Organization: The Trust for Public Land

Location: Chicago, IL

Express Interest

About the Trust for Public Land:

Mission and Vision

“At the Trust for Public Land, we don’t just save land—we save land for people to enjoy, from neighborhood parks to national parks.”

The mission of the Trust for Public Land is to create parks and protect land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Every park, playground, and public space created is an open invitation to explore, wonder, discover, and play. The Trust for Public Land has been connecting communities to the outdoors and to each other since 1972. Today, millions of Americans live within a 10-minute walk of a park or natural area created by the organization, and countless more visit every year.


The Trust for Public Land was founded in 1972 with the goal of protecting land in and around cities and pioneering new land conservation techniques. Over the years, our work expanded to include projects from the inner city to the wilderness, and our broad experience has made us a national leader and innovator in city park creation, state and local conservation funding, and using GIS for conservation planning.

Founded for innovation

Not long after the first Earth Day, a group of lawyers, real estate professionals, and finance experts founded The Trust for Public Land to bring the legal and financial strategies of modern business to the cause of conservation. In the early years, we shared this knowledge with other conservationists and fostered the growth of the local land trust movement to protect open space for communities across the West.

Planning and funding conservation

In the 1990s, responding to an emerging need, we established our Conservation Finance service to help communities organize and pass conservation ballot measures. We pioneered watershed conservation to safeguard drinking water and the use of conservation easements to protect working farms and ranches. Most recently, we launched an award-winning Conservation Vision and GIS service to help communities identify which lands to protect and where parks are needed most.

Moving forward

Today, the Trust for Public Land brings forty years of expertise to conservation projects across the country. In cities, we’re turning vacant lots into community-designed parks and playgrounds. And we’re addressing the looming climate crisis with strategies to help reduce greenhouse gasses, promote climate adaptation, and create park-rich, climate-smart cities.

The Opportunity:

The Chicago Area Director is responsible for developing and managing The Trust for Public Land’s programmatic activities in this region. The principal geographic focus will be the city of Chicago, but will also include surrounding counties and towns that comprise the Chicago metropolitan region.

The Trust for Public Land’s work in Chicago has been associated with The 606, a signature project for TPL, both locally and nationally. The new Director will help wrap up the 606 campaign and help create a sustainable plan for long term stewardship on programming. The Director will be responsible for developing a vision and 5- to 7-year strategic plan that identifies future programs and projects for The Trust for Public Land in Chicago.

In all of this work, the Area Director manages and mentors the operations staff and works in close collaboration with the Area Deputy Director and Director of Philanthropy to raise funding to support the office’s programs and operating costs. The Area Director is also responsible for working with public/non-profit partners, major donors, the local Advisory Board, and others within the Trust for Public Land organization to enhance opportunities for success of the office and its program. The individual must demonstrate a proven track record working with key individuals in the philanthropic community.

Key Responsibilities and Roles

Philanthropy (35%)

Funding support for the Chicago Area Office and the programs it carries out is derived primarily from private philanthropic dollars. The Area Director will work in close coordination with the local and national Trust for Public Land philanthropy staff to cultivate and solicit major gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporations. S/he will work in partnership with philanthropy staff to create and implement a fundraising plan. Working with local philanthropy staff leadership, the Area Director will manage the local Advisory Board, and serve as the primary face of Trust for Public Land in the donor community.

Program Development and Management (25%)

The Area Director will be responsible for directing staff and working with program partners, both public and private, to complete existing projects like The 606, and develop new ones. This includes evaluating new project and program opportunities in conservation vision, conservation finance, conservation real estate, park design and development, and national programs like Climate Smart Cities, green infrastructure, and health among others. In all of this work, the development and maintenance of positive relationships with key public and non-profit partners, as well as major donors will be paramount. This position collaborates with senior leadership, finance and volunteer leaders in developing and implementing strategies that achieve mission delivery goals, and are compelling and financially viable.

Management/Administration (15%)

The Area Director is responsible for supervising staff who report to her/him, and for creating a positive working environment for the entire office, strong staff morale, and a culture of teamwork and mutual support among all staff, including philanthropy staff who do not report to the Director. The Area Director is responsible for working with the finance team to develop the office budget and taking necessary actions to meet or exceed the targets and maintain a work climate which attracts, retains and motivates a diverse staff of top quality people.

External Relations (25%)

The Area Director will be expected to represent The Trust for Public Land and build the organization’s visibility in the Chicago regional market.  This includes establishing sound working relationships with public officials and staff civic leaders, partner non-profits, the media, the donor community and others.

Factors Critical for Success

Within the first year, the successful candidate will have:

  • Mastered a learning curve of the Trust for Public Land to effectively assume management of the future of the Chicago office. This includes an understanding of Trust for Public Land’s core practice areas (PLAN, FUND, PROTECT, and CREATE), as well as national programs, and embracing a role in fundraising.
  • Built external relationships with partners, especially members of the Advisory Board, civic organizations, and governmental entities.
  • In partnership with Director of Philanthropy, develop a top 10-20 list of major donors with a strong emphasis on individuals. The State Director will be the natural partner for these donors.
  • Built a plan for stewardship of the 606.
  • Lead the development of a 3-5 year strategic plan that builds off of the success of the 606 and new opportunities to work with the City.
  • Become proficient in organizational financial systems to ensure a sustainable model for the Chicago office.
  • Begun to reinvigorate the Chicago Advisory Board.
  • Responsible for communicating effectively with the advisory council and volunteer leaders – providing all information necessary for the Board to function properly and to inspire their active engagement and support of local and national activities.
  • Responsive for maintaining and enhancing Trust for Public Land’s image by being active and visible in the community.

