July 22, 2020 – Social sector focused executive search firm Waldron has been enlisted to find the next executive director for the Christensen Fund, a San Francisco-based private foundation. The non-profit supports the Global Indigenous Peoples’ Movement in its efforts to advance the rights and opportunities of stewards of biocultural diversity.
Leading the assignment for the recruitment firm are search director Sarah Meyer, principal Melissa Merritt and search associate Celene Haque.
“This is an exceptional opportunity to lead a foundation at the forefront of supporting and elevating the rights of Indigenous Peoples around the world,” said Waldron. “With its historic focus on biocultural diversity and strong conviction that environmental and cultural stewardship by Indigenous Peoples is the path forward, The Christensen Fund is a philanthropic trailblazer.”
The new executive director will join the fund at a pivotal moment and will help shape the trajectory of the group’s new strategy, said the search firm. The individual will be expected to hold a vision and lead the team bringing the rights-based focus to life through investments and partnerships designed to: amplify grassroots indigenous voices, build solidarity between and across Indigenous Peoples’ movements, and increase awareness of international frameworks that protect LTRG rights.
The new executive director will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for the Christensen Fund’s staff, programs, future strategy refinement, finances, and fulfillment of its mission.
The leader’s key priorities in the first year will include strategic leadership, in which he or she will be expected to champion and lead a culture of forward momentum on the newly approved Indigenous lands, territories, resources, governance (LTRG) strategy, curating a vision that will bring this work to life and achieve outcomes that advance Indigenous Peoples’ rights and well-being. The individual must also build on and support the deep expertise and networks at both the board and staff levels to create partnerships that will catalyze funding, networks and advocates in the field. Leveraging the fund’s legacy and credibility to articulate its solidarity with Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination will also be critical.
The Christensen Fund’s new executive director should be an inspiring leader who sees the opportunity to advance Indigenous Peoples’ rights as a calling. Whether or not the new executive director has lived experience with indigenous or marginalized communities, the individual must bring a deep understanding of the challenges the fund is trying to address and the cultural competencies. He or she should have established a reputation as a leader in philanthropy or in a field relevant to the fund’s work (social justice, human rights, land rights, climate change, food justice, agroecology) and leverage their networks and passion to serve and promote the non-profit’s mission.
Candidates must have a minimum of 15-plus years of progressively responsible executive leadership experience in a dynamic and innovative social sector organization, preferably in a foundation. Those who have developed their experience in a global context or outside of the U.S. are encouraged to apply if they have permission to work in the U.S. Experience gained in proximity to indigenous communities and an understanding of their rights is an asset. A demonstrated track record working in close partnership with a governing board of trustees and managing a team of at least 10 full-etime staff members is required; experience leading a globally dispersed team is valued.
Based in San Francisco, the Christensen Fund aims to buttress the efforts of people and institutions who believe in a biodiverse world infused with artistic expression, and works to secure ways of life and landscapes that are beautiful, bountiful and resilient. Founded in 1957, the non-profit focuses on backing the efforts of locally-recognized community custodians, and their alliances with scholars, artists, advocates and others. It also funds international efforts to build global understanding of the issues around biocultural diversity. The Christensen Fund is currently governed by a seven-person board of directors which will expand to nine in 2021; two of these seats are held by Christensen family members.
Headquartered in Seattle with additional offices in San Francisco, Portland, OR and Phoenix, Waldron has 36 years of experience providing executive search and leadership development services to non-profits, NGOs and foundations.
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Mr. Waldron has spent the better part of his career working in the social sector. He is a committed partner to mission-driven organizations which work across a myriad of issue areas that matter a great deal to him, including effective philanthropy, international development, and environmental conservation and climate change. Mr. Waldron helps to shape the firm’s strategic initiatives nationwide. He also leads a select portfolio of retained search clients, partnering with foundations, NGOs and social enterprises with national and international scope.
Ms. Meyer, who joined Waldron in 2015, works in close partnership with foundation presidents seeking new talent and non-profit boards responsible for executive leadership transitions. She was previously founder and principal of Sarah Meyer consulting. Her clients have included the Raikes Foundation; Ballmer Group, the Lemelson Foundation, the Ford Family Foundation, The National Center for Family Philanthropy, GlobalGiving, RIP Medical Debt, Social Venture Partners and Mission Capital.
Ms. Merritt has been with Waldron for nearly 12 years. She works with non-profits, NGOs and philanthropic groups. Among her pervious roles, she was lead executive search consultant for Bird & Co. and international account director, business development for WCRS, both in London.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media