Organization: Evanston Community Foundation

Location: Evanston, IL

Express Interest!

About Evanston and The Evanston Community Foundation:

The Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) is an established and robust endowed organization that has served residents of Evanston since 1986. The Foundation’s concentration of unrestricted assets supports its commitment to serve the Evanston community in collaboration with 200+ nonprofit organizations as well as through foundation-initiated projects that ECF incubates with partner organizations.


Evanston is a lakefront community on Chicago’s northern border, home to almost 75,000 residents. Many residents are leaders in the region’s business, education, philanthropic, and entrepreneurial sectors. Evanston has frequently been cited as among the top places to live in the United States.

Evanston is a community of both considerable means and of intergenerational poverty: 11.8% of residents fall beneath the official poverty line; 17.2% in female-headed households and 76% of female-headed households with children under the age of 5. Almost an equal number, 13.2%, fall into the highest census wealth category by income, $200k+. Residents say proudly that those who live in Evanston have made a deliberate choice to do so because they value the socio-economic diversity and the various backgrounds, races, and religions within the city and want their children to grow up in a community that represents the world.

Evanston is a community where education is important. One of the nation’s top private research universities is located here – and the community’s one public high school, Evanston Township High School is ranked 17th in the state and in the top 2-3% of the nation’s most challenging high schools by the Washington Post. Two-thirds of Evanston residents have undergraduate degrees and 37% of Evanston residents hold advanced degrees as well.

The Foundation

ECF was initially conceived as a special project of Evanston United Way with the intention of launching a small community grantmaker. At the time, no provision was made for an infrastructure to build and house community philanthropy. Under these circumstances and without its own staff, the Foundation focused more on grantmaking than on asset growth. In 1998-99, when the Board decided that the Foundation needed to grow to meet more of Evanston’s needs, its endowment was too small to generate sufficient annual distributions to support an office and one salary while continuing its annual grants. Staff was required to move to the next level. The Foundation’s endowment growth trajectory and resulting work within the Evanston community grew dramatically since the board hired its first President (known then as an Executive Director) in 2001.

Over the years the Foundation’s mission has focused on:

  • Building endowments for current and future opportunities (ECF’s average annual rate of investment return is 9.2%);
  • Fostering private philanthropy (in support of Evanston’s needs and causes);
  • Focusing the impact of collective giving (pooling smaller gifts for greater impact);
  • Finding solutions to community challenges (integrating funding and problem solving);
  • Allocating grants (within strategic initiatives, in response to solicited proposals and donor advised funds consistent with the intent of donors); and
  • Providing leadership training (to nonprofit staffs and boards and to individual residents via the Leadership Evanston program).

ECF further increases its impact through participation in community-wide initiatives, such as its leadership of Evanston150, a grassroots community visioning process, and Cradle-to-Career, a collective impact initiative self-funded by 24 partner agencies and institutions. Foundation staff also collaborate with researchers and other colleagues at Ascend at the Aspen Institute, Northwestern University and other higher education institutions, Evanston public schools, and statewide coalitions on issues including education, collective impact and county workforce development entities.

ECF passed the $5 million mark in 2005, $10 million in 2009 and $20 million spread across 80 different funds at year-end 2014. Unrestricted and Board-directed funds constitute roughly 70% of assets while endowments of/for other organizations are upwards of 20%; donor-advised funds are about 8% of the portfolio – an asset distribution that affords the ECF board an unusual capacity to direct Foundation allocations for grants, programs, and operations.

Important to ECF’s growth has been the Communityworks Initiative, a partnership of Illinois community foundations funded by Chicago’s Grand Victoria Foundation. The Initiative resulted in gifts to ECF exceeding $7.4 million between 2003 and 2011. These funds currently help support the Foundation’s grants and activities in the areas of early childhood and workforce training. This fund is the largest component of ECF, nearly $7 million.

The Foundation currently operates with a staff of 4 full time and 4 part time staff. ECF’s annual budget of $239,000 in 2002 has grown to $1.12 million in 2015. Only 14% of the 2002 budget came from endowment draws and fees on funds; 38% of this year’s budget comes from these sources at the core of ECF’s mission.

For more information on the Evanston Community Foundation, please visit

The Opportunity:

ECF has enjoyed steady growth and community impact. With the Foundation’s first President retiring after 14 years of service, a new chapter awaits. The Board recognizes this moment of transition of its leadership as a time to take stock and carefully consider the next decade of work and how the Foundation can move to an even higher level of impact. Furthermore, the Board and staff recognize that Evanston is undergoing significant demographic and economic change.

