Organization: Nathan Cummings Foundation

Location: New York, NY

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About Nathan Cummings Foundation:

Rooted in the Jewish tradition of social justice, the Nathan Cummings Foundation (‘NCF’ or the ‘Foundation’) is a multigenerational family foundation that is committed to creating a more just, vibrant, sustainable and democratic society. Located in New York City, NCF has assets of approximately $466 million and an annual budget of about $24 million. NCF has given away more than $425 million in the past 25 years and has earned a strong track record as a leader and innovator in the philanthropic community.

NCF focuses on finding solutions to the two most challenging problems of our time – the climate crisis and growing inequality – and aims to transform the systems and mindsets that hinder progress toward a more sustainable and equitable future for all people, particularly women and people of color. The Foundation invests in four focus areas that together advance its vision of a healthy planet and a healthy democracy: (i) Inclusive Clean Economy, (ii) Racial and Economic Justice, (iii) Voice, Creativity and Culture and (iv) Corporate and Political Accountability.

Known for tackling difficult issues that require moving hearts and minds, NCF takes risks on the unexpected, such as its fellowship that grants visionaries up to $150,000 to pursue a social justice objective over one year. NCF gives them boundless space to turn an inspired and potentially disruptive idea into a world-changing reality. NCF has a long history of aligning investments with values through shareholder activism and is exploring how it expands the tools it uses to direct NCF’s investment dollars for greater impact. While NCF’s work is primarily concentrated in the United States, it supports efforts addressing inequality in Israel and looks globally to make a strategic difference.

The Foundation owes its existence and inspiration to Nathan Cummings, who rose from impoverished beginnings to become the founder and guiding force of the Sara Lee Corporation. He inherited a spirit of sharing and a sense of community from his immigrant parents and transmitted these values to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who now contribute their time and energy to the Foundation. The active and deeply committed Board is comprised of 3rd and 4th generation members of the Cummings family as well as four Independent Trustees. Board members bring a deep commitment to social justice and diversity. The Board and staff actively work to create a cohesive, family-like organizational culture that helps to retain employees, promote loyalty, and create a diverse workplace that is challenging, inclusive and rewarding. Staff and Board members bring an ethic of openness, support and professional nurturing.

Sharon Alpert joined the Foundation as its fourth president and first female leader in late 2015. With an inclusive leadership style, Alpert is currently building the team for NCF’s next successful chapter. Loren Harris, Vice President of Programs, joined NCF in mid-2016. With a commitment to integrative leadership and collaboration both internally and externally, the Foundation is actively seeking to recruit three new leaders to join its creative, dedicated and diverse staff.

The Focus of the Nathan Cummings Foundation:

During this exciting moment of change for NCF, the Foundation is unveiling an evolution of its longstanding work into four focus areas, which are outlined below.

Inclusive Clean Economy

Accelerate a just transition to a more inclusive clean economy where communities on the frontlines are creating solutions to the climate crisis and where prosperity for all people is not at odds with a healthy environment.

Racial and Economic Justice

Advance racial and economic justice by unlocking markets that have excluded generations from economic opportunity, reforming systems that criminalize too many and lifting up new models of democratic inclusion.

Voice, Creativity and Culture

Amplify voice, creativity and culture to build empathy, nurture compassion, and shift narratives about race, class, gender and ethnicity, who has power and how people value the planet.

Corporate and Political Accountability

Leverage NCF’s influence as an investor and grantmaker to increase corporate and political accountability, spurring greater transparency and more democratic systems and structures.

With a firm commitment to finding solutions, NCF works to address the root causes behind these challenges. NCF is proud of its spirit of innovation and believes it is strongest when it collaborates with allies, grantees and peer funders.

NCF believes it can make significant progress in repairing the world by directing time, energy and resources towards creative problem solving, new models of thinking and lifting up innovators with disruptive ideas rooted in, and representative of, diverse communities.

The Opportunity:

This newly created role will enable the Foundation to work in an integrated fashion across the organization. Partnering with leadership, Board, and program staff the director would aim to effectively communicate the work of the Foundation, its grantees and to develop communications strategies that advance the Foundation’s program goals.

NCF is establishing this new position during an exciting year, as it builds out the four focus areas listed above. Parallel to the search for the Director of Communications are searches for a Director, Inclusive Clean Economy and a Director, Voice, Creativity & Culture, which will both be housed on the Program team. These incoming staff members will actively work with colleagues to help shape the direction and growth of the Foundation’s next chapter. Plans and priorities are being determined with a focus on building internal capacity and advancing the Foundation’s ability to be a learning organization.

Partnering with every department of the Foundation, the Director of Communications will have a pivotal role in shaping and sharing the story of NCF’s work. This key position will report jointly to President and CEO, Sharon Alpert, and Vice President of Programs, Loren Harris. The Director of Communications will also work in close partnership with the Director of Information Technology and the full staff to advance the Foundation’s goals and guide the execution of NCF’s messaging, including oversight of the strategic direction and content of the website and social media.

Staff and Board work especially closely and interact often, given the commitment to inclusivity tied to NCF’s values as a family foundation. Directors have a strong relationship with Board members, in particular, working with Chairs of Program Committees. Board members also join conferences and site visits in the field to maintain their firsthand engagement with the work. Collaboration with the Board is core to NCF’s work and staff brings a dedicated approach to partnership with the Board.

