Organization: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Location: Williamsburg, VA

Express Interest

About Colonial Williamsburg Foundation:

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has been a center for history and citizenship.

Encouraging national and international audiences to learn from the past through the preservation, restoration, and presentation of 18th-century capital of Williamsburg, Colonial Williamsburg is dedicated to cultural and historical authenticity on-site and online through the study, interpretation and teaching of America’s founding principles.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is led by President & CEO Mitchell Reiss and governed by a Board of Trustees that includes Fortune 500 CEOs, a Supreme Court Justice, business and civic leaders, philanthropists and scholars.

The Foundation, with an annual budget of more than $220 million employs more than 3,000 employees and volunteers. It is a not-for-profit entity that operates a not-for-profit educational institution and a for-profit enterprise, “the Company”.

The Educational Institution: A Force for an Informed, Active Citizenry

As the world’s largest living history museum, with costumed interpreters who reenact 18th-century life, Colonial Williamsburg engages and educates visitors through its innovative and interactive experiences that highlight the relevance of the Revolutionary era to contemporary life and the importance of an informed, active citizenry.

The Company 

In addition to the historic area itself, the Colonial Williamsburg Company, incorporated in 1983, operates a world-class resort with the capacity to accommodate one million visitors annually.

Colonial Williamsburg’s Journey to the Future

For the first part of the twenty-first century, the Foundation faced a combination of internal challenges, economic downturns and adverse market trends that have jeopardized Colonial Williamsburg’s long-term financial health.

Colonial Williamsburg’s sense of permanence – the result of decades of painstaking preservation – has long been part of its widespread appeal. Yet, its cultural, intellectual and emotional significance for millions of Americans continues to evolve, reflecting the changes over time in the nation’s culture and society.

Since late 2014, to right the course, with the support of the Board and under the leadership of President & CEO Mitchell Reiss, the Foundation has taken aggressive action and embarked on a pathway to financial sustainability and greater cultural relevance.

As part of the aggressive turnaround, the Foundation has redefined its priorities, reevaluated its investment of resources and started to unify the Foundation around a comprehensive strategy for future success.

Anchoring this plan is a bold new mission statement “To feed the human spirit by sharing America’s enduring story.” This statement embraces a more diverse audience of guests by implicitly acknowledging both the complexity and continuation of our nation’s history. “America’s enduring story” is a conscious reference not only to Williamsburg’s formative, eighteenth-century history but also to its impact down through the centuries and its continuing relevance to our lives, our politics and our culture today.

This past year, the Foundation has made significant changes – all in an effort to attract new audiences, engage and entertain Williamsburg’s guests and instill a lifelong love of this special place and its enduring role in the American story.

Its major 2016 and 2017 accomplishments include:

  • Signing a Strategic Partnership Agreement with the College of William & Mary and Marriott International;
  • Hitting quarterly and annual financial targets for a second straight year, more than $10 million in financial improvements over the past 2 years;
  • Completing the fundraising for a $40 million expansion of the Art Museums;
  • Setting a new record for annual giving;
  • Established an ambitious outreach program to active duty, retired and veteran members of the military and their families;
  • Being named by Forbes as one of the top 100 places to work in America;
  • Adopting and implementing a new Strategic Plan;
  • Winning Reaccreditation by the American Association of Museums;
  • Renovating the Williamsburg Inn and Golden Horseshoe Golf Course and Clubhouse;
  • Launching a free, online Educational Resource Library;
  • Introducing A Century of African American Quits at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum; and
  • Introducing new programming in the Historic Area.

Looking Ahead: 2017 & Beyond

Colonial Williamsburg has been central to the identify of Williamsburg and an important economic, cultural and education driver and leader, contributing to more than half a billion dollars in economic output for the region.

To continue to tell America’s enduring story, the Foundation is embarking on a bigger, bolder plan to reinvest in, and refocus on, its core educational mission – Historic Area preservation, the Museums and educational programs.

In addition, the Foundation will implement a transformative visitor experience that brings our history alive and tells the story of America’s unique founding.

To ensure sustained financial stability, the Foundation will operate with a reinvigorated financial model and discipline that will:

  • Create a return on investment mindset;
  • Foster a fierce determination to operate within budget;
  • Cultivate opportunities to improve our value proposition with targeted well managed revenue enhancing initiatives; and
  • Improve financial decision-making by being data driven.

Implementing these thoughtful and effective fundamental changes will transform how the Foundation advances its mission.

Lastly, many of the changes the Foundation is making lie in Hospitality, a vital source of revenue for the organization. Part of the restructuring plan includes outsourcing its commercial businesses such as golf operations, retail stores, maintenance and facilities operations and commercial real estate management.

To read Mitchell Reiss’ “An Open Letter to the Colonial Williamsburg Community,” click here.

The Historical Significance of Williamsburg

Williamsburg was the thriving capital of Virginia when the dream of American freedom and independence was taking shape and the colony was a rich and powerful land stretching west to the Mississippi River and north to the Great Lakes.

