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Job Details

Communications Officer

Company name
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Chicago, IL, United States

Employment Type


Posted on
Jan 14,2019

Valid Through
Apr 29,2019



The Communications Team

The MacArthur Communications team builds thoughtful and creative communications strategies to advance the work of the Foundation and its grantees in bringing about social change.

We collaborate closely with program teams and other colleagues across the Foundation to create and implement proactive communications plans that enhance the impact of MacArthur’s grantmaking and its grantees. We are responsible for the Foundation's strategic efforts to communicate with the press, public, and policymakers: leading media relations; creating Web and social media content; producing grantee stories; and planning public events. We also provide communications support and advice to MacArthur’s leadership, staff, and grantees.

Our team includes the Managing Director; four Communications Officers, who lead communications for a portfolio of programs; three Associates, one each focused on Web, social media, and writing/research projects; an Administrator; and outside consultants/firms as needed.

The Communications Officer Position

This position will complement a talented team and report to the Managing Director for Communications, who serves on the Foundation’s senior leadership team. The role offers the opportunity to work across wide ranging and evolving issue areas and the flexibility to grow skills and knowledge.

As a Communications Officer you will be responsible for proactively creating, implementing, and managing strategic communications plans for a portfolio of MacArthur’s programmatic work. You must be able to leverage your understanding of the dynamic tools and landscape of strategic communications, particularly as it relates to issue-based initiatives. Central to this role is the ability to drive and execute strategic communications, lead planning, ask thoughtful, probing questions, and effectively implement the plan. Additionally, a Communications Officer engages across the Foundation by participating on cross-Foundation working groups and on team assignments that are not program specific.

While experience working in one or more of our current grantmaking fields is a plus, you should be open to work on communications for any MacArthur program and able to move easily across diverse fields.

Key Responsibilities

Strategy Development and Implementation

The primary responsibility is to design and execute comprehensive communications strategies to advance the work of the Foundation and its grantees in select fields;

Drive and lead communications for a portfolio of MacArthur programs;

Empower and enable program staff to act as spokespeople for their programmatic areas in order to broaden and democratize the voice of the Foundation; and

Work closely with program directors and staff, communications colleagues, grantees, and other stakeholders to develop and carry out programmatic communications strategies.

Messaging and Materials

Craft consistent, accessible, up-to-date program messaging and devise and implement tactics to connect that messaging to key audiences, and

Write press releases, web and social media content, op-eds, talking points, briefings, and program updates for the Foundation’s staff, Board, President, media, the public, and other audiences.

Media, Events, and External Resources Management

Build relationships with, pitch stories to, and respond to relevant media;

Plan and execute public events that further strategic communications objectives;

Represent the Foundation and its perspective to outside audiences, including grantees and the public; and

Manage and partner with external communications firms, consultants, and other vendors engaged in support of the Foundation and grantees.

Communications Officers represent the team as good citizens of the Foundation and uphold our team values:


in all we do;


through continuous and shared learning and an openness to new ideas and new approaches;


in working together and with other Foundation colleagues;


in earning and demonstrating trust and respect toward one another, a willingness to step up and take the lead when the team needs it and helping each other out, and follow through on our commitments to each other; and


in embracing the principles of MacArthur’s Just Imperative

Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate is a communications strategist first and foremost, who has a desire to lend their skills and expertise to creating positive change in the world.

We are looking for a smart strategist and thoughtful advisor but also an effective implementor. Communications Officers need the agility and flexibility to pivot between high-level strategy and implementation, as well as an openness to switching between programs and assignments over time.

Collaboration and teamwork are key; this is not an independent contributor role. We seek individuals with breadth in issue and content knowledge and with the intellectual curiosity to learn and engage across various fields.

Media relations is also an important skill set; we are looking for demonstrated experience proactively securing coverage and responding to potentially challenging media inquiries. A sophisticated understanding of social media channels and tactics and how these fit into a comprehensive communications strategy is expected.

A background that includes the ability to write and talk about social challenges in a style that respects the depth and complexity of the issues, but is accessible to a general audience, is critical. The ability to write effectively for varied audiences and to adjust and adapt style to represent authentic voices is essential.

Our work requires an understanding of and respect for the diversity of communities and grantees with whom we work; we look for candidates who can demonstrate this through personal or professional experience.

Important Personal Attributes for Success

Effective, clear, concise communication style; active listener;

Superb interpersonal dexterity and self-awareness;

Demonstrated flexibility and adaptability;

Effective at prioritizing multiple, competing demands and a busy meeting schedule;

Collegial, positive attitude and a team orientation; and

Respectful of others’ time and work needs; proactively keeps others informed; treats colleagues with respect and courtesy.

Other Key Qualifications

A Bachelor’s degree;

At least seven years of full-time communications work experience on issue or cause-related work, in or for mission-driven organizations, in roles such as public relations, media relations, public affairs, campaign or policy communications;

An understanding of social change gained from direct experience in a nonprofit, NGO, social enterprise, university, government, or a communications agency is an asset;

Demonstrated ability to learn and translate complex subject matter; and

A track record of success developing and executing comprehensive strategic communications programs in a highly complex, multi-layered, intellectually rigorous work environment.

To Be Considered

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and benefits from the talents of a diverse staff. We benefit as individuals and the work is better because of our staff’s diverse backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences.

To be considered, please submit your resume and cover letter expressing your passion for the mission and fit for the role via Waldron’s Candidate Web Portal.

Please note this position is based in Chicago.

The search for a Communications Officer for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is being assisted by a team from Waldron:

Melissa Merritt


(206) 792-4300

Heather Mohler

Engagement Manager

(206) 792-4311

Company info

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Website :

Company Profile
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. MacArthur is one of the nation's largest independent foundations. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, strengthens institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media. The Foundation makes grants and loans through four programs.

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