Boston, MA

Executive Director, The Hyams Foundation

The Organization
The Hyams Foundation (Hyams), a highly respected private, independent foundation committed to increasing economic, racial, and social justice and power within low-income communities in Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts, seeks a dynamic new Executive Director. From 2000 until 2015, Hyams has invested more than $81.3 million in grants and has played a vital role in Boston’s philanthropic community.

The Foundation has long been known for its deep knowledge and engagement of local neighborhoods and communities, as well as its commitment to supporting civic engagement, grassroots community organizing, public policy, and leadership development. Hyams stands apart from many other philanthropic organizations because of its fundamental commitment to dismantling persistent, racialized economic disparities, and to building a future in which systems and structures are transformed to create conditions for increased collective well-being that produces equitable power, access, and opportunities and outcomes, regardless of race.

In 2015, Hyams rolled-out a new, ambitious, and focused racial justice strategy which the next Executive Director will refine, implement and extend. Today, Hyams has an endowment of $134 million and an operating budget of $2 million.  In 2016, Hyams will distribute $5.8 million in grants to local nonprofit organizations. The Foundation also makes Program Related Investments (PRIs) from its endowment and is engaged in market rate mission investing. The Executive Director reports to a ten-member Board and oversees a staff of seven based in Boston, Massachusetts.

This is an exciting opportunity to provide creative vision and leadership to a vital philanthropic organization well positioned for continued impact.  This is also a critical time in the United States when leadership is urgently needed to advance tangible and actionable strategies to create greater racial, economic, and social justice in communities across the country.

The Executive Director must bring a demonstrated commitment to Hyams’ racial justice strategy and institutional values, along with a record of leadership and implementation in a philanthropic or nonprofit context. This role calls for experience working at a grassroots level with low-income populations and communities of color, and involvement with policy and advocacy initiatives. A track record of building partnerships in the field is critical, as well as possessing strong personnel, financial, and management acumen. The Executive Director will be an important public spokesperson and must have outstanding communication skills. Experience reporting to a governing board is strongly preferred, and grantmaking experience would be an asset.

Isaacson, Miller, a national retained executive search firm based in Boston, is assisting the Hyams Foundation in this recruitment. All inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed in strict confidence to the search firm.

Position Overview
Hyams, with its 95-year history, is a private, independent foundation with a mission to increase economic, racial and social justice and power within low-income communities in Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts. In 1921, Godfrey M. Hyams, a Boston metallurgist, engineer and financier, established a trust to ensure his wealth would be used for charitable purposes in perpetuity. Throughout his life, Mr. Hyams maintained a simple style of living; he chose not to seek public attention and did most of his philanthropic giving anonymously. Since the establishment of the Foundation, Hyams Trustees have been given a broad mandate, and an opportunity to interpret the Foundation’s mission and vision over time.

Since its inception, Hyams has played an important and critical role in Boston’s philanthropic community. While the focus of the Foundation has always been to address local civic needs, its emphasis has changed over time to address evolving community needs. In recent years, the Foundation has focused on identifying and responding to critical social and racial justice issues especially in low-income communities of color. Today, it is known for its deep knowledge and engagement of local neighborhoods and communities.

Hyams also stands apart from other philanthropic organizations because of its fundamental goal to dismantle persistent, racialized economic disparities in Boston and Chelsea, and to build a future in which systems and structures are transformed to create conditions for increased collective well-being and produce equitable power, access, opportunities and outcomes, regardless of race.

The New Racial Justice Strategic Framework

In 2014, the Hyams Board and staff embarked on an extensive strategic planning process to embed racial equity more deeply into the fabric of the Foundation’s work. As part of this effort, the Foundation adopted its own definition of racial justice, applying a structural racial analysis, and identifying the multiple institutions, policies, and actions that have created racial disparities over time. In addition, the Foundation identified three specific racial justice issues of critical importance to Boston and Chelsea which are:

•    Disrupting the “school to prison pipeline”, beginning with decreasing the number of youth of color suspended/expelled/excluded from the Boston and Chelsea public schools.

•    Expanding fair wages and benefits, and improving working conditions, for low income workers.

