Executive Director

Weston, MA, US

Charles River Watershed Association is seeking an Executive Director upon the retirement in Summer 2018 of its leader of 28 years.

The Organization

Fifty years of progress by Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) was instrumental in transforming the “Dirty Water” Charles River of the past to the cleanest urban river in America. In its 2014 Environmental Merit Award to the organization, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency described CRWA as committed to:

strong science, robust civic engagement, and unprecedented innovation and entrepreneurism…(CRWA has) built one of, if not the most, effective watershed protection organizations in the world, and we are all the better for it.

One of the country’s oldest watershed organizations, CRWA was founded in 1965 in response to public concern about the declining condition of the Charles. Since its earliest days, CRWA has figured prominently in major clean-up and watershed protection efforts, working with government officials and citizen groups in the 35 Massachusetts watershed towns from Hopkinton to Boston. Initiatives over the past five decades have dramatically improved water quality and streamflow, and fundamentally changed approaches to water resource management.

Today CRWA’s strong science and engineering, research, and advocacy promote smart environmental policies while informing CRWA’s green infrastructure and urban design projects. Combined, CRWA’s work promotes resilient communities and a healthy river ecosystem for the people that enjoy the river, and the fish and wildlife that depend on it. Reflecting this history of accomplishment, CRWA was awarded the prestigious Thiess International Riverprize in 2011 by the International RiverFoundation for excellence in river management.

Charles River Watershed Association, strives to:

  • Develop a sound, science-based understanding of the competing and complex human and ecological systems in the watershed.
  • Protect and bring attention to the entire river from its source at Echo Lake to the Boston Harbor.
  •  Define cutting-edge solutions to watershed problems in the face of climate change.
  •  Promote sustainable watershed management practices with governmental agencies and private entities.
  •  Advocate for the protection, revitalization, and expansion of public parklands along the Charles.

With science, research, advocacy, and community organizing expertise within its staff of 11 and corps of more than 100 citizen scientists, as well as an active Board of Directors and Board of Advisors, CRWA influences both local and state leaders and national colleagues on river conservation and its far-reaching benefits. Consistently the strongest voice for protecting the Charles, CRWA’s history, staff, constituency, and growing individual support will bring reliable resources for innovative leadership to its next Executive Director.

The Position

CRWA is seeking an Executive Director who will relish the opportunity to lead an organization with a national and international reputation that is grounded in the community within which it resides. The Charles River is not only a priceless natural resource, but a place that immeasurably improves the quality of life for every person who walks, runs, bikes, rows, canoes, kayaks, fishes, photographs, paints, or gazes at it. Understanding the dynamic, complex ecological and social systems that make up the Charles and respecting the value each of these represents for a thriving river will be the first and most critical criterion for any Executive Director candidate.

The next CRWA Executive Director will examine the organization’s unique strengths in research science, planning, and legal advocacy, and align these assets toward full restoration of the Charles and a collaborative vision for its place within Greater Boston. Reporting to the Board of Directors, and building upon the extraordinary dedication of the active Board of Advisors, citizen scientists, and members, the Executive Director will have the unique opportunity to make a difference addressing the challenges of climate change and adaptation, rapid development, demands on municipal infrastructure, and more.

This position will require not only vision and collaborative goal setting alongside a number of excellent advocates working on behalf of the Charles, but also extraordinary communication skills to articulate why this “urban gem” and “People’s River” requires as much protection and restoration as ever before. As a spokesperson for CRWA and the Charles, the Executive Director will need the ability both to define the need and rally support through the multitude of communication channels required in today’s crowded marketplace. Inviting those who care about the Charles to support CRWA’s work through volunteerism, board leadership, and a culture of philanthropy will also be critically important for the new Executive Director. CRWA has enjoyed support from an impressive range of leaders willing to invest in CRWA’s future and its innovative efforts to develop cross-cutting solutions and to achieve strong environmental protection for Massachusetts. The next CRWA Executive Director will build inclusive, welcoming opportunities for those supporters to maintain and to grow their investments in the Charles.

CRWA’s small but immensely talented team is critical to the future of the Charles. The next Executive Director will ensure that not only are the funds for growth available, but also that clear goals, measures of success, and practical systems are present to permit these experts to do their jobs well. The Executive Director must bring training or experience in environmental science or advocacy in order to fully collaborate and leverage the knowledge, skills, and abilities the current staff apply in protecting the Charles. With the staff leadership and an engaged Board of Directors, the Executive Director will be responsible for ensuring CRWA’s long-term organizational health: programmatically, fiscally, and with regard to talent and capital.

