New Haven Land Trust and New Haven Farms have recently merged into one organization and are seeking a full-time Executive Director.
New Haven Land Trust-New Haven Farms partners with people to care for our urban landscape so all people discover, access, and enjoy the lands and waters that provide food, health, and life.
This newly merged organization unites two nonprofits that have been leaders and innovators of New Haven’s urban environmental movement. The New Haven Land Trust (NHLT), Connecticut’s first urban land trust, has served the community for nearly 40 years by acquiring and stewarding over 80 acres of nature preserves city-wide and by supporting 55 community gardens throughout New Haven’s diverse neighborhoods. NHLT has grown significantly over the last five years to include programs for young environmental entrepreneurs and a marine and coastal exploration summer camp on Long Island Sound. New Haven Farms (NHF) burst onto the scene seven years ago with its innovative Farm-Based Wellness Program that partners with medical centers to engage people with diet-related chronic disease risk factors in planting, growing, and harvesting at their seven farms across New Haven.
Both organizations have a growing commitment to racial equity and community leadership and have taken strides in cultivating community ownership among its stakeholders. A large part of both organizations’ work, especially New Haven Farms, takes place in bi-lingual settings, with Spanish as the predominant language. The merged organization synergizes closely aligned missions, values, programming, and diverse support networks into a powerhouse leader for advancing engagement and stewardship of urban nature as a resource for healthy people and communities.
The board of this newly formed organization now seeks a courageous leader and enthusiastic fundraiser who can assemble the many combined strengths of NHLT-NHF to launch a new phase of development and growth. This is a tremendous opportunity for an innovative nonprofit leader to grow an organization that is working at the intersection of urban agriculture, public health, food access, participatory community development, environmental education and stewardship, and youth development. The successful candidate will be passionate about these expressions of the mission, will be able to guide the organization in implementing practices that ensure racial and economic equity, and will help transition it into an organization that is primarily led by the communities it serves. She/he/they will also have significant experience and success in raising funds from diverse sources and advancing the strategic direction and operations of a not-for-profit organization with multiple, interlocking program areas.
About New Haven Land Trust-New Haven Farms
These two organizations have been working closely together over a number of years and co-located their offices in 2018. A merger was discussed for the last several years and the two organizations decided to formally initiate the process with the legal combination scheduled for January 1, 2020. In the midst of this, New Haven Land Trust’s executive director, who had significantly grown the organization over the last six years, announced that he would step down from his post to pursue other interests. The Land Trust’s board engaged an interim executive director to lead the organization until the merger was completed and a new executive hired. The merger process has been smooth and supported by all, including staff and board members, program participants, and community stakeholders.
The new organization offers a platform of innovative programs that coactively impact the interrelated spheres of urban agriculture, public health, participatory community development, youth entrepreneurship, and environmental education and stewardship.
The seven farms and more than fifty community gardens managed by NHLT-NHF have a significant urban agricultural footprint in New Haven. The farms and gardens promote community development and public health, most notably through the innovative Farm-Based Wellness Program, which engages people with diet-related chronic disease risk factors in gardening and learning about nutrition and cooking healthy meals at one of the seven farms. All graduates of this program are invited to grow food in their own garden plots at one of the community gardens as part of the Incubator Garden Program, and exemplary graduates of the program become Community Health Ambassadors in their own communities through training in leadership and behavior change methodologies. Community Garden members are encouraged to serve on the Community Garden Committee, which supports the Garden Manager in stewarding the health of both the gardens and the community of growers.
Equally important is the organization’s focus on accessing the natural environment through education, land conservation and stewardship, recreation, and youth development and entrepreneurship. Its innovative Growing Entrepreneurs Program works with New Haven high school students to develop small-business ventures with a positive impact on the environment and the New Haven community. The organization manages six nature preserves, featuring important natural resources and habitats located throughout New Haven. It holds field trips and guided nature walks in the preserves to connect people to the abundance of nature in the city and reinforce the importance of conservation in urban areas. Schooner is a highly successful summer camp program that brings kids ages six to fourteen to the Connecticut shoreline to learn about the rich coastal habitat of the Long Island Sound through shore exploration and sailing. Fifty percent of all campers utilize a scholarship to attend the camp, and over the past two summers, more than half of the sailing program campers were experiencing sailing for the first time.
