In 1976, the family of businesswoman, humanitarian and philanthropist Beatrice Fox Auerbach deeded 120 acres of her beloved Auer Farm to the Connecticut 4-H Development Fund, a separately incorporated nonprofit organization. The relationship with 4-H began in the 1960s when members of Connecticut 4-H clubs and their leaders maintained Mrs. Auerbach’s 11-acre apple orchard and harvested the apples. The connection to 4-H continues today through the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Connecticut’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The 4-H Education Center enthusiastically welcomes urban and suburban children and families for educational and recreational activities. More than 15,000 people annually visit the beautiful, peaceful agricultural setting just a few miles from the hubbub of downtown Hartford, Connecticut. They participate in educational programs, wander the trails, pick blueberries, visit the animal barns, attend birthday parties and participate in Fall Festival. Programs, such as those listed below, encourage critical thinking and curiosity and provide hands-on discovery experiences that motivate and inspire scientific literacy.
- Preschoolers and kindergartners from a nearby magnet school come to the farm three days a week for creative classroom experiences such as growing plants in the greenhouse and spending time in the barns with the animals.
- Older students participate in hands-on lessons about biology, horticulture and math in the farm’s classrooms, fields, gardens and barns.
- Suburban and urban schools partner, bringing students together to experience programs that foster friendships and develop a basic understanding of agricultural science and its effects on daily life.
- Pre-kindergarteners through sixth graders participate in the Summer Farm Academy, which provides the opportunity to participate in unique, farm-based experiences that relate directly to what is happening on the farm at the time.
- Visitors learn about maple syrup, apples and apple trees, farm animals or food production by participating in seasonal programs and/or demonstrations.
- Volunteers tend a large garden and donate the fresh vegetables to Foodshare for distribution to hungry people in Hartford and Tolland counties.
With an FY11 operating expense budget of $536,000, the 4-H Education Center currently has a staff of five full and four part time employees. The major sources of revenue are as follows: 56% from program fees paid by school groups; 15% from grants; 12% from rental income paid by tenants who live in houses on the site; 9% from program fees for seasonal programs; 5% from events and contributions; and 3% from farm sales.
An experienced interim executive director, Cathy Cohen, has been working with the board and staff since October 2010 to lay the groundwork for welcoming the organization’s first ‘official’ executive director. The other staff positions include teachers, teacher assistants, office manager, farm and facilities manager, and farm assistant. There is a contracted financial manager.
The 4-H Education Center is governed by an 18-member board of directors, whose energetic members range in tenure from less than a few months to more than 20 years. Over the years, board members have enthusiastically played a very active role in day-to-day operations, providing staff-like support in areas such as program, facilities, marketing and communications, grant writing, farm production and volunteer development. Active committees include board membership, executive, education, facilities, finance, fund development, marketing and public relations, production and volunteer. With support from the interim executive director, the board has been consciously moving in the direction of becoming more of a governance board. Board members are looking forward to working with the new executive director to continue this transition.
The board of directors is enthusiastic about hiring the first executive director, who, with support from the board, will transform the organization and take it to the next level. Leveraging a personal passion for the 4-H Education Center’s mission, s/he will engage the board, staff, 4-H supporters and other external stakeholders to raise visibility, develop collaborations, and attract the financial and other resources required to ensure programmatic and financial sustainability and growth. Important organizational priorities include:
- Develop and implement a fund development plan to increase earned and contributed revenue in order to maintain excellence in educational programs, community outreach, facilities and organizational infrastructure;
- Create a dynamic marketing and public relations plan and leverage the internal and external resources necessary to implement it successfully;
- Develop, strengthen and/or leverage partnerships with the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and other institutions of higher education, local education and other community leaders, other nonprofit organizations, corporations, foundations, etc.;
- Enhance and expand year-round, curriculum-based, experiential science education, utilizing Connecticut state standards and integrating relevant components of 4-H science, technology and math programs;
- Work in partnership with the board of directors to strengthen its capacity to govern strategically and effectively; to participate actively in efforts to generate financial and other resources; and to act as ambassadors for the organization throughout the community; and
- Develop and implement an organizational structure and related processes that strengthen the staff’s ability to accomplish long-term goals efficiently and cost effectively and that engage and support volunteers.
The Ideal Candidate
The ideal Executive Director candidate will have the following professional background and personal characteristics.
Professional background, skills and knowledge:
- At least five years of successful senior-level management experience, preferably in an entrepreneurial environment, including supervision of staff and volunteers, management of finances, and interaction with customers;
- Track record of raising money from a variety of sources, including earned revenue, individuals, foundations, businesses, etc. and a thorough understanding of government grants;
- Familiarity with greater Hartford and/or Connecticut corporate, foundation, nonprofit, higher education, political and other institutions and leaders preferable;
- Working knowledge of relevant educational and other federal and state programs and the people who administer them;
- Experience developing, implementing and monitoring strategic, operational, financial, marketing and fund development plans;
- Demonstrated experience building teams, creating coalitions and sustaining effective relationships with board, staff, program participants, volunteers, donors, community leaders, political leaders, businesspeople and other stakeholders;
- Experience motivating and leveraging the support of volunteers in both a governance and an operational capacity;
- Demonstrated interest in environmental sciences and/or agriculture; and
- Minimum of Bachelor’s degree, with relevant advanced degree desirable.
Personal characteristics and leadership attributes:
- Demonstrated passion for the mission;
- Personality and presence to inspire, motivate and capture imaginations of staff, board and external stakeholders such as funders, state and local elected and appointed officials, other non-profit leaders, etc.;
- Ability to articulate a vision and inspire others, both internally and externally, to commit the resources needed to embrace and achieve it;
- Ability to conceptualize, plan and execute plans;
- Well organized, with ability to prioritize and manage multiple priorities without compromising quality;
- Excellent listening and interpersonal skills;
- Ability to work effectively with diverse groups;
- Ability to evaluate needs and resources and recommend appropriate action; and
- Exceptional oral and written communication skills.
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The 4-H Education Center at Auer Farm is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and Program Provider and actively seeks a diverse pool of candidates.
Competitive salary and benefits, commensurate with experience.
This search is being conducted by Third Sector New England’s Executive Transitions Program with Transition Consultant Ann E. Thomas. To apply, please submit a cover letter and resume to 4HEdCenterSearch@tsne.org Candidates are encouraged to include a cover letter that describes how their qualifications and experiences match the needs of the 4-H Education Center at Auer Farm, salary requirements, and how they learned of the position. Only electronic submissions will be considered. We expect to begin screening applications by June 16.