Organization: LINK Unlimited Scholars

Location: Chicago, IL

Express Interest

About LINK Unlimited Scholars:

LINK Unlimited Scholars (LINK) is Chicago’s only college and career success organization focused solely on African American youth. LINK was founded in 1966 in response to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s hopeful message that “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This hopeful message led John and Carolyn Parmer to sponsor and mentor an African-American child through four years of high school. They then enlisted their friends to do the same. Since that time, LINK has supported more than 2,350 scholars.

Today, after adapting and growing over the years to meet the needs of its constituency, LINK now operates as a sophisticated mission-driven institution – providing 550 scholars comprehensive, year-round mentorship and programming. LINK’s mission is to connect economically disadvantaged African-American high school students with mentors, resources and foundational skills required for success as they advance into, through, and beyond college.

The number one objective at LINK is to provide every opportunity that will afford the scholars the organization serves a concrete blueprint by which they can confidently and successfully change the trajectory of their lives. The organization’s approach provides a rigorous support system built to develop and hone the academic and interpersonal skills necessary for admission to top tier colleges and universities, and ultimately, college graduation and a lifetime of success.

LINK now stands at a critical juncture in its evolution. In recent years, LINK has expanded its programmatic scope, building on providing core support during high school years to sustained mentorship for scholars through college and into successful careers. In addition, LINK now serves a broader range of students, including those matriculating into the Chicago Public School system. Under the leadership of President & CEO Dr. Roslind Blasingame-Buford, and in partnership with the Board of Directors, the strategy is set for LINK’s ambitious path of expansion.

Looking to the future, LINK is developing a more comprehensive approach to engaging its varied constituencies, with an emphasis on major donors and alumni, in addition to strengthening and formalizing corporate partnerships. This work has already translated into empirical success for LINK’s constituents. In 2017, the organization sustained and advanced several indicators, including:

  • Maintaining a 100% high school graduation and college acceptance rate into competitive college and universities for the past 17 years;
  • Supporting the High School graduating Class of 2017 in receiving more than $6.9 million in scholarships and financial aid; and
  • Ensuring the class of 2017 realized an average GPA of 3.2 and an average ACT score of 23.

For more information on LINK Unlimited Scholars, please visit

The Opportunity:

The Vice President of Advancement (VP) is critical to the operation and success of LINK Unlimited Scholars (LINK). S/he will lead the Advancement team, encompassing development, mentor recruitment, alumni relations, marketing and external relations. Through this hire, LINK will reach a new level of philanthropic success that will advance the reputation, awareness, and impact of the organization.

Reporting to and partnering with President & CEO Dr. Roslind Blasingame-Buford, the VP will work to establish and execute a comprehensive development and marketing communications program. As a member of the Leadership Team, the VP will provide vital input into LINK’s strategic and operational planning and serve as a thought partner to leadership.

As the organization scales, the VP will oversee the Advancement team, helping define staff positions, conducting interviews and recommending candidates for hiring. S/he will mentor, manage and motivate employees, conduct meaningful performance reviews and ensure the best use of professional resources to foster individual potential and superior teamwork.

The VP will actively manage a donor portfolio by personally participating in cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. As a member of the Leadership Team, s/he will lead strategy and planning to create a culture of stewardship and philanthropy organization-wide that extends to leadership and volunteer groups, including the Board of Directors.

Inspired by a genuine passion for helping scholars and families thrive, s/he will work tirelessly to promote and expand the efforts of the organization. The VP will evangelize the organization throughout the community to help raise financial support, engaging with a wider range of potential donors and accelerating LINK’s reach and brand beyond its current group of longstanding supporters.

Key metrics for success of this role include:

  • Achieving strong fundraising success for LINK through a robust development program, including expanded engagement with individuals, corporations and foundations;
  • Building a vibrant network of major gift donors who feel connected to and supportive of the mission of LINK and are appreciated for their generosity;
  • Implementing creative strategies to increase and broaden alumni engagement;
  • Providing leadership and support to the Leadership Team and Board of Directors, particularly the Advancement Committee, creating an approach that fosters a true culture of philanthropy by emphasizing constituent engagement and management throughout the organization;
  • Increasing the effectiveness and productivity of the team by serving as a coach and mentor, motivating team members with energy and passion, and ensuring clear expectations and accountability; and
  • Planning and coordinating events to increase awareness, energy and funding for LINK.

Candidate Profile:

The Vice President of Advancement will partner with the CEO to achieve the vision for LINK’s advancement strategy, inspiring the support of the entire organization, including its community of mentors, alumni and advocates. S/he will be a sophisticated, strategic and ambitious leader with a consultative and collaborative mindset.

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

Development and Marketing Expertise

The VP will be an innovative and energetic leader with a measurable track record of development success in a wide range of fundraising channels with particular focus on corporate and individual giving. With a creative and business mindset, and working collaboratively with the CEO, Board and Staff Leadership, s/he will have the capacity to develop and execute the development and communications strategy. S/he will be energized by the prospect of building and leading the advancement department, implementing processes and best practices. The VP will have experience setting and implementing innovative marketing strategies. S/he will serve as a catalyst and leader within the organization. S/he will have an expert understanding of communications including: public relations, digital marketing, social media, web and mobile development and management. A tactical leader, s/he will have a strong data and analysis orientation and a proven ability to use metrics to drive development decisions and achieve strategic objectives.

Relationship Builder and Collaborator

The VP will be skilled at building and sustaining excellent relationships at multiple levels with varied constituencies including the Board of Directors, Leadership Team, Advancement team, scholars and their families. S/he will be a confident communicator with the ability to work fluidly across all levels. S/he will have a motivating approach to building collaboration and buy-in and generating support from diverse stakeholders. S/he will be able to establish rapport and open communication with all constituents to successfully convey LINK’s mission and objectives. Collaborating closely with the CEO, the VP will implement a comprehensive and multi-faceted donor communication and stewardship strategy ensuring donor satisfaction. S/he will have a strong working relationship with key leaders and will be a proactive communicator at all times.

An Agent for Change

The VP will be a strategic and visionary leader who will establish a course of action to build a fresh Advancement function for LINK. S/he will understand the history and culture of LINK and appreciate the complexity of the organization. The VP will have a proven record of converting strategy into effective execution. S/he will have experience affecting change in an organization, strong organizational and process management skills and the proven ability to coordinate across departments. To achieve desired results and support LINK’s strategic objectives, the VP will have the skills to effectively build, develop and lead the Advancement team. The VP will also recognize that LINK is undergoing significant change in numerous areas and will be comfortable working and contributing in this environment. Fundamentally, s/he will be a ‘change agent’ with the ability to successfully lead staff and stakeholders through a period of fundraising transformation.

Passion for the Mission

The VP will have a passion for LINK’s mission, scholars and their home communities. S/he will see a direct correlation between the success of the Advancement team and LINK’s capacity to affect change. The VP will embrace LINK’s culture while continually innovating to help expand its brand and reach. S/he will be an empathic and charismatic leader, treating others with respect and possessing deep faith in humanity. S/he will be an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation.

A Bachelor’s degree is required; an advanced degree in a related field is preferred.


Marissa Martin and Chartise Clark of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here or email Marissa and Chartise 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 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