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Job ID: 219262

Executive Director of Campaign Communications and Strategy (32147)
Northern Illinois University

Date Posted Aug. 8, 2023
Title Executive Director of Campaign Communications and Strategy (32147)
University Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL, United States
Department Alumni Services
Application Deadline Open until filled
Position Start Date Available immediately
  • Senior Executive Officer
  • Research


The Northern Illinois University Foundation seeks a creative, visionary, strategic, and results-oriented marketing and communications leader to serve as Executive Director (ED) of Campaign Communications and Strategy. The ED will bring an inclusive and collaborative approach to strategic campaign communications and marketing and direct a high-performing, cross-functional team operating in concert with colleagues from the Office of University Advancement and Northern Illinois University.

The ideal candidate will demonstrate a highly cooperative spirit, a collaborative approach, exceptional communication and relationship-building skills, the empathy to relate to multiple constituencies, and the ability to move the needle in a matrixed organization. The ED will operate with transparency, establishing interdepartmental coordination, unified workflows, and adequate planning among colleagues and university partners.
The successful candidate will thrive in work environments requiring an entrepreneurial and flexible style and will bring a collaborative, team-oriented spirit along with exemplary leadership qualifications.

As a member of the Senior Leadership Team, the ED will report to the President and CEO of the NIU Foundation, who also serves as the Vice President of University Advancement. The ED will direct the planning, development, and execution of the Foundation’s integrated communications and marketing efforts, with a focus on strategic campaign communications and strategy. This position also provides counsel on crisis management and manages media relations on behalf of the Foundation.

Position Summary

The ED leads the division’s brand development, promotion, and measurement, and directs the NIU Foundation strategy to unify, optimize, and enhance comprehensive campaign communications and marketing and initiatives across administrative and academic units, including the Office of the University President. In addition to setting a clear direction and priorities for staff, this position is responsible for creating a comprehensive content, creative, and channel strategy that provides direction for the organization and aligns its work and experiences for its customers.
As the University develops fundraising campaigns and initiatives, this role will lead the development of aligned communications and marketing strategies. The ED will be tasked with deepening relationships with the University’s diverse constituent base—donors and prospective donors, alumni, parents, corporate and foundation partners, and friends—through best-in-class, groundbreaking communications and marketing strategies designed to connect various audiences to inspire meaningful relationships with the University. With a current model largely focused on alumni communications, the ED will be tasked with further building out the department to complement and support the full spectrum of development work at NIU in support of the comprehensive campaign, from broad-based digital marketing to discrete principal and major gift proposals. The ED will also rely on direction from, collaborate, and consult effectively with the University’s central Marketing and Communications division to successfully accomplish this work.
Championing a culture in which teamwork, collaboration, boldness, and innovation are expected and rewarded, the ED will lead by example as it relates to effective communication with Foundation colleagues as well as campus colleagues such as those within the Offices of the President and University Marketing and Communications, providing a high level of customer service, cross-organizational cooperation, and reliance on clear standards of professional and ethical conduct.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

Planning and Oversight (75%)
Strategic Communications Planning and Direction
    • Serve as a member of the leadership team of the Foundation, providing strategic direction for the division and across academic and administrative units in support of Northern Illinois University’s strategic and capital campaign goals.
    • Provide vision, leadership, planning, management, and evaluation of all aspects of communications and marketing strategies for the Foundation.
    • Utilize findings, study national trends, and adapt best practices to assist in the development of programs and messaging to cultivate life-long relationships between Northern Illinois University and the multifaceted Foundation constituents.
    • Advise senior leadership on communications and marketing tools and innovations required to achieve strategic goals.
    • Provide input on organization-wide matters and take shared responsibility for the success of the Foundation at large.
    • Develop Communications’ goals and manage its annual budget with advisement from the President and CEO.