The organization is supported by a staff of nine full-time and three part-time members. It is governed by a 19-member board of directors comprised of community leaders from the fields of health, law, finance, public policy, non-profit management, and business. While the board is diverse along the dimension of gender and includes a member from their programs, it is committed to expanding racial, ethnic, and other dimensions of diversity to more fully reflect the community that it serves. The organization has a budget of just under $1M, with nearly $350,000 in reserves. Its revenue is generated from a mix of individual, corporate and family foundation, and corporate support, as well as earned revenue through Schooner and the sale of food through a farm stand and restaurant contracts.
Strategic Opportunities and Challenges
New Haven Land Trust-New Haven Farms faces an exciting challenge as it establishes itself as a new, integrated organization. The executive director will have a unique opportunity to leverage the combined strengths of two organizations: a dedicated and competent staff team that has already begun to collaborate; innovative programs that, with further integration, promise to increase impact and reach; and a positive reputation and standing in the community. This positions the organization to cultivate a distinctive array of urban nature programming that integrates related components of health, food access, and environmental sustainability while building a culture and operation that embodies its commitment to racial equity and community ownership. The community connections that each organization brings to the table will increase its reach and enhance fundraising efforts, and the broader, integrated mission is likely to attract larger grants as well as a diverse range of individual donors. Together these strengths create opportunities for growth, expansion, and new innovative directions.
Challenges and Priorities of the New Executive Director
Resource development for the expanded organization will require a great deal of focus and work. Though the new funding opportunities mentioned above are real, long-term fiscal strength will require appealing to funders beyond the city of New Haven. The board has approved the creation of a development director staff position. A first priority of the new executive will be to hire an accomplished, seasoned person to that position and then work collaboratively with her/him/them to develop and implement a strategic fundraising plan.
While NHLT-NHF has a growing commitment to racial equity and community leadership, it is primarily a white-led organization serving communities that are primarily people of color, in a city whose population has a roughly equal ratio of white, black, and Latinx. The new executive is being asked to lead the organization through a process that shifts the culture, practices, staffing and board composition, and other structures to ensure racial and economic equity and to create a community-owned and -led organization. She/he/they will be supported in this by a board and staff team that is already committed to this shift.
Both organizations play a key role in shaping New Haven’s urban agriculture arena. The combined mission has the potential for even greater impact. The two organizations have been on the central planning team to develop a Community Food Systems Project that would include a commercial kitchen, food project incubator, and space for urban agriculture; as a merged organization, it is positioned to be a stronger player in this project and in the food system arena overall. A strong standing in the Community Food Systems Project will increase the organization’s visibility and attractiveness to larger funding opportunities outside of New Haven, which will be critical to a long-term funding model.
The new executive director must think, act and relate not only strategically, but with community accountability and environmental impact in mind, to position the organization in the New Haven landscape, to expand current programs into new opportunity areas while maintaining financial and resource balance. In collaboration with the board and key stakeholders, she/he/they will initiate and support a process that will set a mindful plan for growth, impact, and sustainability and a clear path for transition to a community-owned and -led organization with concrete milestones to demonstrate progress and a reasonable timeline for effecting these changes.
Additional Top Priorities for the New Executive
- Maintaining a collaborative work environment that has a strong team culture of collaboration and mutual support and respect;
- Working with staff to develop and implement new systems, work procedures, and infrastructure that support an array of integrated programs;
- Managing effectively and efficiently the daily operations;
- Supporting/facilitating the development of the newly merged board of directors;
- Maintaining a strong public presence within the city to advance the organization’s mission and positive profile.
Profile of the Ideal Candidate
The Executive Director of New Haven Land Trust-New Haven Farms will be able to build on the organization’s many strengths to position it for growth and sustainability, lead it in innovative directions, and transform its culture and practices to be authentically living the values of racial equity and community leadership/ownership. She/he/they will be passionate about the organization’s mission and will deeply understand the dynamic relationships among food, community, agriculture, health, and environmental education and stewardship. This position requires a leader with high emotional intelligence and excellent communication and public speaking skills; a relationship-builder who can genuinely connect with people and is astute at building strategic partnerships; and a person with the awareness, capacity, and humility to cultivate inter-racial and inter-cultural groups and settings.
Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience, as well as at least five years of experience in a leadership role in a similar size organization in a field related to this organization’s mission.
