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Natural Lands, a vibrant regional nonprofit organization and national leader in land conservation and stewardship, seeks a president. Since the early 1950s, Natural Lands has been saving open space, caring for nature, and connecting people to the outdoors in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Today, the organization is one of the nation’s largest land conservancies and is widely respected for its tradition of exemplary land protection and stewardship, its technical expertise, superb staff, record of respectful and creative partnerships, and its fiscal strength, integrity, and responsibility.

Over the course of its 65-year history, Natural Lands has helped preserve more than 125,000 acres. It owns and stewards 44 nature preserves – almost all open to the public – across two states and 13 counties. These nearly 23,000 acres include many of the most spectacular and diverse properties in the region. Natural Lands also holds 387 conservation easements on 23,500 additional acres, and it provides consulting services to local communities and municipalities, governmental entities, individuals, and partner organizations in pursuing open space and conservation goals. Currently, 65% of the Philadelphia region’s residents live within 5 miles of lands under the organization’s permanent protection.

This is an exciting opportunity to lead a multi-faceted conservation organization with a rich history, a vital mission, and considerable promise for the future. The president reports to a 21-member Board of Trustees and oversees an operating budget of more than $9 million and a staff of 87 located across the region. The position calls for an energizing, strategic leader and spokesperson who is deeply committed to Natural Lands’ mission. Candidates should bring strengths in management, fundraising, and communications along with high integrity, intellectual breadth, political savvy, and an enterprising spirit.

A board committee, comprising eight trustees, assisted by the national executive search firm of Isaacson, Miller, is leading the search for Natural Lands’ next president. Inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed in confidence to the search firm as indicated at the end of this document.



Natural Lands was founded in 1953 as the Philadelphia Conservationists, Inc. by a group of birdwatchers who came together to protect a tidal freshwater marsh and world-class bird habitat located near Philadelphia International Airport. The group, led by a local accountant, Allston Jenkins, prevented an oil company from dumping dredging spoils from the Schuylkill River into the marshes and saved what eventually became the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, the first urban refuge in the country. Jenkins went on to serve as the Philadelphia Conservationists’ first president and executive director and stayed active with the organization until his death in 1994.

In the years that followed that first victory, the Philadelphia Conservationists helped to preserve many more acres in the Philadelphia region and beyond, assisted with the creation of four more National Wildlife Refuges, and even helped to establish the first national park in Costa Rica. Initially, the group focused on saving but not holding land; transferring land that they preserved to governmental agencies and other nonprofits. Then in 1959, the organization established its first nature preserve. This set the stage for the following six decades of saving and caring for open space and native habitats, and creating opportunities for people to connect with and learn from nature.

In 1961, the members of The Philadelphia Conservationists created Natural Lands Trust, Inc. and received its first donation of land, now the Willisbrook Preserve in Chester County. Other preserves followed, and the Trust’s commitment to owning and actively stewarding land began to set a standard and earn widespread recognition. In addition to acquiring land outright for preservation and stewardship, since 1966 the organization has established hundreds of conservation easements, including the first known conservation easement in Pennsylvania.

After operating as Natural Lands Trust for several decades, in 2017 the organization changed its brand name to Natural Lands to better reflect its broader mission and array of activities in support of that mission.



For this pivotal role, Natural Lands seeks a leader and spokesperson who is passionate about the organization’s mission and legacy, committed to its longstanding standards of excellence, supportive of its culture, and farsighted about its future potential. Natural Lands welcomes candidates with professional experience in the conservation and preservation communities but is also open to considering applicants from areas such as business, education, and government, provided they bring a demonstrated commitment to the organization’s goals and values.

The successful candidate will bring many of the following qualifications and attributes:

Informed passion and sense of urgency for the mission of Natural Lands.

Record of senior leadership and effective management within a complex organization. Experience managing growth and change. Proven business acumen, including discipline and focus in setting priorities, meeting or exceeding goals, and running a fiscally sound, resilient, and sustainable operation. Strengths in recruiting, developing, motivating, and retaining high potential staff. Experience working with or reporting to a volunteer board would be an advantage.

Fundraising skills. Ideally significant experience raising funds from a variety of sources, especially individuals and private foundations. Without question, an enthusiasm for fundraising and a ready willingness to be actively involved in development and accessible to donors.

Very strong communication skills. Demonstrated experience as a highly effective public speaker.

Experience with policy, politics, and successful partnerships at the local, state, and regional level. Strong negotiation skills.

Strengths in team building, effective delegation, and consultative management. Willingness to circulate widely, communicate openly, listen well, and lead through persuasion as well as authority.

Demonstrated commitment to and experience in advancing diversity and inclusion.

Entrepreneurial spirit and drive. An eye for creative opportunities tied to a commitment to accountability and results.

Openness to new and innovative models of outreach, collaboration, and movement building. Experience with new technologies and social media would be a distinct advantage. Keen sense of marketing.

An outgoing, open personality. Authenticity and approachability. The ability to connect with people at all levels and from diverse communities. High integrity, gracious self-confidence, and good humor. Tenacity, flexibility, and high energy.

An advanced degree would be an asset but is not required.


For a full description and application instructions:


Posted August 3, 2018

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