• Vice President and Executive Director, Audubon Great Lakes

    Job Locations
    Regular, Full-Time
    Job Category
    Executive/Senior Management
  • Overview

    The National Audubon Society is one of the oldest, largest, and most influential conservation organizations in the United States. Since 1905, a passion for birds and nature has been the driving force behind Audubon’s legacy. The organization has played a critical role in some of the most significant victories for birds and the environment, including the establishment of the first National Wildlife Refuges; the banning of DDT in 1972; landmark legislation like the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts and the establishment of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Audubon advocates broadly for conservation through science, policy, education and on-the-ground conservation action.


    Today’s Audubon is tackling the most pressing conservation challenges of our time.


    Audubon is a powerful distributed network with an unparalleled reach that includes more than one million members, 463 chapters, 22 state and regional offices and 34 nature centers. In addition, Audubon works with dozens of international partnerships throughout the Western Hemisphere that also support the protection of migratory birds and the habitats they need to thrive today, and in the future.

    The National Audubon Society is a $140M+, 800+ employee, 1.65M member organization. In 2010, David Yarnold was appointed by the Board of Trustees and assumed leadership as CEO, with a goal of creating the most effective conservation network in the U.S. David and his executive team are achieving this goal, tackling the most pressing conservation challenges of our time. When developing a case study for nonprofit excellence in the fall of 2017, Harvard Business School selected David Yarnold’s leadership of Audubon and remarked, “It was the most impressive turnaround of a legacy organization we’ve ever seen.”



    About Audubon Great Lakes


    A regional office of the National Audubon Society, Audubon Great Lakes (AGL) works to protect the places and policies that birds need to thrive across five states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Within the network of connections that make up healthy ecosystems, birds are uniquely positioned to act as an environmental indicator of the health of the landscape. We know that what is good for birds is good for entire ecosystems – including people.


    To this end, we build and engage a diverse network of volunteers, communities, and conservation professionals. Together we address the greatest threats to birds, such as climate change, habitat loss, and invasive species. Our strategies are driven by cutting-edge science that informs where and how we work to protect birds and guides our policy objectives. The outcome of this approach is a reinforcing strategy that addresses the biggest threats faced by birds and people in our region. Together we are saving birds and improving the quality of life for the people of the Great Lakes region.

    Position Summary

    The National Audubon Society (NAS) seeks a dynamic, entrepreneurial, and strategic candidate to lead and grow our Audubon Great Lakes office. The successful person will lead a talented team to advance overall conservation objectives, strengthen and mobilize our bipartisan network, and deliver durable policy solutions across the five states managed by Audubon Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH, WI). They also serve as a Vice President of the National Audubon Society and with their peers be responsible for shaping and delivering national objectives, initiatives, and processes.

    Over the past five years, Audubon in the Great Lakes has been on a tremendous growth trajectory. Founded in 1998 as Audubon Chicago Region, AGL expanded from a small, local office to a significant regional office spanning five states and dramatically increasing our influence, impact, and revenue. Our region includes 387 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) covering 17.8 million acres and a bipartisan membership base of 160,000 organized into more than 50 chapters. This network provides an authentic voice that allows us to reach 15% of the Members of Congress. A team of 40 staff members annually puts more than $4.2M to work for conservation.

    The incoming Vice President and Executive Director must have demonstrated success in implementing innovative conservation, policy, engagement, and development strategies that inspire the region’s decision-makers, conservation partners, and philanthropic community to invest in Audubon’s conservation vision and strategic plan. Building on the success of the region’s well-respected conservation program, they must inspire collaboration among our conservation, legislative, and philanthropic partners to deepen our impact and influence across the Great Lakes region.


    This is a high-profile position with the potential to grow National Audubon Society’s reach and effect change at the local, regional, and national levels. The Vice President and Executive Director will report to Audubon’s Vice President for the Mississippi Flyway. They will be jointly reviewed by the Flyway VP with input from the chair of the AGL Advisory Board.


    Koya Leadership Partners has been engaged by Audubon to advise in this pivotal leadership hire. Leading this search is Kara Teising, Managing Director and Nicole Kamaleson, Managing Director of the Global Practice.


    If you are ready to submit your completed application, kindly submit both your compelling cover letter (addressing motivation and suitability per the above role specifications) and CV/resume here.  Only completed applications, with both CV/resume and cover letter, will be presented to the client.

    Essential Functions

    Strategic Leadership and Organizational Management

    • Deliver operational and strategic excellence through the leadership, management, and mentoring of a mature and diverse staff while preserving open communication and recognizing the value of the management team.
    • Define a clear vision for Audubon Great Lakes that distinguishes AGL from our conservation partners and that builds on current strengths, a strong business case for investment, and engagement of a bipartisan network.
    • Focus resources on the most critical, high-leverage projects and strategies, including policy development and public engagement, focused on population centers.
    • Leverage the impact of Audubon physical assets to achieve state, regional, and national goals.
    • Build upon the strong foundation of building a representative team and developing programs and initiatives that are resonant and relevant for the Great Lake Region’s diverse population.
    • Manage the day-to-day operations of the office, including setting financial and programmatic goals, analyzing results and taking corrective action in close collaboration with local and national staff.
    • Ensure that all Audubon financial standards, operating policies, programmatic commitment, and legal/statutory requirements are met.

