Surdna Foundation — Director of Communications

Surdna Foundation Published: August 18, 2016
Job Type


The Surdna Foundation, a New York City-based family foundation, seeks a Director of Communications. The Director is responsible for creating, implementing and managing communications for and about the Foundation’s initiatives to promote just and sustainable communities in the United States. The primary responsibilities of this position include:

  • Developing and leading a communications strategy. Working with program directors, program team members and executive staff to design, implement and oversee communications strategies to advance the objectives of the Foundation and amplify the work of grantees.
  • Identifying and leveraging opportunities to use the Foundation’s platform and networks to further its impact and the impact of its grantee partners.
  • Overseeing staff communications training; deploying staff and consultants to support execution of strategies.
  • Leading and overseeing the redesign and implementation of a new website for the Foundation.
  • Initiating and managing contracts and other relationships with communications vendors.

The Communications Director reports to the Vice President for Programs and is a member of the Foundation’s Leadership Team. Because the Foundation employs a small staff, the Communications Director will be responsible for a range of responsibilities and tasks associated with Communications with a limited amount of support from a Program Associate and external consultants. The Communications Director will oversee content creation, working closely with the dozen staff members who make up Surdna’s program teams.

The Surdna Foundation

Created by John E. Andrus in 1917, the Surdna Foundation has assets of approximately $925 million and an annual grantmaking budget of $40 million. The Foundation has a staff of 29, based in its Midtown Manhattan offices. Governed by a Board of Directors that includes fourth and fifth generation family members, the longstanding values of the Andrus family – practicality, modesty, excellence and an appreciation for serving those in need – underlie all of the Surdna Foundation's work. The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States – communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy and sustainable environments, strong local economies and thriving cultures.

The Foundation provides grant support for efforts at the national, state, metropolitan and local levels throughout the United States. It invests in the exchange of ideas across networks of people, institutions and places with the intent of seeding innovative projects, programs and policies and bringing them to scale across the country. Across its three grantmaking areas – Strong Local Economies, Sustainable Environments and Thriving Cultures – the Foundation seeks grantmaking opportunities that include balanced efforts to: demonstrate the effectiveness of specific, targeted projects, practices and models; advocate for and implement federal, state and local public policies; and empower, mobilize and develop leadership and civic participation in communities and agencies. It recognizes its programmatic interests are interrelated and is committed to working cross-programmatically. The Foundation strives to use communications to advance its program goals—including advocacy, issue campaigns, and narrative change, among other approaches.

Essential Job Responsibilities:

  • Initiate and contribute to the design, implementation, integration and oversight of communications strategies for the Foundation, President and program teams.
  • Provide strategic communications guidance and training to program teams (and grantee partners when appropriate) regarding opportunities to amplify programmatic objectives.
  • Oversee the redesign, implementation and updating of the Foundation’s website and devise plans for maintenance/management of the site.
  • Develop strategies for and oversee the use of social media tools to help the foundation reach intended audiences and amplify our messages and objectives.
  • Support communications activities to include communications of the President, presentations, blog posts, social media activities, and other messaging documents in partnership with the President, Vice President for Programs, program staff and Director of Learning and Grant Operations.
  • Identify and assess communications opportunities and vehicles that could advance the objectives of the Foundation and its grantee partners, including thought leadership and knowledge dissemination.
  • Facilitate organizational learning and board member engagement in partnership with the Vice President for Programs, the Systems, Impact, and Learning team, and others.

First Year’s Priorities:

Over the next twelve months, the Communications Director will be expected to:

  • In partnership with Foundation leadership (President, VP for Programs, Program Directors and others) develop a roadmap for Foundation communications together with the articulation/delineation of responsibilities and mechanisms for oversight.
  • Oversee and manage the redesign and launch of the Foundation’s website, to include identification of a website designer and content producers.
  • Support the development and implementation of activities associated with the Foundation’s 100th Anniversary celebrations (to begin in January 2017) to include special grantmaking initiatives, anniversary-related publications, media activities and special events.
  • Facilitate the increased use of media and social media channels to reach important audiences of the foundation and grantee partners (policy makers, opinion formers, media, field leaders, etc.) by building the capacity of the Surdna staff to use communications strategically.
  • Develop and implement strategies for broadcasting new initiatives of the Foundation, such as the Foundation’s entry into the impact investing arena.

Ideal Experience and Personal Qualities:

  • A bachelor’s degree in communications, public relations, marketing, policy or related field.
  • A minimum of 5-10 years of successful senior level professional experience in communications, public relations, marketing or related field; experience in developing and successfully executing communications strategies.
  • A significant network of journalists and thought leaders in the mainstream and philanthropic media.
  • Proactive professional who is comfortable working independently.
  • Ability to inspire trust, collaborate and build consensus with staff and colleagues.
  • Demonstrated experience facilitating the work of teams of professionals.
  • Experience managing external consultants.
  • Excellent project manager with ability to move swiftly among projects.
  • Ability to prioritize among competing deliverables and requests.
  • Detail oriented, with excellent writing, editing and verbal communication skills.
  • Good knowledge of social media tools and trends.
  • Comfortable with delegating responsibilities and providing guidance on the work of others.
  • Strong knowledge of philanthropic and nonprofit sector.
  • A commitment to the Foundation’s mission of promoting just and sustainable communities in the United States.

Compensation & Benefits:

Salary commensurate with experience. Excellent comprehensive employee benefits package.

How to Apply:

Please submit a cover letter and current resume via e-mail to:

In subject line, please note: Surdna Foundation, Director of Communications


Surdna is an equal opportunity employer.


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