Now in its second century, Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Audubon’s mission is engaging people in bird conservation on a hemispheric scale through science, policy, education and on-the-ground conservation action. By mobilizing and aligning its network of Chapters, Centers, State and Important Bird Area programs in the four major migratory flyways in the Americas, the organization will bring the full power of Audubon to bear on protecting common and threatened bird species and the critical habitat they need to survive. And as part of BirdLife International, Audubon will join people in over 100 in-country organizations all working to protect a network of Important Bird Areas around the world, leveraging the impact of actions they take at a local level. What defines Audubon’s unique value is a powerful grassroots network of nearly 500 local chapters, 23 state offices, 41 Audubon Centers, Important Bird Area Programs in 50 states, and 700 staff across the country. The National Audubon Society is a federal contractor and an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE). We are committed to a policy of nondiscrimination, inclusion, and equal opportunity and actively seek a diverse pool of candidates in this search.
The Vice President for Climate reports to the Chief Conservation Officer (an open seat; searches are being conducted concurrently) and works closely with colleagues at all levels across the organization.
The VP currently oversees a team of six individuals and a budget of $10M. Direct reports include two Senior Directors for Federal Climate Strategy; a Director for State and Local Climate Strategy; a Senior Program Manager for Climate; a Director of the Clean Energy Initiative, and a Climate Policy Analyst. However, there are as many as 70 professionals across the distributed organization assigned to funded climate activities, and the VP has to inspire and unite them around common strategies and goals.
The key challenges and opportunities for the new Vice President for Climate include the following:
Bring greater clarity to the Audubon climate agenda. Define bold and concrete priorities and success measures for the program and coalesce the organization around their realization.
Given that the landscape of NGOs working on climate is crowded, the issues are complex, and the political environment is fluid, Audubon must continue to define and sharply communicate its priorities in climate. Audubon is distinct in its ability to ignite the passion of its grassroots, in its widely-respected brand supported by cutting-edge science, and in the deep loyalty of its supporters, 48% of whom identify as moderate or conservative, and many of whom are specifically drawn to Audubon’s focus on birds as indicator species. These assets situate Audubon as a unique player in the climate space and position it to build its political strength and make inroads where few other organizations can.
To date, Audubon’s climate program, now in only its sixth year, has centered upon making the scientific case that demonstrates the profound impact of climate on birds and their places, building the bird-climate connection in the minds of Audubon members and others, and beginning to mobilize communities to advocate for policy reform, largely at local and state levels.
As underlying political conditions shift and climate change reform resurfaces on the congressional agenda and gains greater attention within the business community, there is now an opportunity to accelerate Audubon’s work and focus on the Senate in pursuit of effective federal policy change. Audubon intends to seize that opportunity, fostering and leveraging its authentic and large grassroots network in the states towards helping to deliver a Senate majority on major climate legislation.
The recent consultant’s report will serve as a springboard for the VP for Climate to drill down even deeper and concretely articulate Audubon’s climate strategy and success measures in the coming years. It will require close consultation with colleagues, including Board and staff and external stakeholders, and will inevitably call for tough choices about pathways and goals. The strategy will need to clarify how Audubon as a field organization best translates into Audubon as a forceful climate advocate in Washington, working in partnership with National Audubon Society Action Fund. The strategy must be flexible enough to respond nimbly to changing circumstances and opportunities, but also sufficiently clear and directive to ensure the organization as a whole is unified in its approach.
In many ways, the climate strategy will resemble a complex game of chess, with many possible alternate moves at every stage. The VP for Climate must develop a clear map to guide and mobilize the full horsepower of the organization and network toward achieving fundable strategies and concrete victories.
Strengthen operational and managerial capacity
In order to achieve an ambitious set of climate goals, the VP will be expected to bolster Audubon’s internal capacity to deliver on them. At present, Audubon’s operations are not optimized to this end. In such a complex organizational structure, with a significant field presence, decision-making gets dispersed across teams and can seem opaque; resource allocations do not always map to the most relevant states; and disconnection between national and state leadership can inhibit action. Because not all of the 70 Audubon staff who currently focus on climate report up to the Vice President, there is some fragmentation and confusion about authority.
The VP for Climate will play a major role in inspiring, engaging, and leading staff and mobilizing resources across multiple national divisions, field offices, and chapters to ensure that Audubon’s climate program maintains its focus on critical tasks and strategic goals while successfully executing policy campaigns and network building. The VP will advise Audubon’s executive team on how best to structure operations, decision-making, resource allocation, and accountabilities across all the organization’s climate work within and beyond the formal climate program itself. Promoting internal communication and transparency and underscoring consistency of purpose and effort will be essential. Ensuring careful budget planning, strategic resource allocation, effective and timely project management, and meticulous fund stewardship is also essential.
As the most cross-cutting of Audubon’s five core strategic areas, climate change also has implications for the organization’s work on coasts, water, and working lands, with differential impacts by region. The VP for Climate must coordinate closely with the other strategy leads to ensure that the agendas are mutually reinforcing.
Raise and steward funds to support Audubon’s work in climate and serve as a spokesperson on climate change, clean energy, and other policy approaches that reduce carbon.
Since its inception, Audubon’s climate work has generated considerable enthusiasm and support among major individual and institutional donors, and currently is the area of greatest philanthropic investment. The VP will be expected to reinforce and substantially enhance fundraising for Audubon’s climate strategy, working in tandem with the CEO, CCO, COO, and the Chief Development Officer, as well as with members of the Board. It is expected that no less than 25 percent of the VP’s time will be spent on fundraising.
The VP will be a chief spokesperson for Audubon’s climate work and will represent the program to a wide range of stakeholders, including members of its own grassroots network nationwide, NGO and corporate partners, funders, and national, state, and local policy makers.
Serve as a leader in infusing organizational decisions, policies, and programs with values of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Ensure that the climate team embraces these values and is itself increasingly diverse and that Audubon’s strategies consider the impact of climate action on all communities across the country.
In the past ten years, Audubon has made equity, diversity, and inclusion a strategic imperative and made some progress towards increasing the diversity of its staff, board, volunteers, members, and supporters, as well as toward fostering an inclusive network of Audubon centers and chapters in all its communities. But much work remains, and the Vice President for Climate will be a key leader in helping to identify and address barriers to becoming a more inclusive organization that fully represents its stakeholders nationwide. This will be guided by a new EDI professional reporting to the president and joining the executive leadership team.
The VP need not be a birder but must firmly believe in Audubon’s bird-centric mission as a powerful asset to mobilize stakeholders and advance climate legislation.
An ideal candidate will bring many of the following professional experiences and personal attributes:
Although the VP for Climate is expected to be located in Audubon’s DC office, exceptional candidates from other locations will be considered.