Organization: The Morton Arboretum

Location: Lisle, IL

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About The Morton Arboretum:

The Morton Arboretum (“the Arboretum”) is an internationally recognized, tree-focused botanical garden located 25 miles west of Chicago in suburban Lisle, Illinois.

“The mission of the Arboretum is to collect and study trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world, to display them across naturally beautiful landscapes for people to study and enjoy, and to learn how to grow them in ways that enhance our environment. Our goal is to encourage the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world.”

The institution’s vision is to be the leading center of tree expertise, inspiring the world to plant and protect trees.

In 1922, Arboretum founder Joy Morton established the Arboretum with a goal to develop “a great outdoor museum” of trees to continue his family’s Arbor Day and tree planting legacy. Today, as the champion of trees, the Arboretum leads local and global efforts in tree science and conservation, and offers innovative educational and public programs to engage and inspire people to plant, protect, and advocate for trees.

The Arboretum serves 45,000 member households, and is the destination of over one million annual visitors who explore 1,700 acres of gardens, natural areas, and plant collections that include 222,000 trees, representing 4,650 kinds of plants from around the world. Features include the Visitor Center with The Arboretum Store and Ginkgo Restaurant and Café, four-acre Children’s Garden, one-acre Maze Garden, Sterling Morton Library, Plant Clinic, nine miles of touring roads, and 16 miles of trails.

The Arboretum conducts leading scientific research on tree planting, health, horticulture, genetics, evolution, and breeding, together with studies on soils, forest ecology and management, and urban forestry, and collaborates with scientific partners throughout the nation and across the globe through its Center for Tree Science. Tree conservation programs include a regional focus on the Chicago area urban forest and oak ecosystem restoration through the Chicago Region Trees Initiative, and catalyzing conservation action globally through the Global Tree Conservation Program to protect trees from the threat of extinction. The Morton Arboretum coordinates and supports the worldwide network of arboreta through its ArbNet program, and introduces new tree and shrub varieties from its tree breeding program through the Chicagoland Grows program.

The Morton Arboretum ranks among the leading arboretums of the world in size, age, quality of specimens, and scope of programs in Plant Collections, Science and Conservation, and Education, as well as in the number of visitors and members. For more information on The Morton Arboretum, please visit its website:

The Opportunity:

Reporting to the President and CEO, the Vice President of Marketing and Communications leads the Arboretum’s marketing and communications program to support institutional initiatives by positioning the Arboretum with various target audiences and promoting the its tree-focused mission. The VP is responsible for planning, integration, and collaborations related to the Arboretum marketing and communications strategy. The VP serves as a member of the Leadership Team with other senior staff leaders who together oversee development and implementation of institutional plans.

Drawing on the work of the Arboretum and the strength of its international brand, the VP as the senior marketing leader and strategist is responsible for advancing and communicating the Arboretum’s brand, growing awareness and participation, and positioning the institution as a leader in the realms of science, conservation, and the environment.

The VP provides marketing thought leadership, working in concert with the President and CEO and senior staff to develop strategies and implement initiatives to carry out the mission and vision, increase participation and attendance, and position the Arboretum and its mission as relevant, impactful, and worthy of philanthropic support and collaboration.

In 2017, a key focus of Marketing and Communications has been on building brand awareness, encouraging brand ambassadorship, and raising the profile of the Arboretum as one of Chicago’s oldest and most prominent cultural, educational, and scientific organizations. This includes leveraging market research as a baseline for establishing knowledge about the Arboretum’s reputation, overseeing an ongoing brand campaign for the third and final year, and renewing the focus on building awareness through the Arboretum’s tree science and conservation efforts.

