Executive Director (EBSF)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation (EBSF or the Foundation) is a private foundation with a long-term commitment to improving the well-being of people, animals, and the environment of Maine.  The Foundation is committed to supporting initiatives that promote healthy and whole lives for all people, protect and enhance land and water quality and productivity, ensure the humane treatment of animals, and stimulate long-term development while building local opportunity. The Foundation also invests in community engagement that builds social equity and strengthens participation for collective benefit.  Looking to the future, the Foundation’s leadership is assessing Maine’s unique assets and challenges and charting a bold way forward in service of its mission to empower communities, foster innovation, and model effective investment for sustainable change.  Following a period of growth and organizational development and building on a legacy of philanthropy and innovation, the Foundation now seeks applications and nominations for its next Executive Director (ED).  The new ED will be a visionary leader, strategist, and partner to the Board and staff in the achievement of EBSF’s vision of integrated, equity-driven philanthropy and full mission alignment of operations, systems, and culture. 

Since 2011, EBSF has awarded over $66 million in grants to support communities and organizations working to empower, advance and protect Maine’s most crucial resources – people and communities, land and water, and a complex, diverse social fabric of traditions and valued connections. EBSF has expanded its approaches beyond grantmaking to incorporate investment practices that are mission-aligned. With a firm commitment to being guided by and grounded in its values, the Foundation now seeks to grow its impact and contribute to the collective knowledge of integrated, community-embedded philanthropy.

Reporting to and partnering closely with the Board of Directors, the Executive Director will join a deeply committed and talented staff to realize EBSF’s mission and to guide and manage its operations, culture, and external partnerships in alignment with the Foundation’s values. The ED will be a passionate team-builder and gifted developer of systems that promote collaboration, communication, and organizational effectiveness.  The ED will develop strong relationships with the Board of Directors in support of their oversight of program strategy and impact and will support a culture of mutual learning and transparency that deepens capacity for effective engagement and governance. As chief ambassador and spokesperson for the Foundation, the ED will bring keen instincts for strategic use of the Foundation’s voice to elevate community partners and effectively engage stakeholders with humility and for mutual benefit. S/he/they will actively contribute to the field of philanthropy, sharing learning as a leader and innovator. 

The successful candidate will be a seasoned leader and organizational strategist with a proven track record of conceiving and implementing innovative ideas and approaches to effecting community change at the local and systemic levels.  An inclusive leadership style, outstanding organizational management skills, and experience building and supporting high-functioning teams are essential.  A natural convener and relationship builder, s/he/they will bring a demonstrated commitment to deepening the Foundation’s collective understanding of the structural drivers of inequity and their impact on Maine’s communities.

This search is conducted with support from Allison Kupfer Poteet and Melinda Hull of NPAG. Please see the application instructions at the end of this document.

HISTORY AND OVERVIEW

Elmina B. Sewall learned early in life about the importance of philanthropy.  When she was a young girl, her father gave her two piggy banks for her weekly allowance: one for her spending money and the other for charity. This early lesson in giving and sharing made a lasting impression and influenced Mrs. Sewall’s attitudes toward giving back to community and making a difference to society.   Spending time on her grandfather’s farm imbued her with a lifelong love of animals and open spaces, two important influences on her future philanthropy. 

Mrs. Sewall moved to Maine in 1949 and settled along the Mousam River in Kennebunk. She founded the Animal Welfare Society in West Kennebunk in 1967 and, in 1976, she deeded her estate property to the Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve.   Throughout her life, Mrs. Sewall earned the respect and love of community members who recognized her quiet demeanor, business savvy, sense of humor, and genuine humility.  She was a committed volunteer to organizations she valued and dedicated her financial resources toward philanthropic support of companion animals and wildlife, institutions advancing human well-being, and organizations promoting Maine’s cultural heritage.  In her later years, Mrs. Sewall made significant contributions to land conservation projects to protect land in the North Woods and along the coast.  

