Theatre Forward, originally known as the National Corporate Theatre Fund, was created in 1977 with the mission to advance American theatre and its communities by providing funding and other resources to prominent regional theatres in the United States. Member theatres are located in 19 cities across the country and share many characteristics, including independently determined programming, seasons of nine months or more, multiple stages, a full-time professional staff, and a record of artistic excellence. Theatre Forward’s vision is to increase access and opportunity for all to experience theatre that builds community and sets the stage for individual achievement.
Theatre Forward connects member theatres to national funding resources that may otherwise not be available, and these connections ensure that theatre continues to thrive. This support enables member theatres to offer education and community programs that fuel positive engagement and build lifelong skills. Theatre Forward provides many benefits for supporters, including access to discounted tickets and unique theatre events. It also creates opportunities for artists and champions the creation of thought-provoking performances for diverse audiences.
Made possible by generous donors, foundations, and board members, the Advancing Strong Theatre grant program is a highlight of Theatre Forward’s initiatives. It was created so that everyone could experience theatre regardless of income, education, age, race, religion, ability, or gender identity. In 2018 four grants of $50,000 were awarded to The Old Globe, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Guthrie Theater, and Dallas Theater Center to accelerate programs that increase equity, diversity, and inclusion and to build relationships with communities that previously had not fully participated in theatre programs. Theatre Forward and an exclusive corporate sponsor will announce the next multiyear phase of this program in the fall of 2019.
Theatre Forward is governed by a 28-member board of directors, led by Chairman John Thomopoulos. Executive Director Bruce Whitacre leads the four-person staff and will retire in early 2020. The organization’s original 10 founding member theatres each have a representative who serves on the board, pay annual dues, and receive annual philanthropic support for general operations. Beginning in 2006, an additional nine comparable theatres were brought on by the founding theatres to expand Theatre Forward’s reach in education and other initiatives. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019 (unaudited), Theatre Forward reported total revenues of $1.6 million with approximately 73 percent from contributions and grants and 27 percent from program service revenue. The budget for fiscal year 2020 is $1.9 million.
The Executive Director will create innovative ways for Theatre Forward to achieve its long-term vision of advancing American theatre and the communities they serve. Reporting to the board of directors, the Executive Director will grow the breadth and depth of financial support that advances the respective missions and programs of Theatre Forward’s members. This individual will also provide visionary strategic leadership that deepens current stakeholder relationships and creates new opportunities that ensure future success and impact. The Executive Director will employ expert business acumen and supervise all aspects of programming, development, marketing, communications, human resources, and financial planning. This individual will be the public face of Theatre Forward and will embrace creativity, innovation, and futuristic thinking while strengthening its commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Roles and Responsibilities
Contributed Revenue Generation
- Oversee all fundraising activities, including cultivation initiatives and events (such as the annual gala), and serve as an ambassador for Theatre Forward with a focus on donor base expansion and diversification.
- Develop and execute targeted cultivation plans and solicitation strategies to a broad range of prospects.
- Enhance the comprehensive stewardship program to create continuous connections between members and donors, emphasizing the identification, cultivation, and solicitation of corporate partners and individual donors.
- Generate customized donor recognition opportunities that support expanded fundraising activities.
- Manage and grow existing corporate, major donor, and foundation projects to ensure successful implementation and renewal.
- Proactively guide the board to drive fundraising activity and personal engagement with top donor prospects, providing expert training as needed.
- Embrace other contributed revenue generation responsibilities as needed.
Strategic Vision and Leadership
- Propel Theatre Forward into the national network of arts, education, and philanthropic service organizations to increase the organization’s viability and access to thought leaders, resources, and platforms that serve its mission.
- Serve as a committed, visionary, and accessible leader for Theatre Forward in a wide range of communities and settings.
- Aggregate the input of theatre leaders, artists, and other stakeholders to create strategic goals and action plans for Theatre Forward.
- Create the foundation for the next decade of advancing theatre and communities through the organization’s education, equity, diversity and inclusion programs.
- Demonstrate a collaborative leadership style with a true connection to the organization’s members, staff, board, and community.
Relationship Building and Member Engagement
- Invigorate connections with Theatre Forward member theatres to ensure they are engaged at the highest level.