•    Reforming and adopting land use and institutional policies to advance equitable housing access.

This planning process was an opportunity to go deeper into existing work rather than shift into an entirely new direction. In addition to identifying these three areas, the Foundation recommitted itself to grassroots leadership development, community organizing and institutional policy change as key levers for dismantling persistent, racialized economic disparities.

Hyams also intends to select one especially critical racial justice issue area (or a goal that addresses intersecting areas) for its most intensive level of investment in 2017. The initiative will be supported by grantmaking dollars, capacity-building resources, convenings, communications activities and staff time. The new Executive Director will have the opportunity to lead the process for determining what this pivotal racial justice issue will be.

This deeper new focus on racial justice has shifted the Foundation’s orientation from a direct service and an issues-focused theory of change to one with more emphasis on public policy, community empowerment, and a movement building approach to grantmaking. As a result, the Hyams staff is working in new ways, across issue areas, and with fewer silos.

The official roll out of this strategic plan took place in June 2015, and so far, one grantmaking cycle under this new framework has occurred, with five new grantees identified. The implementation of this strategic plan by the new Executive Director provides a tremendous opportunity to take Hyams to the next important stage in its development and impact in the community.  In partnership with local leaders and community stakeholders, Hyams has a vital and important role to play in Boston and Chelsea, in creating a new model for this racial justice work.


Over the years, Hyams has become distinctive in the philanthropic funding world because of its authentic commitment to working in close partnership with grantees and simultaneously being cognizant of the power dynamics that exist between funder and grantee. At the Foundation, staff takes the time to understand deeply the issues within local communities and neighborhoods, and brings those perspectives and ideas to the table. Program officers are accessible, offer honest feedback and advice, and the Foundation plays a convening and networking role within the community. Hyams also has a long-standing commitment to funding organizations over the long term because it recognizes that making systemic social change takes time and that nonprofit organizations require support as they develop new capacities and/or grapple with internal and external challenges.

In 2014, before the new strategic plan was rolled out, grants were distributed through three major program areas: civic engagement ($1,984,537), affordable housing ($1,514,000), and teen development ($1,385,326) as well as through the Special Opportunities Fund ($400,025). The Special Opportunities Fund has enabled Hyams to try out new ideas or support a small number of grants that fall outside of the Foundation’s specific grantmaking guidelines but still support public policy efforts focused on addressing racial disparities. For grantmaking in 2016, funding will continue to support civic engagement and community organizing as well as racial justice related policy change that impacts affordable housing and low-income teens.

For FY15 (ending in 12.31.15), Hyams paid out 157 grants totaling $5.5 million and made PRI payments of $275,000. The average grant was $39,000 with the dollar amount ranging from $5,000 (technical assistance) to $125,000 (special funding initiative). The grants budget for FY16 is $5.8 million.

Hyams has three grantmaking cycles each year, and Trustees review and approve each grantmaking docket. Currently, there is an open invitation for organizations to apply to become grantees. In the future, there is an opportunity for Hyams to reach out in a strategic way to new organizations that have not historically been funded by the Foundation. Hyams will also spend the next couple of years tracking and mapping grantmaking under this new racial justice strategy, and will evaluate and assess the progress and outcomes of these grants. Some very preliminary work around assessment tools and how best to determine progress and impact has already begun.

The incoming Executive Director will also have the option of leading a process to consider recommending larger grants and/or making multi-year grants. Down the road, there are also opportunities to streamline the grantmaking processes and to continue its legacy of partnering with other funders in an effort to leverage resources and address critical issues in the Boston and Chelsea communities.

Public Policy and Strategic Communications

To advance Hyams’ overarching goal of eradicating racialized economic disparities, the Foundation has been committed to, and intends to be even more invested in, influencing larger public policies and systems. To support these public policy efforts, Hyams has developed a Public Policy/Community Organizing Framework to guide its work. Moving forward, the Foundation intends to support grantee organizations that are led by, and/or provide meaningful participation of individuals who are directly affected by these policies. Since public policy change can take a long time, Hyams is also committed to supporting the capacity of policy-focused grantees on a long-term basis so that a continuing advocacy presence can exist while seizing opportunities for action when they arise.

While Hyams has always led with its mission first, its leadership style has been to push and lead quietly from behind the scenes, thus allowing the grantees to take center stage. However, with the rollout of this new racial justice strategy and feedback from the grantee community, there is an opportunity for Hyams to bring the full weight of the Foundation to these critical issues and to become more external and visible in its leadership as a way of more deeply supporting grassroots advocacy and policy efforts. This public advocate role for Hyams could very well take the form of public speaking or writing op-ed pieces to add more credibility and power behind these community issues. The new Executive Director will have an opportunity to step into this more public role, and moving forward, Hyams is well positioned to think about strategic communications for the Foundation as a whole, and for the grantee community.

Mission Related Investing

For over 25 years, Hyams has relied on its endowment to invest directly in solutions to social problems that are consistent with the Foundation’s programmatic goals and priorities. The primary way that Hyams has used its assets for charitable purposes has been by making Program Related Investments (PRIs). Past PRIs have helped revitalize low-income neighborhoods, have spurred the creation of affordable housing, and have addressed specific housing needs such as those created by the mortgage foreclosure crisis and transit oriented development.

Hyams is also involved in mission-related investing which produces a market rate of return, while also achieving a charitable goal consistent with its mission, or is involved in mission-driven activities that are related to its market rate investing. To date, direct market rate investments have included a $5 million investment in Community Capital Management as a more targeted housing related bond investment, as well as the selection of the Boston Private Bank to handle the Foundation’s cash, based on the bank’s positive Community Reinvestment Act ranking due to local affordable housing investments and services to nonprofits.

Recently, the Foundation has been working closely with investment consultants to increase the number of women and minority money managers in its portfolio, and has also been investing in companies that are owned by people of color and/or have high organizational diversity representation, while ensuring no compromise on the rate of return. These efforts to align Hyams’ financial resources with mission and shareholder engagement are a corner stone of the new racial equity strategy and the allocation of resources to this focused strategy are expected to grow over time.

Governance, Finance and Organization

Hyams is governed by a majority people of color 10-member Board of Trustees. The Board is drawn from a range of fields and backgrounds, and Trustees work intensively, collaboratively, and closely with the Executive Director and staff in setting the direction of the Foundation and in overseeing the focus and impact of its grantmaking. In addition to participating in seven board meetings each year, each Trustee is a member of at least one of the three committees: Governance, Program, and Investment/Finance, and committee assignments are expected to rotate over time. Hyams also has strong governance and accountability policies and procedures in place.

As of December 2015, Hyams’ total assets were $134 million. The endowment is managed by the Investment/Finance Committee of the board and the staff, and is assisted by the Foundation’s investment consultants, Cambridge Associates. The Foundation has an annual operating budget of $2 million and a staff of eight.

Leadership Transition

After almost 30 years at Hyams, including the past 26 years as Executive Director, Beth Smith plans to leave the Foundation by the end of 2016. Beth has been an extraordinary leader for Hyams, leading through many challenges and remarkable, systemic change, both within the foundation and in the community.  Most recently, she led the Board and staff through this exciting and ambitious new strategic planning process, and the Foundation is well positioned to make even more of a difference in the future of Boston and Chelsea.

Beth’s successor at Hyams will inherit a focused and vibrant organization, which is well positioned for its next era of leadership. Board and staff alike are proud of all that has been accomplished, and equally excited to build on the racial justice strategy recently inaugurated. This leadership transition offers an exciting opportunity for the new Executive Director to be creative, take risks, and implement the new strategic plan in partnership with the Board and staff.


The broad objectives for the Executive Director are as follows:

  • Provide strategic and creative leadership to the Hyams Board and staff in the refinement, articulation, and extension of this newly inaugurated racial justice strategy. The incoming leader must be willing to embrace innovation and take well calculated risks.
  • Serve as an articulate, public, and visible spokesperson for Hyams, circulating widely, to raise the visibility of the work of the grantees and of the Foundation as a whole.
  • Ensure that Hyams continues to increase its impact within the public policy arena as a key lever for effecting change, while working to develop the role of strategic communications internally and externally.
  • Continue to support strong working relationships with grantees, ensuring a high level of mutual trust with effective channels of communication. Support current grantees in assessing their readiness and capacity for program implementation and seek out new grantees to enrich community dialogue and impact.
  • Maintain, cultivate, and nurture current and new collaborative and strategic relationships with community partners, non-profit organizations, the public sector, affinity groups, and philanthropy.
  • Work with the Trustees to support their board and committee activities, while providing educational opportunities, and cultivating and nurturing the next generation of leadership on the board.
  • Retain, develop and attract the strongest possible staff and support them in the development of their respective roles. Draw upon the considerable staff expertise already in place and assess what additional staffing may be required in the Foundation’s next phase of work.
  • Ensure implementation of trustee policies and decisions regarding the Foundation’s   endowment in conjunction with outside counsel.  Develop and oversee annual budgets and the monitoring of expenditures.
  • Continue to develop and increase mission related investing efforts to enhance the reach and impact of the Foundation’s program strategies.  Support the Board and staff in assessing both investment opportunities and risk tolerance.
  • Guide the Foundation’s efforts to use data and key indicators to monitor how Hyams is progressing around its new racial justice strategy and to seek clarity on evaluation, impact and outcomes.
  • Cultivate and value the facilitative, process-oriented and collaborative work culture and continue to move Hyams in the direction of more operational effectiveness, efficiency, and streamlining.


For this pivotal role, an ideal candidate will bring the following professional experiences and personal attributes:

  • Life experience working with diverse grassroots communities across race, class, ethnic, and geographic boundaries; and a demonstrated commitment to advocating for social, racial and economic justice.
  • A track record of providing bold, strategic, and visionary leadership of an organization or program, as well as implementing that vision and translating knowledge and theory into action.
  • A record of facilitative and effective management as a senior leader in a mission-driven organization, ideally during a time of opportunity and transition.
  • Experience reporting to, or working closely with a governing board of a non-profit or philanthropic organization. An understanding of the staff role in informing, inspiring, and supporting board members.
  • Familiarity with and appreciation of the full range of Hyams’ grantmaking strategies, including civic engagement, community organizing and leadership development, public policy advocacy, strategic communications, mission related investing, and field building activities.
  • A deep respect for the grantee community and knowledge of the importance of being inclusive, responsive and in symbiotic partnership with grantees to achieve greater goals. Familiarity with philanthropy as a field of practice and grantmaking experience (as foundation staff or as a grantee) is ideal.
  • An outgoing, open personality, with strong listening and interpersonal skills and an appetite for public speaking and writing.
  • Demonstrated experience building and sustaining collaborative networks and alliances and working effectively in partnership with community groups, nonprofit organizations, the public sector, and other funders.
  • An understanding of public policy, advocacy, and the political processes, and the role of communities and grassroots nonprofits in driving progress and change.
  • Knowledge of the neighborhoods, institutions and leadership of the Boston and Chelsea communities that Hyams serves, or the willingness and excitement to invest time and energy in becoming familiar with them.
  • A record of building and supporting a positive work environment and a high functioning team, as well as nurturing a collegial spirit. The ability to mentor, delegate, and encourage initiative and independent thinking.
  • Strong skills in financial management, budgeting and planning, and experience or familiarity with investments.
  • An eye for innovation and willingness to challenge conventional thinking and take calculated risks; coupled with a commitment to rigor, accountability, and outcome measurements.
  • Good judgment, and openness to both learning and group process, with the highest level of personal and professional integrity. Good humor in working with Board colleagues, Foundation staff and community grantees.

More information on the Hyams Foundation can be found at:

How To Apply
Resume, with cover letter and list of references, may be emailed in confidence to:Rebecca Swartz, Principal
Donna Cramer, Senior Associate
Isaacson, Miller, 263 Summer Street
Boston, MA, 02110 submission of material is strongly preferred.

The Hyams Foundation is committed to an inclusive work environment and welcomes a diverse pool of candidates in this search.

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