Established by Mrs. Sewall in 1983, the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation has a legacy of grantmaking initially focused on animal welfare, environmental protection, and land conservation in Maine.  While retaining its commitment to animal welfare, in 2011, the Foundation began to shift toward a more integrated approach to addressing human and environmental well-being and later established the Healthy People Healthy Places (HPHP) initiative. HPHP now comprises the majority of the Foundation’s annual grantmaking. From its launch in 2015 to 2017, the Foundation made 329 HPHP grants to more than 200 organizations working in Maine, totaling almost $22 million.  HPHP is based on the observation that as the connections between people and their environment are strengthened, both become healthier and more vibrant.  Further, HPHP is premised on the belief that positive and equitable relationships between people across socioeconomic and cultural boundaries bridge differences, reduce inequities, and contribute to community health and resilience.  

HPHP has focused on five broad, interrelated strategies that are intended to enhance individual, community and environmental health, resiliency and vibrancy:

Support the Well-Being of People – supports all people to lead healthy and whole lives

Support Healthy Land and Water – protects or enhances land and water quality and productivity

Develop Thriving Local Economies – promotes long-term development while building local opportunity

Invest in Community Engagement and Social Equity – builds community, strengthens relationships, and enhances civic participation

Build Resilient Communities – builds the capacity of all communities to adapt and thrive

The Foundation’s historical and ongoing commitment to equity is clearly demonstrated through its humane approach to the well-being of humans, animals, and the environment; support of systems that work and working to change systems that do not; nurturing new ways of thinking and working; and supporting individuals and empowering communities. In pursuit of these commitments, and with equity as a core driver, the HPHP initiative has made grants in the following program areas:

Integration of Environment and Human Well-Being grants support work that uses deliberate, unified approaches to benefit both Maine’s natural environment and people.

Improving Systems for Meeting Basic Needs grants focus on removing barriers and advancing change in systems and policies so that people in Maine can meet their most basic needs. 

In 2017 the Foundation undertook an assessment of the HPHP grantmaking by reviewing data, talking to grantee partners, and examining program goals and outcomes.  That assessment brought to light several challenges that are now being addressed. These challenges include: high decline rates, dispersed impact, and limited capacity to engage meaningfully with communities.  Efforts are underway to further align grant- related activities with the Foundation’s values and to bring together all elements of the HPHP program to support the interconnection of human and environmental well-being.  With sensitivity to the potential impacts that shifts in funding programs may have for its non-profit partners, the Foundation is continuing to make grants by invitation only during this refinement process and expects to launch a refined HPHP program in November 2019.

GRANT HISTORY

A full listing of grants made by the Foundation in all program areas can be found on the Sewall Foundation website at: https://www.sewallfoundation.org/grant-history/

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FACING THE NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The next Executive Director joins EBSF at a time that is rich with opportunity, enjoying the support of an enormously talented and engaged staff and Board as the Foundation moves through a period of reflection that is inspiring a refined strategy and vision for increased impact.  The ED can expect immediate engagement with the following challenges and opportunities:

Provide visionary and strategic leadership to ensure coordination, clarity, and consistency across the foundation in alignment with its mission and values.

  • Support creation of a clear plan to enhance EBSF’s positive impact on the well-being of Maine’s communities and environment with fidelity to the founder’s legacy.
  • Promote a community-informed grantmaking strategy and programmatic agenda that reflects the Foundation’s values of supporting communities and individuals, promoting systems change, and fostering innovative thinking.
  • Champion an effective, highly responsive, transparent, and equitable grantmaking process.
  • Innovate Maine-based mission-aligned investment opportunities.

Promote team structure, systems, and culture that reflect and enable excellence, collaboration, respect, and innovation.

  • Serve as a mentor and coach and build a culture in which team members feel valued, have opportunities for continued growth and learning, and are recognized for the unique contributions, perspectives, and commitment they bring to the work.
  • Bring rigorous thinking and experience with budgeting, administrative systems, use of technology and other resources to promote productivity and excellence across functions.
  • Review current internal organizational needs and opportunities and help build capacity for programmatic priorities. Develop an organizational design that ensures effective lines of supervision and ensures that workflow is well-managed throughout grantmaking cycles.
  • Articulate and implement EBSF’s vision through practices and policies that are aligned and supportive of the organization’s mission and values.

