Director of Communications

About Openlands:

Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives. Openlands’ vision for the region is a landscape that includes a vast network of land and water trails, tree-lined streets, and intimate public gardens within easy reach of every city dweller. It also includes parks and preserves big enough to provide natural habitat and to give visitors a sense of the vast prairies, woodlands, and wetlands that were here before the cities. In sum, Openlands believes that protected open space is critical for the quality of life of our region.

Job Description:

The Director of Communications will set and guide the strategy for all communications, website, and public relations messages and collateral to consistently articulate Openlands’ mission. The Director of Communications will ensure that Openlands is viewed as the “Go-To Regional Player” in conservation and land use issues and opportunities by increasing Openlands’ presence in local, regional, and national media (print, broadcast, and digital) and within the constituent base.

The Director of Communications reports to the Vice President of Development and will work closely with Openlands’ senior leadership as the communications partner on a variety of strategic initiatives.  This is a full-time, exempt position. 

Essential Functions:

  • Develop, implement, and evaluate the annual communications plan for Openlands
  • Put communications vehicles in place to create momentum and awareness as well as to test the effectiveness of communications activities
  • Shape Openlands’ messaging on timely issues (e.g., climate change)
  • Primary staff member to the Communications Committee
  • Manage the development, distribution, and maintenance of all print and electronic collateral including, but not limited to, newsletters, brochures, reports, fact sheets, website-communications, and
  • Mentor and lead the External Relations Associate and interns
  • Lead the generation of online content that engages a range of audiences and leads to measurable action. Decide who, where, and when to disseminate
  • Coordinate webpage maintenance—ensure that new and consistent information (article links, stories, and events) is posted regularly
  • Track and measure the level of engagement within Openlands’ constituency over time; work to devise real metrics on community engagement as they pertain to Communications goals
  • Write and edit news releases, opinion pieces, pitch letters, fact sheets, and other written materials used to execute media relations strategy
  • Manage all media contacts, serving as Openlands’ primary media contact
  • Work with Openlands’ program managers to ensure communications (vehicles, audiences) are discussed within each program and are written into grant proposal budgets accordingly
  • Direct staff in using all of the tools available to them, as well as emerging tools, to advance project goals and “storytelling”

Additional responsibilities:

  • Maintain Openlands’ photo and video archives
  • Maintain subscriptions to Constant Contact
  • Interact with website vendor/server administrator, consultants, freelancers (writers and photographers)

Knowledge and Skills:

  • Highly collaborative style; experience developing and implementing communications strategies
  • Excellent writing/editing and verbal communication skills
  • Exceptional planning and organizational skills
  • A strong track record as an implementer who thrives on managing a variety of key initiatives concurrently
  • Relationship builder with the flexibility and finesse to “manage by influence”
  • Sincere commitment to work collaboratively with all constituent groups, including staff, board members, volunteers, donors, program participants, and other supporters
  • High energy, maturity, and leadership with the ability to serve as a unifying force and to position communications discussions at both the strategic and tactical levels
  • Self-starter, able to work independently, and entrepreneurial; enjoys creating and implementing new initiatives
  • Strong working knowledge of social media and e-mail and web-based communications platforms

Education: Bachelor’s Degree

Experience: At least ten years of media relations and/or communications experience, ideally in an “in-house” leadership role within a complex (number and variety of constituents) nonprofit organization, and covering areas such as website content, newsletters, and donor communications.

The ability to take knowledge and transform it into exciting and useful messages and disseminate it to the right audiences through the best distribution channels is critical. Management experience preferred.

Internal/External Contacts: Responsible for external messaging, therefore near-constantly working with members of the press, partner organizations, designers, et al. Also, communicates widely within the organization to find the best stories or help to shape/edit messages.

Working Conditions: Nothing unusual. Occasionally need to accompany staff to media event and be willing to tour sites we have protected for context.

Financial Responsibility: Manages communications budget.

Decision Making: Decides who at Openlands is best to speak to members of the media.

Confidentiality: Is made aware of most confidential information at Openlands in order to help frame information for public consumption.

To Apply:

This position is open until filled. Interested applicants should send a resume and cover letter explaining why your skills and experience would complement this position to  Please include “Director of Communications” in the subject line.

Work Environment

Loop office is ADA accessible.

This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as computers, phones, and scanners. Employee is regularly required to talk, hear, see, and communicate effectively via computer.

Smoke- and drug-free environment.


Salary range is market competitive. Benefits include health, life, and disability coverage, a 403(b)-retirement plan, paid holidays and vacation time. This is a full-time position. Openlands is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Salary range is market competitive. Benefits include health, life, and disability coverage, a 403(b)-retirement plan, paid holidays and vacation time. This is a full-time position.

Openlands is an equal opportunity employer and seeks to employ qualified individuals based on individual merit. Openlands does not discriminate against any individual with respect to the terms and conditions of employment based on that individual’s race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin, disability, genetic information, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, housing status, or any other non-merit factor protected under state, local or federal laws.

Equal Employment Opportunity applies to all personnel actions such as recruiting, hiring, compensation, benefits, promotions, training, transfer, termination, and opportunities for training. Openlands is committed to a fair and equitable workplace where everyone is a respected and valued member of the team.