Responsibilities include the following:

  • Developing and implementing an integrated marketing and communications strategy that ensures brand positioning and global recognition of the Arboretum as the leading center of tree expertise;
  • Providing strategic leadership for and planning marketing and communications initiatives related to Arboretum programs to achieve the mission and goals of the Arboretum;
  • Collaborating with Arboretum leaders to accomplish marketing and communications goals; aligning with the President and CEO and VP peers and their departments to ensure that strategies and activities are coordinated and messages are consistent to all constituents, including partner organizations and media;
  • Working closely with the VP of Development to advance a culture of philanthropy that positions the Arboretum as a nonprofit organization worthy of investment and support;
  • Identifying different audience needs to ensure relevant communications about and engagement with the Arboretum, and position the institution with diverse audiences;
  • Identifying and leveraging multiple communication channels to exert the Arboretum as the brand to be connected with;
  • Integrating all aspects of the Arboretum’s promotional activity, maximizing synergies and ensuring consistency of content, timing, and quality of strategic messaging;
  • Guiding appropriate tone and voice to deliver a consistent message across all channels, and ensuring achievement of high quality and editorial standards that reflect the quality and integrity of the institution;
  • Leading the exploration of new ideas and opportunities, resources, contacts, and partnerships to position the Arboretum through its marketing and communications efforts;
  • Pursuing innovative approaches to advancing the mission and vision and engaging in external relations with allied and peer institutions;
  • Convening and facilitating the Marketing and Communications Advisory Committee to gain industry and public perspective and advice;
  • Interfacing with the Board of Trustees and other key stakeholders; and
  • Supervising the Head of Marketing, Senior Public Relations Manager, and Head of Design; this includes recruitment and selection, scheduling and job assignments, performance management, and staff development and training in keeping with the Arboretum’s policies and procedures.

Candidate Profile:

The ideal candidate will have the following professional and personal qualities, characteristics, and skills:

Marketing and Communications Expertise

The VP of Marketing and Communications is an experienced leader in the profession with a mindset that is curious about underlying elements of the Arboretum and brings a high level of intellectual horsepower. The VP has a measurable track record of success in previous roles. The VP has demonstrable experience in setting and implementing innovative marketing and communications strategies and serving as a catalyst and leader within organizations. The VP is analytical and data-informed, able to conceptualize and analyze both problems and solutions and identify key metrics that will help the Arboretum work toward its pivotal strategic objectives. The VP brings skills in marketing, public/media relations, editorial sensibility, reputation management, crisis communications, and ability as a spokesperson for the institution. The VP is a strong and effective communicator adept at interfacing with a variety of audiences, both internal and external. The VP has excellent written and verbal communication and presentation skills, and acts with credibility and poise.

Strategic and Innovative Thought Leadership

The VP of Marketing and Communications is a visionary, strategic, and results-oriented leader who can translate business and operations plans into marketing and communications strategies. The VP is both a tactical and creative thinker who effectively and constructively leads the Arboretum to consider new and innovative approaches to targeting and engaging audiences, positioning brand, and developing partnerships. The VP sets priorities and executes them, carrying out long-range goals while also seeing to immediate needs; leads teams in a dynamic environment; and enlists the support of the entire organization. A strong problem solver and adaptable learner, the VP has the ability to step into new or challenging situations and immediately add value. The VP is a flexible and mindful individual who is comfortable with and adept at dealing with potentially sensitive or uncertain situations, exercising appropriate judgment and working toward a successful outcome.

Relationships and Influence

The VP of Marketing and Communications is a savvy, high-energy leader in communicating with all constituents to successfully convey Arboretum information. The VP is excited at the opportunity to lead during a time of significant institutional growth. The VP is a proven collaborator and influencer both internally and externally. The VP builds and sustains relationships at multiple levels with various constituencies including the executive team, the Marketing and Communications staff, employees at large, the Board of Trustees, donors, and corporate and community leaders. The VP also is an effective liaison with consultants, managing information and relationships to achieve desired institutional results. As a system-wide enterprise leader, the VP engages and partners with Arboretum peers to collectively accomplish institutional objectives through a team-oriented approach. The VP brings a proven ability to work in a sophisticated, creative manner, partnering effectively with higher-level executives and carrying out institutional directives. The VP assesses, supervises, and mentors staff; develops talent; and builds the Marketing and Communications team, integrating its work with other departments to ensure cohesiveness and establish and achieve common goals for the institution in messaging and branding.

Passion for the Mission

The VP of Marketing and Communications brings an earnest appreciation for trees and the value they provide to people, communities, and the environment; an understanding of the mission and work of an arboretum as a tree-focused botanical garden and center for tree science and conservation; and desire to support, promote, and advocate for The Morton Arboretum, while continually innovating to help expand its brand and reach.


Anne B. McCarthy and Alison P. Ranney of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please email Anne and Alison 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, institutions of higher education, 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, visit