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Communications Director

Our Client

"Never stifle a generous impulse," was a favorite saying of entrepreneur William R. Hewlett, who established the Hewlett Foundation with his wife, Flora Lamson Hewlett, and their eldest son, Walter B. Hewlett. Indeed, it was the personal generosity of Mr. Hewlett, who passed away in 2001, that has made the Hewlett Foundation one of the nation's largest, with assets of more than $8.5 billion and annual grantmaking averaging between $350 and 400 million.

The Foundation's programs have ambitious goals that include: helping to reduce global poverty, limiting the risk of climate change, improving education for students in California and elsewhere, improving reproductive health and rights worldwide, supporting vibrant performing arts in its community, advancing the field of philanthropy, and supporting disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.  For more information on the Foundation’s programs, please visit

Relative to such far-reaching goals, even Hewlett’s assets are limited, and the Foundation recognizes how important it is to have sound strategies for success in all its programs. Its approach is informed by three fundamental values:

  • First, the Hewlett Foundation requires that staff define program objectives, grants, and other activities in terms of problems to be solved; identify indicators of progress and criteria for evaluating success; and be prepared to stay the course.
  • Second, the solutions to serious problems are seldom known with anything close to certainty. The Foundation must therefore be prepared to experiment and take risks in its grantmaking. This, too, requires setting clear objectives and creating ways to measure success whenever possible. Without this information, it would be very difficult to know the results of these risks. This approach also requires a willingness to acknowledge and learn from failures.
  • Third, grantee institutions--nonprofit organizations and, in some cases, government entities--are essential partners in achieving the Foundation's goals. This explains why such a high proportion of the Foundation's grants are in the form of general operating support. It also implies a concern not only for the health of individual organizations, but for the fields in which they operate.

Communications plays a central and significant role in advancing the Foundation's mission and goals by ensuring that access and insight are at the forefront of its strategies, and that the Foundation’s work (both successes and failures) is shared and understood.

The Role

The Communications Director will be responsible for conceptualizing, developing, and implementing the communications strategies, public and media relations and internal communications to support the Foundation’s initiatives and programs. Based in the Foundation’s Menlo Park, CA headquarters, s/he will be the senior communications advisor to President Larry Kramer and the senior staff.  S/he will be responsible for developing and implementing the communication strategy in partnership with his/her colleagues within each program area, establishing consistency (balanced with appropriate nuance) in messaging throughout the organization, and integrating internal and external communication strategies that engage staff, grantees, and other partners in support of the issues, mission and work that align with the Foundation’s purpose. This includes the development of a cohesive, broad-based communication strategy, management of online and digital communications, speechwriting/publications, thought leadership and the facilitating and enhancing the work of programs, senior leadership, partners, and grantees.

The Communications Director will ensure that the mission and contributions of the Foundation and its grantees are communicated effectively, consistently and accurately.  S/he will work closely with the leadership team to ensure messaging is communicated in new and innovative ways, reaches the intended audiences, and is delivered in a manner consistent with the philosophy and strategic objectives of the Foundation. 

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Connecting with Foundation stakeholders (staff, Board, grantees, and co-funders) in a meaningful and positive social dialogue, while strategically managing a coherent message for the Foundation to ensure its integrity and its overarching value to constituents.
  • Ensuring transparency and access (without engaging in boasting or organizational self-promotion), while evaluating, anticipating and managing reputational risks to the Foundation, its leadership, partners, and grantees.
  • Anticipating technological, societal, and philanthropic trends; providing unique counsel and tools across the Foundation’s programs; and serving as an educator within the organization to raise awareness of communications issues and organizational strategy.
  • Providing day-to-day leadership and management to a group of communications professionals in support of the Foundation’s objectives
  • Ensuring that the Foundation’s culture, values and beliefs are integrated into its communication efforts and are consistent across programs.
  • Leading the Foundation’s internal communication efforts with the objective of informing and engaging internal constituents. 
  • Leading the Foundation’s web, digital and social media functions in support of the communication strategy; oversee the content and design of the Foundation’s website.
  • Serving as senior communications advisor to executive leadership team and Board; providing executive communication support for Board books, presentations, articles, speeches, and other materials to support broader thought leadership.
  • Advising on high-profile media inquiries and cultivating media outreach where and when appropriate; acting as primary contact responsible for media relations.
  • Participating in the planning and organizing of proactive reputation and crisis management to ensure effective strategies.
  • Serving as an active member of the Foundation’s senior staff in collective decision-making processes.