As an organization deeply committed to diversity of experience, NCF values the wide range of personal and professional backgrounds that are represented in its staff. Outstanding communications professionals for this role might come from variety of settings, including communications agencies, nonprofit organizations, higher education, government or foundations with internal communications/public relations departments. Experience and interest in communicating about social justice issues is required.

Candidate Profile:

As NCF’s first Director of Communications, this leader will have the unique opportunity to develop and implement an overarching communications strategy that amplifies the work of the grantees and fellows, shares the learning of the Foundation with allies and grantees and showcases the Foundation’s thought leadership in the fields in which it works. The Director will work with the NCF staff to create a communications plan and then successfully execute on it. S/he will clearly communicate what the Foundation stands for and what it focuses on, find ways to creatively use the Foundation’s voice to open doors for grantees, lift up issues and promote solutions and results. S/he will also oversee internal communications to help promote internal collaboration and knowledge-sharing among staff and Trustees.

Specifically, the Director of Communications will focus on the following responsibilities:

  • Develop and lead all internal and external communications and implement the Foundation’s communications strategy, messaging and tools to help NCF nurture internal collaboration and keep staff and Board informed of Foundation initiatives and decisions;
  • Develop and employ consistent strategic communications externally and internally to support the work of the Foundation’s grantee partners and strengthen the voice and footprint of NCF’s leadership with a wide range of audiences, including other grantees, partners and policymakers;
  • Partner with leadership and Program team as a strategic thought-partner, offering new and innovative ideas for communicating about the work and its impact and for moving program goals from a policy or culture change perspective;
  • Work in partnership with grantees to strengthen their communications capacity and support their outreach activities to enable alignment with the Foundation’s mission and goals;
  • Oversee coordination with grantees and partners on strategic media relations;
  • Identify and evaluate partnership and alliance opportunities that will support grantee efforts and the overall work of the NCF, including thought leadership and knowledge sharing;
  • Build relationships with journalists, editors, broadcasters and publishers. Handle media calls, determine messaging, identify spokespeople and ensure that responses are delivered in a timely manner; and
  • Lead strategy direction, identity and development of integrated communications program that reaches NCF’s target audience, including social media, website and digital content.

The ideal candidate for Director of Communications will have the following professional and personal qualities and characteristics:

Strategic Communications Expertise

The Director of Communications will be a creative and thoughtful leader in the field of strategic communications. S/he will be a dynamic and exceptional communicator who can converse with diverse audiences, adapting the presentation of ideas to fit various needs and perspectives in an energizing and inspiring manner. A natural storyteller, s/he will have a proven track record of setting and implementing integrated communications strategies as a catalyst and innovator. S/he will be proficient in devising and implementing effective strategies for digital and social media channels, organizational websites, newsletters, etc. S/he will identify new and creative ways to raise the work of NCF’s grantee partners and grantmaking strategies, while enhancing the messaging and brand across a wide variety of platforms and staying rooted in the values of the Foundation. S/he will anticipate, understand and respond to the needs of stakeholders while ensuring consistent articulation of the Foundation’s focus areas and initiatives. S/he will naturally maintain accurate and current knowledge about communications trends to enhance NCF’s internal and external communications.

Strategic and Emotionally Astute Leadership

With a demonstrated commitment to being a team player, s/he will bring enthusiasm to the Foundation’s evolution and will embody humility, wisdom and strength of character. Strong candidates will be able and willing to collaborate closely with full staff to ensure integration and alignment of communications efforts that advance the Foundation’s priorities. S/he must have the ability to develop and implement innovative approaches in communications, taking well-calculated risks in support of the Foundation’s mission. S/he must be highly organized and able to exercise good judgment. S/he must be capable of effectively addressing sensitive issues such as power dynamics, gender and racial inequities in communications. It will be important to also have the skill to prepare, manage and justify allocations of resources within areas of responsibility.

Collaboration, Partnership Building and Leading Through Influence

To best adhere to the culture and norms of NCF, the Director of Communications will be committed to a mission-first approach. Strong candidates will be excited to work as part of a multidisciplinary team and with persons from diverse cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds. S/he will have an ability to listen intently, think clearly and respond effectively to a variety of inquiries and challenges, synthesize input, make decisions and share information broadly in order to build consensus and support for action with a clearly articulated vision. S/he will have a track record of sophisticated, value-added collaboration among stakeholders and will inspire trust and confidence through meaningful teamwork with the Foundation’s President, Board, staff, grantees, partners and a range of other stakeholders. The ability to be flexible, energetic, positive, creative, fun and ambitious will be critical in establishing strong working relationships in furtherance of the Foundation’s mission.

Passion for the Mission

The Director of Communications will be a fierce believer in social justice and will be energized by the mission and values of NCF. S/he will approach the work with strong values of open-mindedness and service. As a bold thinker, s/he will lean toward disruptive ideas that challenge the status quo and creative problem solving. S/he will take advantage of NCF as a Foundation dedicated to learning and will actively seek opportunities to increase knowledge from partners and colleagues. S/he will understand, communicate and represent the Foundation’s mission, vision, core values and strategic framework to internal and external groups, including key stakeholders and intermediaries, while also highlighting the accomplishments of grantees.


Alison P. Ranney, Melissa Madzel and Eboni S. Gates of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please email the Koya Team directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

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