From 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg was the capital of England’s oldest, largest and most populous North American mainland colony and the seat of power in the new nation’s most influential state. Named in honor of William III, King of England and designed by Royal Governor Francis Nicholson, Williamsburg is one of the country’s oldest planned communities.

In its shops, taverns, government buildings, homes and streets, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason and other Virginia patriots established the ideals – liberty, independence and personal freedom – that influenced the founding of our nation and others around the world.

Near the end of the Revolutionary War and through the influence of Thomas Jefferson, the seat of government of Virginia was moved up the peninsula to the safer and more centrally located city of Richmond. For nearly a century and a half afterward, Williamsburg was a simple, quiet college town, home of the College of William and Mary.

The Restoration of Williamsburg

In 1926, the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, rector of Bruton Parish Church, shared his dream of preserving the city’s historic buildings with philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., and the restoration began. Encouraged by the goal of providing an opportunity to inspire future Americans by the patriotism and purpose of the past, Rockefeller supported and financed Williamsburg’s restoration.

The restored city is presented in the 301-acre Historical area, which comprises 88 original buildings and hundreds of homes, shops, public buildings and other structures that have been reconstructed, most on their original foundations. More than 100 million visitors have enjoyed the Colonial Williamsburg experience since it first opened its doors.


The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a nonprofit organization, is governed by a 27-member Board of Trustees consisting of individuals with a broad array of backgrounds, abilities and geographic orientation.  To find the list of current Board members, click here.

The standing committees of the Board provide oversight and guidance to the staff, review recommendations on major policies, procedures, and actions, and make recommendations to the Board of Trustees or the Board’s Executive Committee.  The committee system enables the Foundation to draw on the particular expertise and interests of Trustees and broadens trustee involvement in the governance of the Foundation.  In addition to the Executive Committee, the standing committees include Finance, Investment, Human Resources, Educational Programs and Policies, Architecture and Design Review, Audit, Nominating and Governance and Development.

Trustees may serve for a maximum of 9 years (three three-year terms) and subsequently may continue active engagement and support of the Foundation as senior Trustees.

The Educational Institution


The Foundation’s many treasures include its outstanding collections. These materials help understand life in Virginia, the American colonies and the greater North Atlantic.

  • More than 500 buildings reconstructed on the basis of extensive archaeological, architectural and documentary research
  • Approximately 67,000 American and British antiques and works of arts, including arms, ceramics and glass, costumes, furniture, maps, musical instruments and more
  • At the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, a circulating collection of 12,000 rare books, 200 manuscript collections, 10,000 reels of microfilm, 50,000 architectural drawings and more

Programs and Publications

  • Specialized/thematic tours and programs
  • Teacher Institute in Early American History, a weeklong onsite summer sessions
  • “The Idea of America” digital high school social studies curriculum
  • Quarterly publication “Trend & Traditions: The Magazine of Colonial Williamsburg”


The Foundation operates three world-class museums whose collections enhance and enrich the guest experience beyond the living history of the Historic Area.

  • DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum houses the Foundation’s renowned collection of British and American fine and decorative arts dating from 1600 through 1830
  • Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is the oldest institution in the United States dedicated solely to the collection and preservation of American Folk Art
  • Bassett Hall, a two-story, 18th-century frame house which sits on the 585 acres near the colonial capitol; the Williamsburg home of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Research Facilities

The Bruton Heights School Education Center include

  • Bruton Heights School
  • Costume Design Center
  • John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library
  • DeWitt Wallace Collections and Conservation Building

The Company


Colonial Williamsburg operates a resort that includes the following:

  • Six hotel properties including the Williamsburg Inn and Colonial Houses
  • Dining venues including 18th Century Historic Taverns and southern-inspired, locally acquired cuisine
  • Three golf courses
  • Full-service spa
  • Conference facilities
  • Recreational activities including eight tennis courts, walking trails and swimming pools

Real Estate and Products & Retail

  • Colonial Williamsburg owns approximately 2,400 acres of improved and unimproved land in the City of Williamsburg and James City County
  • Merchants Square – one of the earliest planned shopping centers in America – includes 42 stores and restaurants, 33 offices and a theatre
  • Residential real estate program
  • More than 20 retail stores
  • A products program that includes 33 licensees under the WILLIAMSBURG and WILLIAMSBURG Reserve brands

For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, click here.

The Opportunity:

Colonial Williamsburg seeks an accomplished, visionary and strategic leader to serve as its next Executive Director/Senior Vice President.  Reporting to and working with President Mitchell B. Reiss, s/he will direct, guide, and strengthen the core educational mission of the Foundation and lead all of Colonial Williamsburg’s development activities.  S/he will also serve as a critical member of the President’s senior leadership team as they reimagine and implement a new future for the Foundation.