The Foundation Board will look to its new President to think strategically about the changes within the community and how the Foundation can add even higher value going forward: what programs and strategies should continue, what new opportunities and strategies should be pursued and what types of human, institutional and financial assets are needed going forward. This strategic thinking will also involve a thoughtful review of the structure and function of the Board and staff and the Foundation’s operations.

ECF has core aspirational values that drive its work and its position in the community. These include:

  • The Foundation has a clear sense of community needs and priorities and easily earns the confidence of donors and civic leaders to successfully rally human, institutional and financial assets in service of those needs/priorities;
  • The Foundation is naturally inclusive and highly collaborative and is intentional about reaching all parts of the Evanston community;
  • The Foundation is respected for promoting a culture of inquiry by inviting and facilitating public discourse and collective problem solving; and
  • The Foundation is recognized for cultivating a staff respected for its openness, abilities and diversity.

Candidate Profile:

The Board seeks a President that shares and understands the core ECF values and would implement them in guiding the next decade of work.

This executive will be inspirational and charismatic. S/he will have exceptional listening skills, an authentic openness to learning and a joyful demeanor. This leader will be comfortable and confident being a “leader of leaders” in the Evanston community and well beyond. Lastly, s/he will be a person of high integrity and accountability.

The ideal candidate will possess attributes and competencies in four key areas:

Programs & Grantmaking: The President will be a strategic leader who, with the Board, sets and articulates a vision for the Foundation and how it can effectively deploy its human and financial assets to better the Evanston community. S/he will understand the full power and impact of a community foundation to use both its leadership and grant making in combination to meet the needs of a community. The President will be skilled at strategic planning and the process needed to engage staff, Board members and the community in developing and vetting a plan that has broad support. S/he will know how to deploy staff and resources to implement a strategic plan that has hard and soft outcomes and an evaluation strategy that facilitates continuous analysis and learning. The next President will have a history of being innovative and bold in responding to community needs and capturing opportunities while simultaneously ensuring adequate staff and financial capacity are in place to succeed.

Asset Development & Fundraising: The next President must be skilled in identifying and coalescing all forms of community assets – institutional, human and financial – to meet the needs of Evanston residents. This requires a leader with a collaborative work ethic who knows how to actively and strategically seek partnerships and build coalitions with other foundations, nonprofit organizations, community agencies and leaders on behalf of the strategic vision of the Foundation. Additionally, the ability to build mutually beneficial alliances with governmental, educational and commercial entities as well as with Evanston’s many religious institutions will be critical to the success of the new President in this next chapter.

The President will be experienced and confident at attracting investors to build general operating and endowed assets. S/he will have experience empowering and motivating staff and Board to work together to implement an asset development plan. The ideal candidate will be experienced with designing and implementing an asset development plan that seeks a diversified portfolio of fund types and strategies including endowed assets and operating funds. S/he will share the Board’s ongoing commitment to securing unrestricted funds that allow the foundation to respond to needs in the community. The President will work in close collaboration with the Board and staff to identify, approach and cultivate donors who share the Foundation’s strategic direction.

Board Development & Leadership: The ideal candidate will be experienced at building and supporting a highly productive Board that works seamlessly with staff. This leader will know how to build the Board’s capacity to partner with staff on setting and meeting program and fundraising objectives. S/he will guide the Board in meeting its governance responsibilities in a productive, efficient and gratifying manner. The President will be mindful of the value of a diverse Board and has the experience identifying and cultivating Board members that will bring the skills, connections and commitment needed to advance the Foundation’s goals.

Nonprofit Management: The President will be a seasoned executive with strong staff and financial management experience and exceptional verbal and written communication skills. S/he will have a track record of sound financial planning, oversight and accountability, which includes the ability to clearly communicate financial status to the Board. S/he will possess strong staff management experience that includes the ability to build and inspire a staff with a diverse set of skills, provide staff with a productive work environment and professional growth opportunities that results in team cohesion and camaraderie. The ideal candidate must be experienced at facilitating strong staff and Board teamwork and the ability to provide clear expectations and accountability measures for staff deliverables while encouraging innovation and initiative. The President will be creative and comfortable encouraging the use of all forms of communication technology to reach diverse audiences effectively and efficiently.

The President will have an undergraduate degree. An advanced degree is desired but not required. Residency in Evanston is not required.


Koya Leadership Partners has been exclusively retained for this search. This search is being led by Alison P. Ranney and Anne B. McCarthy in collaboration with Sheila Leahy of SAL Consulting, Inc.

To express your interest in this role, please submit your resume using Koya’s online link: or email Alison and Anne directly at or Sheila 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 non-profits 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