Director of Communications and Engagement

Director of Communications and Engagement

Surdna Foundation

New York, NY   |   August 22, 2019

About Surdna Foundation

Created by John E. Andrus in 1917, the Surdna Foundation has assets of approximately $1B and an annual grantmaking budget of $40M. The Foundation has a staff of 27, who are based in its Midtown Manhattan offices. The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the US – communities guided by principles of social and racial justice and distinguished by healthy and sustainable environments, inclusive economies, and thriving cultures. Governed by a Board of Directors that includes fourth- and fifth-generation family members, the longstanding values of the Andrus family – practicality, modesty, excellence, and an appreciation for serving those in need – underlie the Surdna Foundation’s work.

The Foundation provides grant support for efforts at the national, state, metropolitan, and local levels throughout the US. It invests in the exchange of ideas across networks of people, institutions, and places with the intent of seeding innovative projects, programs, and policies and bringing them to scale across the country. Across its three grantmaking areas – Inclusive Economies, Sustainable Environments, and Thriving Cultures – the Foundation seeks grantmaking opportunities that include balanced efforts to: demonstrate the effectiveness of specific, targeted projects, practices, and models; advocate for and implement federal, state, and local public policies; and empower, mobilize, and develop leadership and civic participation in communities and agencies. It recognizes its programmatic interests are interrelated and is committed to working cross-programmatically. The Foundation seeks to enhance its use of communications in pursuit of its organizational objectives of democratic participation, wealth creation, and public and private sector accountability.

For more information on Surdna Foundation, please visit

The Opportunity

The Surdna Foundation seeks a Director of Communications and Engagement. The Director is responsible for creating, implementing, and managing communication strategies that will advance the Foundation’s efforts to promote just and sustainable communities in the US and support the engagement of the Andrus family in the Foundation’s work.

Priorities for the Foundation’s incoming Director include: working with the President and staff to design, implement, and oversee communication strategies to advance the objectives of the Foundation and the work of grantees; identifying and leveraging opportunities to use the Foundation’s platform and networks to further the Foundation’s impact and the impact of the Foundation’s grantee partners; and overseeing communications associated with the Andrus Family Philanthropy Program (AFPP) that seek to engage nearly 500 extended Andrus family members, especially those in the fifth and sixth generations.

About AFPP

AFPP includes the Andrus Family Fund (AFF), the Board Experiential Trainings (BETs), and the Andrus Youth Service Program (AYSP). AFF was the first and most robust program established under AFPP and offers Andrus family members between the ages of 25 and 45 an opportunity to learn about and participate in social justice philanthropy. BETs engages younger family members (ages 18-25) in grantmaking strategy activities that align with the Foundation’s mission and goals. AYSP guides youth (ages 14-18) in exploring social change efforts that are meaningful to them. AFPP also publishes an annual family newsletter, Concinnity.

The Director reports to the Foundation President and is a member of the Foundation’s leadership team. The Director will be responsible for a range of communications responsibilities and will supervise a Communications Associate and a Program Officer for Philanthropy.

The Director’s responsibilities will include:

  • Initiate and lead the design, implementation, integration, and oversight of communication strategies for the Foundation President and program teams
  • Oversee the development, distribution, and maintenance of external and internal communications materials and content, including reports, website copy, social media, and other platforms
  • Identify and assess communications opportunities and vehicles that could advance the objectives of the Foundation and its grantee partners, including thought leadership and knowledge dissemination
  • Support communications activities to include communications of the President, reports, blog posts, social media activities, and other messaging documents in partnership with the program staff and Director of Learning and Grant Operations
  • Oversee staff communications training and provide strategic communications guidance and training to program teams (and grantee partners when appropriate) regarding opportunities to amplify program objectives
  • Facilitate organizational learning and Board member engagement in partnership with the Director of Learning and Grant Operations and the program teams
  • In collaboration with other key staff, play a leadership role in learning activities and ensure that lessons are shared with external audiences
  • Develop strategies for and oversee the use of social media tools to help the Foundation reach intended audiences and amplify the Foundation’s messages and objectives
  • Develop strategies for strengthening the Foundation’s relationships with Andrus family members, increasing their understanding of Surdna’s work; and identify and integrate creative communications tools to engage family members across generations in the work of the Foundation
  • Oversee the publication of Concinnity
  • Deploy staff and consultants to support execution of communications strategies
  • Initiate and manage contracts and other relationships with communications vendors.

The items above represent the primary responsibilities of this role; this is not an exhaustive list of responsibilities.

First-Year Priorities

In their first 12 months, the Director will be expected to:

  • In partnership with Foundation leadership, develop a strategy and roadmap for Foundation communications with delineation of responsibilities and mechanisms for oversight
  • Facilitate the increased use of media and social media channels to reach important audiences of the Foundation and grantee partners (policy makers, opinion formers, media, field leaders, etc.) by building the capacity of the Surdna staff to use communications strategically
  • Develop and implement plans for broadcasting strategies or initiatives of the Foundation, such as the Foundation’s recent decision to center racial equity within its social justice mission.
Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate will have the following personal competencies and characteristics:

  • A minimum of 5-10 years of successful senior-level professional experience in communications, public relations, marketing, or a related field
  • Demonstrated ability to develop and successfully execute communications strategies
  • Detail oriented, with excellent writing, editing, and verbal communication skills
  • Demonstrated commitment to the Foundation’s social justice mission and/or substantial knowledge of the philanthropic and nonprofit sector
  • Strong knowledge of social media tools and trends
  • Proactive professional who is comfortable working independently and for senior leadership
  • Demonstrated ability to inspire trust, collaborate, and build consensus with staff and colleagues
  • Excellent project manager, with ability to move swiftly among projects and to prioritize among competing deliverables and requests
  • Experience in managing staff, delegating responsibilities, and providing guidance on the work of others.

Surdna Foundation has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume to Molly Brennan here.

Surdna Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBT applicants.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners is a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that partners exclusively with mission-driven clients, institutions of higher education and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our clients and ensuring they have the strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit