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Vice President of Communications

The American Forest Foundation (AFF)

Washington, D.C.

Date Posted: 01/16/2020

Solving some of the most urgent environmental and economic issues of today—cleaning our air, filtering our drinking water, sequestering carbon, creating wildlife habitat, reducing the risk of wildfires, increasing biodiversity, and supplying sustainable sources of wood—requires careful stewardship of our forests. Because individuals and families own 270 million acres of America’s forests (more than government and more than corporations), empowering family forest stewardship is an essential yet often overlooked piece of the forest puzzle. The American Forest Foundation (AFF) is leading the way in empowering family forest landowners to tackle these urgent issues and achieve significant impact.

Building on our 80-year legacy of family forest stewardship, AFF is entering a new phase of rapid innovation. In our trusted position at the center of the family forest network and with the financial strength of $160 million in reserves, we’re developing and deploying sustainable business models that support forest owners as they address these important environmental, social, and economic issues. The technology company we acquired has helped us significantly increase our ability to connect private landowners with nonprofits, technical experts, government agencies, and conservation organizations. We’re reinventing the carbon market for family landowners and we’re helping companies that source wood from family forests do so sustainably. Our partners are some of the leading companies and financial institutions, the U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and conservation groups like The Nature Conservancy.

We view our Vice President (VP) of Communications as our chief interpreter of the AFF story, helping us develop and launch a portfolio of new products and services. You will raise our profile as a thought leader and trusted partner in achieving conservation impact and take the lead in developing a clear brand story that integrates our individually strong brands into a more cohesive brand strategy. By repositioning AFF, people will understand who we are and see the impact of our work, staff will become more effective in their individual communications with stakeholders, and we will be able to market our conservation impact to key audiences including funders and customers.

In this role, you will report to the EVP of External Affairs and Policy, supervise the Director of Communications and the Digital Communications Coordinator, and work closely with several experienced outside consultants and our PR firm. You will also have the benefit of working with a sophisticated board of directors with significant communications and PR expertise. We will look to you to provide clear, actionable tools to help our team communicate our mission. Through your coaching and training, our staff will be better equipped to tell our story and sell our products.

Responsibilities of the Vice President of Communications

In your first 60 days:

  • Using existing data and customer discovery information, as well as gathering your own, help shape the AFF brand story and strategy.
  • Identify a set of communications and marketing performance goals and systems to track and measure success, as well as systems to determine ROI for various pieces of work, both old and new.
  • Build a solid understanding of our key audiences and craft a communications and marketing strategy around at least one of our key conservation impact products.
  • Serve as a key strategic counselor and leader on public relations, communications, and marketing issues.

Within a year:

  • Have a clear brand story and strategy in place, with adoption and use across AFF staff and governance.
  • Identify, define, and market the value of AFF brands, including AFF itself, and the American Tree Farm System to key audiences.
  • With a solid understanding of key audiences across AFF and AFF conservation work, develop and begin executing on a comprehensive strategy to support all of this work, both with positioning and thought leadership as well as direct product marketing.
  • Serve as AFF’s leader and expert on communications and marketing, across all communications vehicles.

Qualifications of the Vice President of Communications

  • Demonstrated ability to develop and implement both vision and strategy across multiple large functional areas/departments or significant programs.
  • Experience with innovative policy, education, and/or social marketing campaigns involving the promotion of ideas and values rather than products.
  • Prior experience in successful branding desired.
  • Exceptional writing and editing skills, with attention to clarity and details, for a variety of materials and audiences.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills, a collaborative style, and an ability to engage colleagues at all levels.
  • Experience in selecting and effectively managing budgets and outside firms/consultants.
  • Top-notch oral and presentation skills.
  • Demonstrated experience and leadership in managing comprehensive strategic communications, media relations, and marketing programs to advance an organization’s mission.
  • Ten years or more of related experience in the communications field, including significant leadership or management experience. Varied and broad experience is preferred over narrow specialization.
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in communications, marketing, public relations, or related field; advanced degree preferred.

Attributes of the Vice President of Communications

  • Strategic thinker. You think strategically and translate big ideas into actions. You use your judgment to make and execute programmatic decisions, knowing which issues are best suited for a larger conversation with other stakeholders and/or colleagues. This is particularly relevant given the remote internal community AFF has built over the past few years.
  • Creative. You are full of new ideas and recommendations. You develop thoughtful messaging and are willing and able to move beyond traditional marketing approaches to create new and innovative ways to connect with target audiences.
  • Hands-on. You manage changing priorities without difficulty and do whatever it takes to get the job done. You always have your team’s back; you enjoy working hard and rolling up your sleeves with the team.
  • Effective program manager. You can multitask and manage multiple projects simultaneously, deftly bringing projects to completion.
  • Metrics-driven. You see the big picture, monitor your key performance metrics, and take the action necessary to bring about change.
  • Relationship builder. Your collaborative nature allows you to build consensus within any group. You are adept at understanding the issues and constraints groups face and have an intuitive sense of how to find common ground among stakeholders, zeroing in on priorities and possibilities.
  • Strong communicator. You have an exceptional ability to communicate with staff and stakeholder and build confidence at all levels. You can deliver critical and complex information to a variety of audiences in a credible and presentable way and can challenge and be challenged in intellectual debate. You can effectively represent and hold a position while openly exploring possibilities in a complex negotiation.
  • Builder. You are comfortable working through ambiguity and can operate with little structure, charting your own path when no rules exist. You have a head for triage and are confident and steadfast in a crisis or the face of uncertainty; you identify what needs to be done first, anticipate needs down the line, and carefully steward resources to create grand impact.
  • Respectful. You value different points of view and listen, digest, and synthesize information, even when you disagree. You work effectively with people at every level of the organization and every kind of background. You consistently treat customers, members, stakeholders, partners, and the board with dignity and respect.
  • Mission-driven. You are results-driven and service-oriented. You provide support for stakeholder needs, both internally and externally. You are relational with a purpose, willing to do anything to elevate the unheard messaging of members.

What’s Attractive to the Right Vice President of Communications Candidate?

  • Your work will be vital to our ability to deliver innovative, sustainable, natural climate solutions. Your work will create the kind of legacy you can be proud of.
  • The nature of your work will be complex, creative, innovative, and ever-changing. You’ll be doing the best, and most important, work of your career.
  • Your colleagues are exceptionally talented and passionate individuals who are dedicated to their work and supportive of your work.
  • We offer a flexible work environment that respects your life outside of work.

To Apply for the Vice President of Communications position:

Use the “Apply” button on this page, or simply email your resume to Ellen Greenwood at with “AFF – VP of Communications #2019-2549 SA” as the subject of the email.

Please note: Our practice is not to disclose the salary ranges our clients would consider. Any salary information included in this posting was estimated without our input.

Alternative Titles:  Vice President Communications and Branding, Vice President Communications and Marketing, Marketing and Brand Development, Thought Leadership.

Staffing Advisors has been engaged to find the right candidate and is committed to helping create a diverse work environment for our client. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. This position may require pre-employment screening potentially including a criminal background check, verification of academic credentials, licenses, certifications, and/or verification of work history.

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