    Conservation Strategic Execution

    • Craft and achieve strategic goals and initiatives that are integrated fully with the National Audubon Society’s conservation, network, and philanthropic goals.
    • Increase our region-wide capacity to achieve the conservation of priority birds and their habitats. Priorities include:
      • Protecting the iconic waters and habitats of the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi River systems for the benefit of birds and communities.
      • Inspiring our bipartisan network and decision-makers throughout the five-state region to take action to limit carbon emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
      • Create durable policy solutions that address the most critical threats to birds at the local, state, and federal level.
      • Address the threats to grasslands for the benefit of grassland bird species and for water and carbon storage.
      • Engaging the diversity of communities that represent the population of the Great Lakes region in building durable conservation strategies and resonant education programs.
      • Integrate Audubon’s two nature centers into our conservation, policy, and engagement strategies.

    Fundraising and External Relations

    • Partner with Audubon’s development team to cultivate existing and solicit new major donors, foundations, corporations, and government agencies to significantly increase contributions.
    • Represent Audubon Great Lakes throughout the region to raise the profile and visibility of our priorities and impact with funders, partners, policy makers, and the public, resulting in deeper donor satisfaction and investment.
    • Strengthen the financially sustainable business and development plans for the region with a focus on expanding new funding sources, inspiring new donors, and cultivating strategic partnerships with agencies and other NGOs.
    • Support fundraising for national priority projects with Audubon’s leadership and development teams.
    • Collaborate meaningfully and significantly with other Audubon state programs and national development staff on donor strategies under the One Audubon approach to members and donors.

    Stakeholder Relations

    • Deepen the engagement of the Audubon Great Lakes Region Board of Advisors to inspire their advocacy for our programmatic priorities and to inspire their individual and external fundraising capacity.
    • Work closely with, support and provide guidance to the chapters in the region to expand Audubon’s capacity for on-the-ground conservation, policy change, and education at scale.
    • Prioritize engagement and activation of the region’s diverse population communities in the Audubon movement, including college chapters, chapter leadership, advisory board participation, staffing, volunteers, program participation, and partnerships across the region.
    • Work with government departments and non-governmental organizations to promote and prioritize bird science and habitat conservation.

    Qualifications and Experience


    • Experience in the field of conservation; knowledge of how conservation work is advanced in the Great Lakes Region and knowledge of key conservation leaders and partners is strongly preferred.
    • Demonstrated experience leading the execution of complex projects through to success, including meeting financial goals, project deadlines, and coordinating the work of key staff and partners, in organizations of similar or greater size.
    • Demonstrated success in fundraising; experience with major donors, foundations, corporations, and government funders.
    • An array of experience in public policy development and advocacy, campaigns, lobbying, and/or involvement in the state legislature and/or working with members of Congress is strongly preferred.
    • Demonstrated commitment to creating an equitable, diverse and inclusive environment; ability to build and lead a diverse team of staff, board members and supporters.


    • Strong leadership skills, with an entrepreneurial spirit, solid business acumen, and management operations skills; demonstrated ability to inspire and motivate staff, volunteers, donors, and potential partners a must.
    • Demonstrated ability to succeed in a distributed network and a highly matrixed, complex organization – strong ability to influence and persuade others required.
    • Outstanding interpersonal skills, judgment, and a demonstrated ability to collaborate and build coalitions with a wide range of individuals and organizations at the local, regional and national levels.
    • Excellent and persuasive communication skills, both written and verbal, including substantial public speaking experience, and the ability to effectively represent Audubon to its members, state and federal elected officials, donors and chapter leaders as well as in traditional, social and digital media.

    Personal Knowledge & Characteristics

    • Knowledge of the regional political and demographic reality with broad connections to partners and the philanthropic community strongly desired.
    • Knowledge and appreciation of, as well as connection to the Midwest region area and its environment.
    • Knowledge of funders and donors engaged in conservation philanthropy in the Midwest region preferred.
    • Willingness and ability to travel routinely through the region and nationally, as required.
    • A strong and demonstrated commitment to the mission, values, and programs of the National Audubon Society.


    • Bachelor’s degree required; graduate degree strongly preferred.
    • 10+ years experience in organizational leadership, preferably connected to conservation or civic engagement, including 3+ years as an
    • enterprise executive with accountability over multiple programs and/or regions.


    Koya Leadership Partners has been engaged by Audubon to advise in this pivotal leadership hire. Leading this search is Kara Teising, Managing Director and Nicole Kamaleson, Managing Director of the Global Practice.


    If you are ready to submit your completed application, kindly submit both your compelling cover letter (addressing motivation and suitability per the above role specifications) and CV/resume here.  Only completed applications, with both CV/resume and cover letter, will be presented to the client.


    Audubon is a federal contractor and an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE).  All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status or any other characteristic protected by law.


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