Key Responsibilities

The next Charles River Watershed Association Executive Director will:

  • Both collaborate with and report to the Board to focus the vision, establish clear and measurable goals, and marshal the strategies and resources to accomplish them.
  • Serve as the principal point person for all fundraising, engaging current and new major donors, and supporting the Director of Philanthropy in opening new philanthropic channels for CRWA.
  • Attract and retain the staff expertise that allows CRWA to combine research, advocacy, the law, and grassroots engagement to benefit the Charles and its watershed.
  • Represent CRWA as chief spokesperson within both the political and regulatory circles in which it currently excels, and with the general public to enlist the Charles’ many admirers to greater stewardship and involvement in its protection.
  • Continue CRWA’s legacy of innovative local environmental solutions that establish precedents for watersheds across the country.

The Ideal Candidate

While no candidate may be able to demonstrate each and every quality and qualification that might be ideal, CRWA has identified critical leadership capabilities it seeks in its next leader, and the ideal experience and personal qualities that successful candidates will bring.

Collaborative, Visionary Leadership

In order to successfully transition CRWA after almost three decades of leadership under its outgoing Executive Director, the successful candidate must articulate a crisp, passionate vision for CRWA and the Charles that knits together science, advocacy, and the river as an attractive and compelling asset for Eastern Massachusetts. This will require the next Executive Director to continue and expand CRWA’s history of practical and creative solutions that municipalities can embrace, that protect the ecology of the watershed, and that facilitate people’s use and enjoyment. It is not possible to do that alone, however, and the new Executive Director will partner with the growing number of leaders from the nonprofit, university, corporate, and citizen communities concerned about the Charles and the effects of climate change on the region.

Community Engagement

CRWA has enjoyed an almost unprecedented level of volunteer engagement among area residents who—by the thousands—have measured water quality, pulled invasive water chestnuts, or participated in riverbank clean up days year after year. The next CRWA leader will leverage this support to bring the message of the Charles and its critical role in the area’s future to new generations. Further, the Executive Director will build upon CRWA’s reputation as an honest broker and fierce science-based advocate to mobilize new constituencies to the local, state, regional, and national work necessary to protect the Charles and the environment for the future. None of this will be possible unless the next Executive Director successfully enlists the investment of both the philanthropists that have made New England’s environmental organizations the strongest in the country, and new supporters who seek leadership opportunities and deep engagement in their giving priorities.

Outstanding Management Skills

Since CRWA’s founding, the systems and expectations for even a small nonprofit organization have become more complex. In order to achieve the expansive vision CRWA’s supporters have, the next Executive Director must bring 21st century skills in business planning, communications, evaluation, and talent management to operations that meet and exceed those of high performing nonprofits in competitive markets. In addition, the Executive Director will serve as a thought leader locally and nationally working within an environmental movement that seeks not just to oppose but also to offer progressive solutions to seemingly intractable challenges. Finally, the Executive Director will bring a talent for finding efficiencies and effective approaches that succeed within limited, but growing, resources.

Ideal Experience

  • A proven track record as an innovative leader of people and social change, within a watershed, conservation, environmental, outdoors, climate change, or comparable organization.
  • Experience in environmental protection or the advocacy for which CRWA is a leader.
  • Demonstrated success as a fundraiser to create a culture of philanthropy that engages individuals with capacity for six and seven figure investments as well as young adults and grassroots volunteerism.
  • Outstanding communication skills spanning social media to public addresses, journal articles to Beacon Hill testimony.
  • Sound operational expertise to organize the financial, talent, and evaluative systems to succeed.

Additional Personal Characteristics

  • Gutsiness and a willingness to take difficult, principled stands but also to collaborate.
  • Creativity and imagination to foster the long-term potential for CRWA and watershed organizations.
  • A sense of humor, patience, and realism about leading a small nonprofit.
  • Passion for the Charles!

To Apply

Charles River Watershed Association is an equal opportunity workplace and is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in its hiring, workplace, and work. CRWA has partnered with Carolyn O’Brien Consulting LLC to lead this search. Please email [email protected] to apply, nominate a candidate, or for more information. Applicants should submit a thoughtful cover letter and detailed resume (using the following naming convention for files: Lastname_resume and Lastname_cover). All applications will be read and acknowledged. Only applications closely meeting the candidate profile will be contacted for additional information. All inquiries and applications are confidential.

CRWA is an Equal Opportunity Employer, and does not discriminate on the basis of age, class, color, disability, ethnicity, faith, gender, national origin, race, or sexual orientation.