Candidate Profile

Our client is seeking a leader of unusual vision and intellectual breadth with practical experience in the communications field. Working with colleagues of varying content specialties, the Communications Director will need to nurture a coherent shape and nuanced approach for the Foundation’s internal and external relations strategy. 

The Communications Director must exhibit the intellectual gravitas and curiosity to understand the broad, complex and differentiated contexts in which the Foundation’s grantees work.  Furthermore, s/he must bring a highly attuned cultural competency to operate effectively across a diverse and truly global constituency (including geography, identity, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status), so as to move and communicate seamlessly among and with different people, audiences, and influencers.

The successful candidate will be skilled in building constructive dialogue and collaboration, while at the same time managing within a lean, but complex organization for results in a fiscally responsible manner.  The Communications Director will have outstanding persuasion skills, both written and verbal, and must write and edit well.  The successful candidate will possess a depth of knowledge of the principles of effective communication, including expertise in the use of a broad range of communications tools including both traditional and new media.

The candidate should possess a demonstrated track record of effectively developing and implementing a strategy and must understand the complexities and implications involved in working in an advisory capacity to grantees and/or other key stakeholders.

The successful candidate should be committed to the Foundation’s mission of achieving significant, lasting and measurable results in its areas of interest and commitment, and share the Foundation’s implicit and core values.

In terms of the performance and personal competencies required for the position, we would highlight the following:

  • Senior, seasoned communications professional who has effectively managed communications for an organization such as a major non-profit or corporate entity, government agency or academic institution.
  • Demonstrated leadership experience in complex organizations, and in managing teams focused on a broad range of strategic communications initiatives and programs. A proven track record with the ability to leverage internal and external voices for greater impact. 
  • Intellectual dexterity, curiosity, discipline, and resourcefulness.  Demonstrated strong analytical, interpersonal, and written and oral communication skills in positions requiring communication with broad and diverse audiences.
  • A high degree of diplomacy, a strong inclination to collaborate and operate in a highly respectful and healthy culture.
  • Demonstrated effectiveness and interest in consulting and coordinating with colleagues from across a variety of disciplines.
  • Ability to lead through influence and through collaboration across organizational structures. 
  • Demonstrated effectiveness and interest in mentoring and leading team members.
  • A deep commitment to the overall mission of the Foundation, its programs, and an approach consistent with the Foundation’s guiding principles.  Commitment to delivering results and to holding both one’s own self and the institution to the highest ethical standards.
  • History of success in roles requiring logical, systematic thinking while managing multiple priorities in a highly dynamic environment.
  • Knowledge of how to use technology for communications objectives
  • Bachelors degree required, with significant experience (minimum 12 years) in communications.


The compensation for this position has been designed to attract a person of significant accomplishment.

Physical Demands/Work Environment

The physical demands described are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this position. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

While performing the duties of this position, the employee is required to spend extended periods of time at the computer.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes a diverse pool of candidates in this search.


Jamie Hechinger
Russell Reynolds Associates
1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 400
Washington, DC  20006-5810
Tel: +1-202-654-7800
Direct: +1-202-654-7839

Kimberly S. Archer
Russell Reynolds Associates
1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 400
Washington, DC  20006-5810
Tel: +1-202-654-7800
Direct: +1-202-654-7826