Senior Communications Officer

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur FoundationChicago, IL

This position is currently remote but, in future, will require working out of the Chicago office.

About the Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program and the global 100&Change competition, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsive democracy as well as the vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago.

The Foundation is guided by the Just Imperative, a framework that lays out the rationale and the charge to lead with a commitment to justice. The Just Imperative is grounded in the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

To learn more about the Foundation please visit www.macfound.org.

The Communications Team

The Communications team collaborates with program teams and other colleagues across the Foundation to create and implement strategic communications plans that enhance the impact of MacArthur’s work and the work of grantees. The team is responsible for the Foundation’s efforts to communicate with the press, public, and policymakers, including media relations, web and social media efforts, printed materials, and events. The team also provides communications support and advice to MacArthur’s leadership, staff, and grantees. 

The team of nine includes: Managing Director, two Senior Communications Officers, Communications Officer, Content Manager, Senior Digital Communications Associate, Digital Communications Associate, Department Administrator, Communications Associate, and outside consultants/firms, as needed. 

The Senior Communications Officer Position

This position complements a talented team and reports to the Managing Director for Communications, who is a member of the Foundation’s executive leadership team. The role offers the opportunity to work across wide ranging and evolving issue areas and the flexibility to grow skills and knowledge. The Senior Communications Officer also works with the Managing Director on special projects that benefit communications across Foundation programs.

Key Responsibilities

Strategy Leadership & Implementation

  • Serve as lead communications strategist for assigned program areas (to be determined based on successful candidate’s interests and expertise), using strategic communications to enhance grantmaking impact and increase the Foundation’s positive reputation.
  • Create new tools, approaches, and protocols to meet Foundation’s communications needs (for example: develop and institutionalize best practices for program team and communications officer collaboration; design approach for evaluating/reflecting on program-communications activities; generate protocol for representing past work on Foundation website).

Internal Initiatives

  • Represent the Communications team on internal working groups and other cross-organization initiatives (for example: strategy lifecycle development, team structure development, Just Imperative Working Group).
  • Spearhead partnerships and projects with other Foundation departments, such as Evaluation, to address mutual concerns and achieve shared goals.
  • Promote and raise awareness among colleagues internally about the services, support, and training provided by the Communications team.

Messaging and Media

  • Provide program staff with communications support and guidance for handling media interviews and crafting public statements.
  • Ensure the work of the Foundation is communicated clearly and thoughtfully to its many audiences.
  • Respond in a timely manner to media inquiries related to assigned program areas.
  • Support Presidential communications, as directed.

External Relations and Reputation Management

  • Work closely with communications counterparts at other foundations engaged in funder collaboratives (such as: Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities and Catalytic Capital Consortium).
  • Protect and enhance the reputation of the Foundation.
  • Manage external consulting firms and assist in program communications and content development on behalf of grantees and other partner organizations.

The Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate is an experienced communications strategist first and foremost, who has a desire to lend her, his, or their skills and expertise to creating positive change in the world. Experience in one or more of MacArthur’s diverse program areas is an asset.

The Senior Communications Officer is an experienced professional who manages communications for a portfolio of MacArthur’s programmatic work; an entrepreneurial and collaborative colleague who helps program teams build and execute effective communications plans that contribute to program goals and overall impact; and, is a results-oriented team player who gets things done.

We are looking for a smart and thoughtful advisor who is also an effective implementor. Communications Officers need the agility and flexibility to pivot between high-level strategy and implementation, as well as an openness to switching between programs and assignments over time.

Collaboration and teamwork are key; this is not an independent contributor role. We seek individuals with breadth in issue and content knowledge and with the intellectual curiosity to learn and engage across various fields. Key to success is the ability to partner with program teams to build and execute strategic communications plans that contribute to program goals and overall impact.

Media relations is also an important skill set; we are looking for demonstrated experience proactively securing coverage and responding to potentially challenging media inquiries. A sophisticated understanding of social media channels and tactics and how these fit into a comprehensive communications strategy is expected.

The ability and experience to write and speak about social challenges in a style that respects the depth and complexity of the issues, and is accessible to a general audience, is critical. The capacity to write effectively for varied audiences and to adjust and adapt style to represent authentic voices is essential.

Our work requires an understanding of and respect for the diversity of communities and grantees with whom we work; we look for candidates who can demonstrate this through personal or professional experience.

Important Personal Attributes for Success

  • Effective, clear, concise communication style; active listener;
  • Superb interpersonal dexterity and self-awareness;
  • Demonstrated flexibility and adaptability;
  • Effective at prioritizing multiple, competing demands, and a busy meeting schedule;
  • Collegial, positive attitude, and a team orientation; and
  • Respectful of others’ time and work needs; proactively keeps others informed; treats colleagues with respect and courtesy.

Experience we seek includes:

  • Fifteen years of full-time experience working in strategic communications, preferably for social impact;
  • A track record of success in developing and executing comprehensive communications strategies, preferably in complex, intellectually charged work environments;
  • Work in or with the nonprofit sector and an understanding of the sector’s role in social change;
  • Responding to challenging media inquiries and proactively securing coverage; and,
  • Significant experience writing and speaking about social challenges and public issues in a style that respects their depth and complexity and is accessible to a well-educated general audience.

To be Considered

Please submit your resume and a thoughtful cover letter expressing your passion for the mission and fit for the role below. Letters may be addressed to Sarah Meyer. Materials received on or before December 1st will be given priority.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and we actively seek a diverse staff. We benefit as individuals, and the work is better because of our staff’s diverse backgrounds, viewpoints, and lived experiences. We value diversity at all levels, and we continually challenge ourselves to reflect this value in our actions. Diversity includes but is not limited to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identify, socio-economic status, experience, ability and disability, age, religion, geography or national origin, ideology, perspective, and more.

The search for a Senior Communications Officer is being assisted by a team from GoodCitizen: 

Melissa Merritt
Principal
206.792.4300
melissa@goodcitizen.com

Sarah Meyer
Vice President
206.792.4221
sarah@goodcitizen.com

Celene Haque
Senior Associate
206.462.6189
celene@goodcitizen.com