- Passionate advocate for the mission
The ideal candidate will have demonstrated passion for urban nature, including urban agriculture, community development, public health, food access, and environmental education and stewardship, and will be able to translate that passion into a persuasive and compelling story. She/he/they will be able to ignite passion in others.
- Demonstrated commitment to racial equity and shifting power
The ideal candidate will have worked and/or lived experience in communities of color and low-income communities. He/she/they will understand the role that systemic racism plays in our country and have the experience and knowledge necessary to transform a white-led organization into doing racial equity work and ensuring that every sphere of the organization reflects this commitment.
- Demonstrated respect for and awareness of different cultures
As the organization works primarily in multicultural communities, the ideal candidate will either possess lived experience or have the learned knowledge and skills necessary to respectfully and genuinely engage with individuals of all experiences and backgrounds. An individual who is multi-lingual, especially in Spanish, and/or multicultural will be strongly preferred.
- Demonstrated core values of integrity and honesty
The ideal candidate will be open-minded, approachable, and fair, with an intuitive understanding of when to give credit to others while exercising effective leadership.
- Strong emotional intelligence and relational skills
The ideal candidate will have keen listening skills, empathy, compassion, self-awareness, and a sense of humility. He/she/they will be warm, approachable, genuine, and able to build relationships with people of different races, cultures, styles, and professional levels.
Skills and Experience
- Experienced nonprofit manager
The ideal candidate has significant professional experience in supervision and management of staff, in administering a multi-source budget, and in efficiently and strategically aligning and maximizing resources.
- Respectful, inclusive and collaborative leader
The ideal candidate is able to inspire and develop staff and will create a climate of trust, respect and a collaborative team culture that welcomes and values inclusion and diversity. She/he/they will foster leadership among staff and program/community members and create space and pathways for them to step into ever-greater leadership roles.
- A strategic thinker, thoughtful visionary, and community collaborator
The ideal candidate is skilled at working collaboratively in setting and communicating strategic direction and can hold a vision while being able to identify and respond sensitively and creatively to growth opportunities and community circumstances. She/he/they leverage opportunities and support for initiatives with an innovative and cooperative approach to solving problems and overcoming challenges.
- Demonstrated success in diversifying and expanding revenue streams
The ideal candidate will have demonstrated success in fund development and earned income streams/social enterprise and will have the ability to lead the board and staff in executing a comprehensive fundraising plan and strategic revenue model.
- Exceptional communication skills
The ideal candidate will be able to passionately articulate the organization’s mission and deliver compelling presentations to public, private, and diverse audiences.
- Experience working with boards of directors
The ideal candidate will be skilled in working effectively in partnership with boards of directors to carry out the mission of the organization, set strategic direction, and build a board that reflects the community that the organization works in, as well as an organizational culture of diversity, equity, inclusiveness, and belonging.
- Experience working with local and grass-roots communities
Knowledge of and experience in the New Haven Community is preferred; or demonstrated ability to gain understanding and engage local communities in meaningful ways.
Candidate Guidelines and Additional Information
Transition Consultant Catherine Bradshaw with TSNE Mission Works has been exclusively retained for this search.
Electronic submissions are preferred.
Please include a resume and a cover letter that includes a description of how your qualifications and experience match New Haven Land Trust-New Haven Farms’ needs. All submissions will be acknowledged. All inquiries and submissions are strictly confidential. Submissions of candidacy will be accepted until the position is filled. In-person interviews are expected to begin in early December. Some interviews are expected to be held in a bi-lingual setting; a translator will be provided if needed.
Selected candidate will undergo thorough reference checks as well as a criminal history background check. The results of this background check will not automatically eliminate a candidate from consideration. Due to the need to work with children and other vulnerable populations, a criminal history background check will be conducted on the final candidate prior to beginning employment, and opportunity will be given during the process for candidates to address their record should they wish to.
Salary is commensurate with experience, within the framework of the organization’s annual operating budget. Total compensation includes a competitive benefits package with health insurance and a generous paid time off program.
New Haven Land Trust-New Haven Farms is an equal opportunity employer and complies with applicable state and federal fair employment practices laws. New Haven Land Trust-New Haven Farms does not discriminate against employees or applicants because of race, ethnicity, skin color, religion, national origin, citizenship, ancestry, age, disability (including present or past mental, learning, or physical disability), sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, genetic information, medical condition or illness, marital status, veteran status, political affiliation, or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal, state, or local laws.