President Reiss and the Colonial Williamsburg Board of Trustees are searching for a colleague who is a compelling communicator and advocate for the Foundation’s most important priorities and who understands how to engage a loyal group of current supporters and attract new friends of Colonial Williamsburg’s essential role in sharing American history, values and ideas.  This colleague will help Colonial Williamsburg strengthen and reposition itself as the iconic national forum for history and citizenship, helping visitors to better relate history to their own lives and encouraging them to engage as citizens of America today.

A critical hire and partner in the turn-around journey, this leader of the “Core” will inherit a talented and experienced team of direct reports, and will benefit from the outstanding commitment of President Reiss who is a dedicated and enthusiastic fundraiser. CWF’s donor population includes more than 120,000 friends from all 50 states and around the world.

The Executive Director’s primary responsibilities include:

  • Establishing and leading a state-of-the-art development capability by building a high-performing development organization with a high level of professionalism and dedication and playing a leadership role in fundraising with the President & CEO, Board and staff to bring in previously untapped support;
  • Raising the profile of the institution through marketing and public relations, including promoting its two world-class Museums and cementing the Foundation’s place as America’s greatest storyteller;
  • Operationalizing the Strategic Plan of the Core – the Historic Area, Museums, educational programs and other related assets;
  • Increasing the effectiveness and productivity of the Core by serving as a coach and mentor, motivating team members with energy and shared purpose and ensuring clear expectations and accountability; and
  • Driving the continued innovation and implementation of the Foundation’s visitor experiences with a focus on further expanding both impact and audience and the connection to the mission statement.

Candidate Profile:

The successful candidate will be an energetic, innovative leader able to articulate enthusiastically the value and mission of Colonial Williamsburg.  S/he will have the following professional and personal qualities, skills and characteristics:

An Impact-Oriented Leader

The ideal candidate will have a strong track record of change management and turnaround experience and a deep understanding of best practices as well as new directions in non-profit institutions. S/he will be skilled at professionalizing a sophisticated organization during a period of transformation. S/he will excel in running an efficient organization and leading a team to execute on organizational goals and operationalize processes and systems. An inspiring and engaged leader, s/he will have experience in attracting, developing and retaining a high-performing staff and volunteers with diverse set of skills and achieving organizational impact through leveraging individual strengths and cross-functional team work. This executive will be successful at setting clear priorities, delegating responsibilities and ensuring accountability and high standards for staff deliverables, while providing staff with a mission-driven work environment and professional growth opportunities.

Fundraising & Development

The Executive Director will be an experienced, results-driven leader in fundraising who energetically embraces this aspect of the role and have a track record of accomplishment in the field. S/he will have demonstrated experience in planning and executing comprehensive campaigns and in enhancing an organization’s overall approach to advancement – one that creates a true culture of fundraising and collaboration throughout the organization. S/he will be a confident partner to the President & CEO and senior team providing strategic guidance in the cultivation of relationships with a variety of donors.  A tactical leader, s/he will have a strong data and analysis orientation and a proven ability to use metrics to build a sophisticated fundraising team and drive development decisions and achieve strategic objectives.

Leading Through Influence & Strategic Collaboration

A strong verbal and written communicator, the successful candidate will inspire trust, confidence and shared purpose with a range of stakeholders and audiences. With a proven record of converting strategy into effective execution, the successful candidate will have a high level of emotional intelligence and develop productive and fulfilling relationships to motivate others to engage the opportunities and challenges ahead, providing leadership for this next chapter. A transparent and open communicator, s/he will have the ability to listen to, and learn from, multiple internal and external voices in a complex environment and cultivate strong working relationships across the organization at all levels, including his or her SVP counterpart in Hospitality, to collaborate and achieve the organization’s mission.

A Passion for the Mission

Fully embracing with enthusiasm and pride the culture, values, and goals of Colonial Williamsburg, the Executive Director will be passionate about working in partnership with the President & CEO, his or her SVP counterpart in Hospitality, team and other partners to ensure the success of the institution. The Executive Director will exude a commitment to, and an interest in, cementing the Foundation’s place as America’s greatest storyteller and model for preservation, education and innovation in programming and exhibitions. S/he will possess and promote a deep appreciation for, and knowledge of, the collections, buildings, history, research and scholarship and will demonstrate a commitment to public engagement and the visitor experience. Embodying the values of the Foundation, the ideal candidate is an individual of truth telling and absolute integrity.

Candidates can come from a variety of backgrounds including higher education, nonprofit, government and/or the private sector. The strongest candidates will have demonstrated success leading during a period of transformation within a large and complex organization and will have experience overseeing a capital expansion.  An advanced degree is preferred.


Koya Leadership Partners, a national retained executive search firm that works with mission-driven clients, has been exclusively retained for this search. To make recommendations on candidates or express interest in the opportunity, please email Alison P. Ranney and Anny K. Chou 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 mission-driven organizations, educational institutions, 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