Communications Operations
  • Create a cohesive communications and marketing strategy that includes support for the university’s comprehensive campaign, which will require a close working partnership with colleagues in a matrixed environment.
  • Support every department at the Foundation to host memorable, well-run events that bring audiences to more deeply understand the Foundation’s work, and that build stronger relationships with our partners.
  • Oversee content production including newsletters, annual reports, quarterly updates, websites, email blasts, social media, announcements, invitations, and event materials.
  • Ensure that Foundation leaders have the communication tools (talking points, presentations, website pages, and other supports) to meet their highest objectives across the community.
  • Guide the execution and evaluation of all aspects of marketing, data and analytics, communications and event strategies for the Foundation.
  • Champion internal strategies that create transparency and that offer clear messaging and concise positioning of the Foundation that make adoption easy for internal constituents.
Stakeholder Engagement
  • Build and maintain relationships with key stakeholders, including donors, alumni, faculty, students, and community members. Develop strategies to effectively engage with these groups and communicate the Foundation’s impact and achievements.
  • Work closely with University leadership and other senior administrators to align communication efforts and support the overall mission and goals of the University and the Foundation.
  • Activate staff and colleagues to generate innovative ideas and solutions that engage donors, alumni, supporters, and friends.
Staff Management (25%)
  • Coach, mentor, and guide the team to increase the capabilities and effectiveness of this group, including setting clear performance management objectives, and aggressively evaluating the structure, resources, and capabilities to provide a proactive, flexible, client-focused resource for the Foundation.
  • Responsible for the direct oversight of up to two Foundation positions.
  • Lead a high-impact and exceptionally performing team as well as a portfolio of outstanding and high performing contractors and consultants to achieve all departmental and organizational goals.
  • Design, implement, and evaluate the Foundation’s communications strategies and activities including, but not limited to:
    • Brand management
    • Media relations / public relations
    • Collaborative communications partnerships
  • Provide a work environment that values diversity and inclusion and establishes belonging among all community constituents including staff and volunteers regardless of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, age, veteran status, or disability.

Minimum Required Qualifications (Civil Service)


Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) (Civil Service)


Specialty Factors (Civil Service)


Preferred Qualifications (Civil Service)


Minimum Required Qualifications (SPS)

The ideal candidate must have significant experience in communications and marketing in support of advancement operations and campaigns with a track record of providing strategic leadership to a diverse team of highly-skilled communications, marketing, and event planning professionals.

  • Minimum of seven to ten years’ experience, including supervisory responsibilities, with a proven upward trajectory of varied marketing, communications and event planning roles. Ideal to have exposure to a range of disciplines and functions inherent in marketing, communications and event planning.
  • Demonstrable knowledge of marketing and communications platforms and the most current technologies available with the ability to be creative in utilizing it to lead a staff to technical solutions is ideal.
  • Bachelor’s degree in communications, marketing, journalism or related field.

Additional Requirements (SPS)

  • Track record of developing communications assets that disrupt the status quo, while holding a creative ability to move fluidly and take advantage of what is happening in the moment to spark innovation.
  • Ability to troubleshoot and make sound decisions in response to rapidly changing, often complicated situations, and comfortable managing multiple streams of work.
  • Demonstrated effectiveness as a leader and strategic thinker who thrives when working as a member of a dynamic team.
  • The professional credibility and maturity required to effectively collaborate with members of the senior leadership team and colleagues across the university.
  • Skilled coach, mentor, and motivator of professionals, with a dedication to hiring, retaining, and developing outstanding talent.
  • Ability to interpret, adapt, and further develop the “language” of The NIU Foundation in coordination with Northern Illinois University (for the benefit of Advancement’s full scope of work) in describing its collective work, aspirations, and impact.

Preferred Qualifications (SPS)

  • Advanced degree; experience working in higher education or a nonprofit.
  • 10+ years of experience in communications, marketing, or related field.
  • Proven track record building powerful and compelling brands.
  • Exceptional organizational, time management, and people management skills.
  • Exceptional interpersonal, communication, and presentation skills.
  • Experience building joyful, magnetic, high-impact teams.
  • Exceptional written and oral communication skills, and strength communicating in ways that translate across lines of difference and with varied audiences.

Physical demands/requirements

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to talk and hear. The employee frequently is required to stand for long periods of time; walk; use fingers and hands to feel, grasp, operate or handle objects, tools, or controls; and reach with hands and arms. Must be able to lift and carry 20 lbs. regularly.

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