferred, but individuals with relevant experience in other fields will be considered. Work history in a high volume, visitor-focused setting – such as a museum, zoo, or public garden – will be beneficial. Experience working in under-resourced communities will be a plus.
• Record of leadership and effective management; Experience managing a department and serving on an organizational leadership team; Consistent record of delivering on strategic goals and meeting annual metrics.
• Understanding of new communications technologies – including social media – is essential.
• Natural relationship-building skills; Generous internal and external partner
• Fundraising experience is desired, particularly with foundations and public agencies. Aptitude for donor relationship management and advancement.
• Very strong communication skills; Superb writing and editing ability; Demonstrated experience as a highly effective public speaker
• Commitment to and experience in advancing diversity and inclusion
• Entrepreneurial spirit and drive; An eye for creative opportunities tied to a commitment to accountability and results
• Openness to new and innovative models of outreach, collaboration, and movement building
• An advanced degree would be an asset but is not required.
• Ability to attend and enthusiasm for evening and weekend meetings and events.