Director, Strategic Communications

New York, United States
Patrick Manhire
Role managed by
Patrick Manhire Senior Researcher

About Ford Foundation

The foundation is an independent organization, led by a distinguished board of trustees whose 16 members hail from four continents and bring leadership and expertise in a wide range of disciplines. Today we are stewards of a $12 billion endowment, making $500 million in grants around the world every year. Led by Darren Walker, our 10th president, we remain committed to our enduring mission—and to our legacy of bold, creative support for social change.

Across eight decades, the Ford Foundation has invested in innovative ideas, visionary individuals, and frontline institutions advancing human dignity around the world. The foundation works across several areas’ civil rights, education, arts and culture, human rights, poverty reduction and urban development.

Director of Strategic Communications

The Director of Strategic Communications is a senior leadership role with primary responsibility for overseeing and strengthening both institutional and programmatic communications for the Ford Foundation’s operations in New York and across its 10 offices worldwide. Based in the Foundation’s New York City headquarters, the Director of Strategic Communications serves as a subject matter expert and thought leader in the design and execution of a robust communications strategy that builds the Foundation’s brand and advances social justice in the United States and around the world.



The Director of Strategic Communications reports to the Vice President for Global Communications, Alfred Ironside. S/he will lead a team of five direct reports specializing in strategic communications and crisis communications. A key colleague of the Director of Strategic Communications is the Director of Audience Engagement and Outreach, who is a critical partner in co-leading a strong 20-member communications team. It is important to note that s/he will be engaging directly with the President and the senior management team on strategic and crisis communication plans as needed. Location New York, NY.


Role Profile:


Duties and Responsibilities:

The Director of Strategic Communications should be a seasoned international communications leader with excellent strategic and creative skills. Among the key areas of responsibility of the Director of Strategic Communications are institutional reputation management, including media relations, messaging and crisis management; and structured engagement with program staff around the world, helping them to harness communication to advance their grant making and the fields they support. A proven thought leader and manager of people and processes, the broad scope of this portfolio includes organizational leadership as well as functional expertise.

Truly superior writing, strategic thinking, command of communications best practices in a rapidly evolving world; experience with the issues; and an ability to engage and collaborate successfully with a visionary president and strong leadership team around the world are essential attributes of the Director of Strategic Communications. The ability to create trust and confidence with diverse colleagues across cultures is critical.

Organizational Leadership

  • In partnership with the Vice President for Global Communications and Director of Audience Engagement and Outreach, provide leadership and strategic guidance to the 20-member communications team.
  • Lead and mentor a capable team of communications officers responsible for institutional messaging, global media relations, and crisis communications.
  • Coach, mentor and develop team members to become “their highest and best selves.”
  • Serve as the “brain trust” and partner to Regional Directors and colleagues in the field in dealing with critical strategic issues. 
  • Represent the Foundation in various affinity/membership organizations.
  • Develop and implement a plan for successfully and continuously engaging program colleagues worldwide, providing them with answers to their communications needs and challenges, and building the foundation’s capacity for carrying out communications efforts that advance social change.
  • Build relationships and partner with staff in non-program roles across the foundation to develop communication strategies that support foundation culture and goals


Thought Leadership

  • Assist in developing and guiding the implementation of a comprehensive communications plan for an organization energetically transforming itself to meet the challenges of a new era.
  • Work closely with the Vice President to develop and implement an executive communications strategy that leverages the unique voices and a powerful vision of the foundation’s president and programmatic leaders.
  • Engage directly with the President and the senior management team on strategic and crisis communication plans as needed.
  • Grasp the language and substance of the foundation’s programmatic work and become expert in translating it for outside audiences, leading and adding to excellent institutional messaging.
  • Anticipate and mitigate adverse or potentially negative issues that may impact the foundation’s reputation and standing. 
  • Maintain issues management and crisis communications plans and provide counsel to senior leaders in the event of crisis.
  • Contribute in significant ways to excellent written products; the practice of strategic thinking; learning and growth in the team and the institution; and esprit de corps.


Required Experience and Qualifications:


  • Bachelor’s degree is required; Master’s degree is strongly preferred.


Relevant Experience 

  • The Director of Strategic Communications should have communications leadership experience gained in a complex, global organization within a cross-cultural environment.
  • This may include management experience in government, a foundation, non-profit organization, or institute of higher education, or a combination of non-profit and corporate leadership experience.
  • The Director of Strategic Communications should have a proven track record of successfully managing and developing high performing teams and leading and collaborating with globally-dispersed colleagues and partners in multiple offices.


Specific requirements include:  

  • At least 15 years of progressively responsible professional experience in public relations, public affairs, media or advocacy communications or a related field, including some experience working directly with CEO.
  • Varied and broad experience is preferred over specialization.
  • Minimum of five years of experience managing and leading teams.
  • Success in inspiring and developing a flexible and self-directed team of colleagues and an accessible, supportive style or approach to managing others.
  • Substantial international experience; an understanding of the nuances to be navigated in varying contexts; dexterity, diplomacy and cross-cultural appreciation.
  • Substantial domestic experience; understanding the political environment and the ability to work closely with the US program teams.
  • A demonstrated ability to engender trust and confidence in others, leading to productive long-term work relationships.
  • Demonstrated ability to work successfully with experts in subject areas; an ability to foster fruitful relationships, lead discussions and workshops, facilitate strategic conversations, and build consensus.


Other key attributes of the Director of Strategic Communications include:

  • Clear and powerful instincts for the work; an ability to lead in crisis; grace and polish under pressure; unwavering soundness of judgment – all matched with humility.
  • Demonstrated capacity to work collegially and humor.
  • Entrepreneurial spirit that can thrive within an institutional setting.
  • Commitment to the foundation’s mission and core values of equity and diversity, voice and participation, and honesty and integrity.


Personal Qualities

  • A proven leader of people and strategic communications initiatives, the Director of Strategic Communications will have broad experience in developing and managing high performing teams and inspiring colleagues to become “their highest and best selves.”
  • They must model the “can do” attitude and spirit of service and put the team and Foundation before ego or self.
  • Highly flexible, and able to read, lead and even diffuse a room, the Director of Strategic Communications should be adept at dealing with scepticism and comfortable influencing in an intellectually rigorous environment.
  • They must be able to respond to shifting priorities.
  • The Director of Strategic Communications should possess absolute command of the strategic communications function and be able to apply that command to any subject, with all clients, and in a variety of regions.
  • Demonstrating executive presence, gravitas and thought partnership, they should be relevant and insightful on the spot, in the moment, and in real time.
  • Innately and intellectually curious, the Director of Strategic Communications should also have superb cross-cultural fluency and a keen interest in the world around them.
  • S/he must demonstrate credibility and know what “translates” across settings.
  • S/he will have frontline professional experience working in developing countries, gained either through on-the-ground experience or extensive travel.


Terms of Appointment 

This is a full-time position. Salary is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience. Ford Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes the applications of all qualified candidates, irrespective of their racial or ethnic origin, opinions or beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, health or disabilities. Candidates must be eligible to work in the United States.

Key Steps in the Selection Process

SRI Executive has been retained by the Ford Foundation to conduct a search for a suitably qualified individual to undertake the position of Director of Strategic Communications. If this position is of interest to you, and you meet the requirements, please forward a copy of your Cover Letter and CV in Microsoft Word on or before March 21st, 2019  to: Mr. Patrick Manhire at [email protected] Please reference ''8237 – Director of Strategic Communications’' in the subject line. Thank you for your interest and we will reply to you as soon as feasible when we have reviewed your application and it is found to be aligned with the Ford Foundation’s requirements.


Application form