About The Ford Family Foundation
A national leader in rural philanthropy, The Ford Family Foundation is a private foundation benefiting rural communities in Oregon and Siskiyou County, California. In 1957, Kenneth W. Ford & Hallie E. Ford originally established the Foundation to give back to the timber communities of southwest Oregon. During its formative years, the Foundation concentrated its support on three counties in Oregon and California: Douglas, Coos, and Siskiyou. Over time, the Foundation’s size and scope increased to include a statewide focus on rural communities while remaining committed to the original three-county region. One of the largest grantmaking foundations in Oregon, The Ford Family Foundation currently has assets in excess of $1 billion, an annual budget of approximately $45 million, a seven-member board of directors, 43 employees and two office locations (headquarters in Roseburg, Oregon and scholarship office in Eugene, Oregon).
Foundation Mission & Vision
The Foundation’s mission is Successful Citizens and Vital Rural Communities, reflecting a belief that children in rural Oregon and Siskiyou County should have the family, educational and community supports they need to become successful adults. The Foundation is targeting all of its philanthropic tools – grants, scholarships, community building, convening, research, and strengthening statewide systems – to improving the wellbeing of children, families and communities in the region.
In support of its mission of Successful Citizens, the Foundation invests in initiatives, partnerships, and grants focused on the people who live in rural communities. Current efforts and focus areas include early childhood development, youth development and education, child abuse prevention and intervention, postsecondary preparation and success, scholarships for college students, and career readiness for postsecondary students.
In support of its mission of Vital Rural Communities, the Foundation invests in initiatives, partnerships, and grants focused on rural communities. Current efforts and focus areas include community capacity building, leadership development, community-based efforts to improve local conditions, workforce and business development, rural community capital projects, and rural economic vitality.
Located in Southwestern Oregon, Roseburg is a part of the Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua. The Umpqua River, which gives the region its name, meanders for 111 miles through valleys and mountains before emptying into the Pacific. The community is nestled in a lush, forested region approximately an hour from Eugene to the north (home to the University of Oregon) and Medford and Ashland to the south. There are myriad recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts within the Roseburg area and nearby: Oregon beaches are to the west, Crater Lake National Park is to the east, and the region is famous for hiking and fishing. Theater lovers from throughout the world flock to Ashland, home of the world renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the wines of the region are becoming world-famous. Roseburg, with a population of approximately 24,000, is the county seat of Douglas County, a county about the size of the state of Connecticut with a population of approximately 110,000 people.
Reporting to the President & CEO and serving as a key member of the leadership team, the Director of Communications will be responsible for the full spectrum of the Foundation’s communications activities. This is an exciting moment to join the Foundation, a leader in rural philanthropy, as it strategically positions itself to be a more visible and vocal advocate for rural communities in Oregon and across the nation. This is a new position in the Foundation.
This first-ever Director of Communications will play a pivotal role in the next phase of the Foundation’s evolution. For the past twenty years, the Foundation’s communications work has been overseen and performed largely by a consultant (recently retired). In 2019, a Communications Specialist was hired to establish internal capacity and enhance digital media presence. The opportunity for the new Director of Communications is to work with colleagues across the Foundation to co-create a strong, central communications function aligned with the Foundation’s new strategic plan. The goal for this new position is to leverage the Foundation’s significant expertise and relationships throughout the region to inform and influence leaders and policy makers on the range of critical issues affecting rural communities. It will also help elevate the voice of rural residents, organizations and communities to represent and advocate for issues that are core to their wellbeing. Finally, it will help rural residents across the region better understand the mission and vision of The Ford Family Foundation.
Lead Communications Vision and Strategy
- Develop a powerful vision for the Foundation’s communications function.
- Design and actively manage an integrated, organization-wide communications strategy including messaging that complements and supports a wide range of program areas and audiences (including rural residents, policy makers, local communities, peer funders, and the Foundation’s board of directors).
- Develop systems to deliver information in a variety of digital and analog forms (website, social media, published reports, internal intranet, speeches, conference presentations, community gatherings) and through multiple channels in a regular cadence both proactively and opportunistically.
- Serve as key partner with President, other Foundation staff and Board of Directors in developing the Foundation’s role as a “rural champion” to amplify the voices of rural citizens and communities, enabling rural stories to be shared and heard. For example, support grantee and community partner communications to create powerful stories that increase their capacity to advocate for rural issues.