Facilitate ongoing conversations, reflections, and organizational steps toward greater clarity and measurable action toward equality.

  • Bring a courageous, respectful, and informed approach to participate thoughtfully and actively, and, at times, lead ongoing conversations around equity with the Board and staff.
  • In partnership with communities, cultivate efforts to align the Foundation’s processes and resources toward the goal of creating equitable opportunities for healthy living.
  • Guide the iterative transformation of processes and approaches to grantmaking and mission-aligned investments to advance equity and translate understanding into action.

Represent the Foundation to external constituencies and participate in strategic and policy discussions with partner organizations.

  • Foster relationships between the Foundation and community leaders, advocacy organizations, nonprofit organizational partners and others.
  • Represent EBSF to the public, the media, policy makers, public officials, and other key stakeholders, proactively engaging with communities to benefit Maine people and places.

Support the development and ongoing excellence of Board communication and partnership to facilitate governance.

THE IDEAL CANDIDATE

While no one candidate will embody all the qualifications enumerated below, the ideal candidate will possess many of the following professional and personal abilities, attributes and experiences:

  • Demonstrated passion for and commitment to the Foundation’s mission and a track record of successfully engaging communities and partners to effect change and address inequities and obstacles to equitable systems. A natural innovator with the ability to inspire, motivate, generate new ideas and actualize change programmatically and operationally;  
  • Significant work experience and credibility as a leader and expert in an area relevant to the Foundation’s mission. Strong administrative and management skills, with experience supporting the development of staff and board activities and processes that foster collaboration, innovation, effective governance, and professional growth. Broad knowledge of innovative philanthropic practices is strongly desired;
  • Deep knowledge of equity and a commitment to strengthening the Foundation’s collective understanding of issues related to the drivers of structural and systemic inequity. Capacity to lead these conversations with credibility at the board and staff level, as well as in community, and promote learning and reflection with trust and courage;
  • Experience as an effective Board liaison fostering thoughtful, effective relationships and dialogue across the organization; demonstrated ability to refine and operationalize effective governance and shared leadership strategies, clarify roles, and articulate priorities and fiduciary responsibilities; ability to engage and leverage the Board’s diverse knowledge and expertise to enhance the Foundation’s work;
  • A vision for innovation, effectiveness, and excellence in grantmaking; affinity for and experience with developing evaluation strategies and promoting a culture of rigor around data collection and use and continuous learning;
  • Experience and savvy with communications and the ability to effectively disseminate stories and lessons learned on the impact of programs, investments, and initiatives.  Exemplifies respect, clarity, and openness in all communications internally and externally;
  • Experience with and genuine enthusiasm for mentorship and staff development; ability to instill teams with a sense of shared commitment and purpose; demonstrated commitment to responsive, accountable leadership and the ability to inculcate those values into the team;
  • Current knowledge of trends, movements, and developing policy to inform emerging changemaking opportunities;
  • Sense of humor and an interpersonal style that invites engagement and dialogue, builds trust, connection, and investment in the work. Excellent listening skills and an ability to translate complex ideas into accessible stories; and
  • A personal commitment to a diverse and inclusive culture that places a high value on equity.

TO APPLY

This search is being conducted with assistance from Allison Kupfer Poteet and Melinda Hull of the national search firm NPAG. More information about the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation may be found at: https://www.sewallfoundation.org/

Applications including a cover letter describing your interest and qualifications, your resume (in Word format), and where you learned of the position should be sent to EBSF-ED@nonprofitprofessionals.com. Because of the pace of this search, candidates are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible. In order to expedite the internal sorting and reviewing process, please type your name (Last, First) as the only contents in the subject line of your e-mail.

Cultivating a diverse and inclusive team is an essential component of Elmina B. Sewall Foundation’s commitment to advance equity. Candidates of all  backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.


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