Vice President, External Relations

Helen Keller International
  • Location
    New York, New York
  • Sector
    Non Profit
  • Experience
  • Posted
    Aug 08

Position description

The Vice President (VP), External Relations has targeted responsibility for all levels of individual giving. S/he is also responsible for global communications efforts and sits on the Executive Management Team of HKI. Therefore, the ideal candidate must combine the capacity to represent an organization with a 100 year+ history, a reputation among its peers for technical excellence in global public health, and a spirit of innovation, with the ability to catalyze a synergistic development and communications strategy to raise HKI’s profile with the general public in the US and build our base of support. The VP, External Relations will have an exciting opportunity to enhance and implement this plan, launch our new brand identity, and engage senior leaders and the board in the cultural shift that this approach to fundraising requires, as we seek to foster a culture of philanthropy within the organization that values our donors and competitively positions us within the philanthropic marketplace.

Functional Relationships

The VP, External Relations serves as both a departmental and global leader for HKI. As a member of HKI’s Executive Management Team (EMT), s/he is a key contributor to strategic global initiatives, and organization-wide planning and decision-making. This position reports to the President & CEO and leads a team of senior professionals who in turn manage their own teams.

Within HKI, the position has primary relationships with the Board of Trustees and financial, operations, and program staff. Outside the organization, the position works closely with, and represents HKI to fundraising volunteers, donors and funding sources.

Scope of the Position

The VP, External Relations leads HKI’s donor-centric fundraising approach that recognizes the lifetime value of our supporters and drives our efforts to build long-term relationships. Together with a senior team of development and communications professionals, this position is responsible for acquiring new individual donors at all levels, building and deepening engagement with existing prospects and donors, and driving broader awareness and philanthropic support for HKI’s programs.

Providing expert guidance to an experienced team of Major and Planned Gifts, Direct Response, Operations and Communications staff, the Vice President will model best fundraising practices and seek their input to plan and execute short and long-term strategies associated with fundraising goals, while ensuring that philanthropy and fund development are carried out in keeping with the organization's values, mission, vision and plans, and maintaining accountability and compliance standards for donors and funding sources.

Additionally, the VP is responsible for guiding the development and implementation of communications strategies and activities designed to inform both US and international audiences of HKI, our mission, strategy, values, and unique approach to field activities, via both social and traditional media, print and digital publications, ultimately providing a larger base market for the organization’s fundraising activities. S/he leads staff and vendors engaged in producing messages, materials and branding of HKI to develop a coherent voice that delivers clear public messages, and to seamlessly integrate their work with the overall fundraising activities of HKI.


As a senior leader, collaborate with the President & CEO, executive team and other key staff, and the Board of Trustees to define HKI’s mission and direction.

Provide strategy and leadership for unrestricted fund development including major donors, special events, planned giving, direct mail, and online giving through effective long- and shortterm planning and ongoing monitoring and analysis of results.

Design and assure implementation of cost-effective fund development programs, employing economy while maintaining an acceptable level of quality and solid return on investment.

Guide and oversee efforts to increase visibility and awareness of HKI’s activities, accomplishments, and concerns, expertise and values through the media, speaking events, internal print and digital publications.

Provide general oversight of all the organization’s individual fund development and communications activities, manage the day-to-day operations of the functions, and monitor adequacy of activities through coordination with staff, appropriate Board committees, and full Board of Trustees, as appropriate, facilitating the optimum interaction between management and volunteers.

Ensure attainment of the organization’s fund development and communications goals through the selection, development, motivation and evaluation of human resources, both professional and volunteer.

Over the longer term, provide strategy and leadership for identification and implementation of new international markets for fundraising.


Seeking a development professional with a proven track record of leadership and multifaceted expertise, and a weight of experience as demonstrated by the following:


  • Minimum of 15 years progressively responsible management positions in development, plus a Bachelor's degree (MBA or graduate degree in a related field a plus), or equivalent combination of education and experience;
  • Experience in:
    • preparing short and long-term plans that integrate all aspects of development and communications to realize synergies across all donor groups and channels;
    • developing and delivering on comprehensive prospect strategies at every level of the donor pyramid;
    • making best use of marketing research and donor analytics to drive results;
    • establishing development benchmarks and evaluating progress against fundraising goals;
    • working and partnering with senior leadership, President/CEO, and Board members;
    • working in a matrixed organization and building strong working relationships across many departments to achieve common goals;
    • managing, training, motivating and leading diverse fundraising staff and volunteers including experience mobilizing executives and senior stakeholders for strategic donor engagement; and
    • developing and managing budgets.
  • A proven track record of soliciting and closing major gifts;
  • Experience in the international development sector highly preferred.

Key Competencies and Attributes

  • Strong working knowledge of the principles and best practices of fundraising, marketing and communications;
  • A strategic thinker with a focus on improving systems and coordinating efforts to reach HKI’s strategic fundraising goals;
  • Understanding of both short-term and long-term strategies, implications and opportunities that further HKI’s mission;
  • Demonstrated writing ability and superb communication skills to make effective, persuasive speeches and presentations on controversial or complex topics to top management, public groups, and/or boards of directors;
    • Must be able to write quickly and to accept constructive criticism responsively.
  • Highly computer literate with solid knowledge of the digital landscape and fundraising systems and analytics;
  • Focused on obtaining results as a first priority;
  • Able to meet deadlines and work well under pressure;
  • Strong organizational skills and the ability to create and follow timelines for complex relationship management, research, writing, and editing;
  • A committed life-long learner who is strategic, proactive, restless and forward thinking;
  • Diligent, highly organized and results-focused;
  • Strong financial management acumen;
  • Strong working knowledge of global public health issues impacting vulnerable populations in lower-resourced countries strongly preferred;
  • Willingness and ability to travel to Africa and/or Asia, as needed. (Typically 2 trips annually)

Social Intelligence and Management Acumen

  • Ability to build relationships with individuals from diverse backgrounds and styles, and experience including presenting to senior-level decision makers and influencers across business units and functions, as well as marketing/PR contacts;
  • Strong understanding of how to navigate cross-cultural relationships;
  • Flexible, adaptive working style – that enjoys building teams and functions within large global entities, and can adapt to unique organizational needs and find creative solution to challenges;
  • The ability to foster a creative, professional, “open door” management culture; to empower senior staff, managers and staff members to fulfill their potential; and to encourage staff to challenge assumptions.

Application instructions

Qualified candidates should submit a cover letter and resume noting the job title in the subject line. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. 

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