Core Competencies:

The Trust for Public Land is seeking a dynamic, experienced leader to lead the Trust for Public Land programming throughout the state. This individual will have at least 5 years’ experience in an organization focused on public urban work and/or park and open space development, and at least 8 years of relevant non-profit work experience, including at least 5 years of staff management. A capable executive, s/he will have experience with public finance techniques, government funding practices and procedures, the foundation community, fundraising, marketing practices, best management practices and budgeting practices. It is desirable that candidates have a Bachelor’s degree in urban planning, urban studies, landscape architecture or related fields, with an advanced degree preferred.

In addition, successful candidates will have the following core competencies:

Strategic Leadership & Planning

The Chicago Area Director will be an experienced leader with an enthusiastic spirit, and the background and skills to deliver on the vision for the Trust for Public Land. This individual will be a proven strategic thinker with the foresight, capacity, and experience to balance complex and discrete constituent needs. In concert with the Chicago Advisory Board, this leader will forecast progress towards stated goals and position the organization for growth and success with sustainable solutions. The Director will diagnose critical areas for attention and develop and implement clear, action-oriented, innovative strategies that address challenging problems with thoughtful, effective solutions. Agile in ambiguous situations and capable of providing stability and inspiring confidence when faced with important and quickly-changing circumstances, the Director will have the perspective to consider the impact of decisions, plans, and programs on the organization, and make sound recommendations accordingly.

Operations Management & Oversight

This individual will have had strategic oversight over finance and operations with a measurable track record of success in developing and implementing strategies, policies, and processes. With an entrepreneurial spirit, initiative, energy, the capacity to lead, mentor and inspire others, this leader will have the capacity to be both a high performer and a team player, common sense and a sense of humor. S/he will provide advice and counsel around the planning and implementation of large capital projects, human resources management and administration, and be flexible in adapting to the emerging needs of the Trust for Public Land as they develop.

External Relations and Communications

The Chicago Area Director will be the outward-facing voice of the Trust for Public Land in Chicago, helping to guide messaging, communicate about new initiatives or developments to all stakeholders, and help to build the brand of the organization as it continues its national work. This executive will speak and write fluidly and extensively about Trust for Public Land’s history and impact, growth strategy, and future direction. An influential and persuasive communicator, the Chicago Area Director will have an inspired ability to build community and support, using accessible language to explicate information, strategy, and processes to individuals with differing levels of familiarity. Additionally, this executive will have the experience to be the face of the agency, interfacing with and effectively engaging diverse groups (staff, volunteers, stakeholders, politicians, agency partners, etc.).

Fundraising Expertise

The Chicago Area Director will be an experienced and capable fundraiser, and have experience working with events and cultivating donors, raising mission support from public and private sources. This leader will have measurable track record of success in development with a mindset to build strong relationships with current and potential donors and the Chicago Advisory Board. This leader will have demonstrated expertise with various fundraising and communications channels with success as a high touch leader engaging with all of Trust for Public Land’s constituents. Working in close partnership with the Director of Philanthropy, the Chicago Area Director will be a flexible self-motivated team player who will serve as counsel to Chicago Advisory Board in identifying and devising a development strategy for the Trust for Public Land.

Collaboration, Relationship-building and Board Relations

The Chicago Area Director will be exceptionally skilled at developing, building, and sustaining excellent relationships. S/he will have a professional history of internal and external collaboration and understand working effectively with national and/or regional offices. This leader will be a natural collaborator with a demonstrated ability to connect with and build bridges among the various stakeholders at the Trust for Public Land. The Chicago Area Director will be considerate and open, working collaboratively to find efficiencies and opportunities. This individual will be consultative, promoting open dialogue with team members to identify best practices, synthesize divergent views, and coalesce all constituencies around a shared view or plan. The Chicago Area Director will be proactive in addressing the human impact of change.

Passion for the Mission

The Chicago Area Director will have a passion for and commitment to the mission and vision for the Trust for Public Land, and for creating parks and protecting land for people. S/he will be motivated by a desire to expand access to open spaces, protect our natural lands and public spaces, and for affecting change in our environment, including working with communities and stakeholders across the state. S/he will have the clarity of vision and on-the-ground experience to carry the mission and further the impact of the Trust for Public Land that will serve the greater Chicago community.


The Trust for Public Land has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. This search is being led by Liz Lombard and Turner Delano. Please submit a resume here or email Liz or Turner at the following:

Liz Lombard
Vice President
Turner Delano

The Trust for Public Land does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnic or national origin, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation or other characteristic covered by law with regard to employment opportunities.

About Koya leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital-consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit