The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation (“MRBF”), a private, regional foundation based in Winston-Salem and supporting grantee-partners in 11 states in the Southeast, including Appalachia, is seeking an Executive Director. With assets of approximately $180 million and a grant-making portfolio of over $7 million (2013), MRBF pursues a mission to move people and places out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice. MRBF is highly valued and regarded as an innovative funder and philanthropic thought-leader by grantees and peer foundations alike.
The Executive Director’s position at MRBF offers an exciting and unparalleled leadership opportunity for a dynamic, hard working, creative individual. The Foundation is facing changes that require vision, strategic acumen, and diligence. These changes include external changes in the region, internal changes within the foundation, and changes within philanthropy as a sector.
The South as a region is undergoing tremendous economic, political, and demographic change that will result in shifts of power, influence, and priorities. MRBF, led by its Executive Director, must anticipate and get ahead of these changes in order to advance its mission under new circumstances. This is a strategic challenge that requires a lot of data, intense consultation among MRBF’s stakeholders, some intuition, and even courage. This evolution within the region makes the Southeast an exciting place to be working on social and economic change for the foreseeable future. To start, the Executive Director will have to understand how grantee-partners are engaged in this work in the region, and learn from Foundation staff and these partners how the Foundation can harness social, economic, political, and demographic change to do the best job possible in “moving people and places out of poverty” in the region. The Executive Director’s success will depend largely on her/his accessibility, hard work, and ability to “speak the language of the South,” which is informed by its history of race relations, uneven economic development and wide political and social divides.
The Foundation itself will be experiencing significant change as it concludes its current ten-year plan in 2014, develops its next strategic plan, and as the Board incorporates the next generation of Babcock family members and non-family, community-based leaders into its ranks. Boards develop group dynamics that change as members exit and enter, and managing those dynamics requires an engaged, sensitive, and wise leader. The Foundation is strong and well managed and nothing currently needs to be “fixed.” However, the development of the next strategic plan after a careful assessment of the successes and failures over the past decade will require a lot of effort and good judgment on behalf of the Executive Director.
The staff, which was largely recruited and mentored by a very successful chief executive, who served the Foundation for 19 years (1993-2012), is eager to have a strong leader to guide the foundation’s strategic direction and help staff succeed. The Executive Director will add value to staff work through facilitation of organizational learning and amplification of MRBF’s work in the field of philanthropy. Aligning all the human and financial resources of the Foundation is the particular responsibility of the Executive Director to provide consistency and coherence across its place-based strategies. The Executive Director provides the connective tissue among the staff as well as between the staff and the Board.
Finally, the philanthropic sector is also changing, with the availability of a more robust philanthropic toolbox and opportunities to build new partnerships across the nonprofit, business and government sectors. The next Executive Director has the opportunity to continue MRBF’s leadership as a model for a values-driven, impact-focused, place-based foundation that seeks long-term system change to benefit low-wealth communities. MRBF’s innovative network officer staffing model and its work in mission investing, particularly program-related investments, have made it a leader in philanthropy. Its deep knowledge of the Southeast region has made MRBF a valuable partner to state and regional philanthropic networks in the South and to national foundations seeking an experienced partner to understand investment opportunities in the region.
The Executive Director should be prepared to continue MRBF’s track record of leading and sharing lessons with philanthropic peers and of leveraging additional investment to advance social and economic justice in the region.
The overarching challenge and opportunity for the Executive Director of MRBF is in finding the appropriate balance in addressing these interconnected aspects of change described above. Finding a way to concurrently address all three challenges by using them to inform each other requires creativity and wisdom. For example, introducing new Board members into the Foundation’s work might be facilitated by learning from them how circumstances have changed for their generation, which in turn can guide the formulation of the new strategic plan. These opportunities, especially the opportunity to combine and balance the internal, external and philanthropic sector changes make this a unique and exciting opportunity for a deeply committed and energetic leader.
Tim McFeeley or Kahn Lee
1300 19th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
Apply via our website: www.imsearch.com/5208
Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer, and is dedicated to the goal of building a culturally diverse and pluralistic staff committed to working in a multicultural environment.