- Co-develop Foundation strategies to promote policy change that affects rural communities through data, research, advocacy, and policy analysis, and design the communications strategy that should accompany that work.
Manage Foundation’s Voice and Evolve the Brand
- Evolve the Foundation’s brand, positioning and voice focusing on the importance of ensuring vital rural communities in Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif.
- Co-create organizational practices to ensure the Foundation’s brand, identity, and values are consistently reflected in all external and internal communications.
- Provide strategic counsel, support, and training to the program and executive teams on communication activities such as social media, speaking engagements, and media interviews.
- Contribute to internal communications activities that facilitate the Foundation’s ongoing employees engagement.
- Partner with the Learning and Knowledge Management team, which has been holding the communications function for the Foundation, and determine how best to utilize the research and knowledge from that team’s work to promote the Foundation’s communication strategy.
Media and External Relations
- Build and manage relationships with media outlets and reporters; pitch stories and respond to media inquiries.
- Manage crisis communications and oversee Foundation’s crisis communications policy and procedures.
- Manage and oversee external vendor relations for public relations, videography, infographics and graphic design.
- Represent the Foundation externally with media, policy makers, in rural communities, at conferences and other venues.
The Ideal Candidate
The successful candidate for the Director of Communications role will be a proven communications leader responsible for guiding the central communications function in a dynamic and evolving organization. They will have a track record developing and implementing integrated strategic communications programs along with experience building an organization-wide communications function that supports broad, cross-cutting work and knits together the needs of multiple program areas focused on complex social policy issues. A passion for the Foundation’s mission is essential. If that passion is reflected in a demonstrated commitment to rural issues and community-based efforts, and/or a track record of direct experience working in rural communities in Oregon or elsewhere in the U.S., that would be a distinct advantage.
The ideal candidate will be a skilled communications strategist who can both set vision and execute strategy effectively, using internal and external resources. Anticipating that the Director of Communications will join the Foundation during a shift in overall strategy and associated work, candidates should be creative, adaptable and comfortable with ambiguity.
The successful candidate will possess a deep understanding of issue-based communications and a demonstrated track record for designing and implementing communications programs that achieve measurable issue impact. The confidence, professionalism and sophistication that is required to be a Foundation spokesperson, media relations expert and sage counsel to the president and trustees should be balanced by humility and a commitment to the Foundation’s team. The Foundation also seeks a player-coach who will actively collaborate with colleagues to leverage the collective expertise of team members.
The ideal candidate will be an accomplished, compelling storyteller, exceptional writer and gifted communicator who is intellectually curious and has the facility to write and speak about complex social issues in a manner that inspires action. Facility with state-of-the-art communications technologies and practices, including website management and social media is also required.
Outstanding interpersonal skills are key. An approachable style, humility, compassion for the rural communities being served, and the ability to connect with diverse stakeholders in a culturally sensitive and empathic manner are vital attributes. A commitment to supporting the nuances of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in rural settings is a must. Candidates should demonstrate good judgment and discretion and be at ease in an external facing role. The successful candidate will need to thrive in a collegial, and team-oriented environment where a willingness to “roll up your sleeves” to get the job done is central to the culture.
A minimum of 15 years in the communications field, including a mix of agency and in-house leadership positions is ideal. Previous experience in philanthropy or nonprofits (or managing their communications as an external partner) is highly valued. Strategic issue-based communications experience is an advantage, as is previous experience using communications to support advocacy. A current understanding of rural contexts, issues, and challenges is essential.
Demonstrated practice developing, executing and measuring successful, integrated communications plans using a mix of traditional and new strategies and tools is required. The proven ability to work in a dynamic and growing organization is essential. Outstanding verbal and written communication skills are imperative.
The position is based in Roseburg, Oregon and residency in Douglas County is required and non-negotiable. While Foundation staff have been primarily working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are increasingly returning to the office and it is expected that a full re-opening will take place in late summer/early fall. Approximately 10% of time will involve travel within Oregon and Siskiyou County, California. Additional national travel to attend conferences and meetings is anticipated.
To Be Considered
The Ford Family Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and all qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals to perform essential functions. Please submit your resume and cover letter expressing your interest in the position and fit for the role via the Become a Candidate button below. Letters may be addressed to Sarah Meyer.