- Establish and maintain strong ties with the commercial Broadway community, industry decision makers, educators, and the arts community at-large to ensure Theatre Forward continues to play a key role in connecting stakeholders to theatre.
- Act as the primary spokesperson for the organization in articulating its mission, vision, and values, and the impacts of its member theatres.
- Ensure that all programs, communication, systems, staffing, and operations meet the needs of the members and other stakeholders and are in alignment with the organization’s strategy, mission, and vision.
- Build artistic relationships that support Theatre Forward’s events, policies, and leadership strategies.
Board Development and Financial Stewardship
- Identify, cultivate, and assist in the recruitment of board members whose skills, experience, financial connections, diversity, and capacity meet the organization’s needs.
- Collaborate with the board to refine and implement the institution’s strategic plan to meet annual goals and priorities.
- Ensure the ongoing financial health of the organization by providing sound budgeting, financial management, and analysis.
- Provide accurate and timely information to the board so it can effectively fulfill its policy, fiduciary, and decision-making responsibilities.
- Embrace other board development and financial stewardship responsibilities as needed.
- Deliver expert organizational leadership in all aspects of development, marketing, and external relations.
- Maintain and expand an efficient and effective organizational structure for fundraising, programming, organizational management, fiduciary excellence, and project leadership.
- Mentor, hire, and train staff, providing performance appraisals and career development on an ongoing basis.
- Create opportunity for staff to become fully proficient in the areas of equity, diversity, and inclusion relating to their organizational duties, communication, and behavior.
- Assess current technology resources and practices to ensure maximum efficiency and results.
- Ideate, plan, and produce all aspects of fundraising, educational, and promotional events.
- Oversee other organizational management responsibilities as needed.
Traits and Characteristics
The Executive Director will exhibit superior interpersonal and communication skills and place a high value on building relationships. A motivated collaborator, the successful candidate will be resourceful, receptive to new ideas, embrace new opportunities, and comfortable with frequent change in the fast-paced theatre industry. The Executive Director will use a people-oriented approach to connect with a community of diverse donors, artists, board members, theatre leaders, and staff to build effective partnerships and positively impact members’ long-term success.
Other key competencies include:
- Personal and Professional Accountability – The capacity to accept responsibility for actions and outcomes and to demonstrate rigorous self-management practices.
- Planning and Organizing – The discipline to work within established timeframes and use efficient systems to achieve order and accuracy.
- Self-Starting – The ability to develop relevant initiatives and goals and to initiate activity without delay.
- Customer Focus and Interpersonal Skills – The dedication to present an unwavering commitment to stakeholder satisfaction with a high value placed on clear communication and building authentic rapport with a variety of people regardless of cultural background.
- Teamwork and Leadership – The aptitude to cooperate with others to meet objectives and influence people to believe in a vision while creating a sense of purpose and direction.
A bachelor’s degree and a minimum of seven to 10 years of related senior management experience are required. Significant experience in fundraising, including a successful track record of engagement with corporate donors, is essential. Strong connection to the New York funding environment is highly desirable. Expertise in program and organizational development, finance, and teambuilding is necessary. Qualified candidates will have a passion for arts and culture, a working knowledge of the theatre industry, and an enthusiasm for growing an organization’s commitment to excellence, equity, diversity, and access. Superior written and verbal communication, interpersonal, and emotional intelligence skills are key. Residency in the New York City region is required, as is the ability to travel nationally as necessary.
Compensation and Benefits
Theatre Forward offers a competitive salary commensurate with experience. The organization provides full-time employees with health insurance, 403(b) retirement plan (non-contributory), Flexible Spending Account cafeteria plan for non-insured health needs, and a generous vacation and holiday policy.
Applications and Inquiries
Please submit a cover letter, resume, and demonstrable earned and contributed revenue accomplishments (electronic submissions preferred) to:
Jenna Deja, Vice President
201 West Lake Street, Suite 133
Chicago, IL 60606-1803
Tel (888) 234.4236 Ext. 227
Theatre Forward is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment and
is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. Applicants from populations underrepresented
are strongly encouraged to apply. All qualified applications will receive consideration for
employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression,
familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, ability, age, or veteran status.
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