Vice President of External Relations

Organization: Woodland Park Zoo (AZA Member)
Location: Seattle, Washington, us
Job or Internship: Job

POSITION: Vice President of External Relations


Founded in 1899 Woodland Park Zoo, located in the Phinney Ridge area of Seattle, is one of the world’s foremost zoological institutions. Situated on 92 beautifully landscaped acres the zoo houses over 1100 animals (300 species with 40+ endangered or threatened species in their collection). The award-winning accredited zoo is famed for pioneering naturalistic exhibits and setting international standards for zoos in animal care, conservation, education programs and guest experience.

With a unique combination of public and private support the zoo hosts over 1.1M visitors annually with a strong and growing membership base that boasts one of the highest membership bases among Puget Sound area attractions and museums. As a “living classroom,” Woodland Park Zoo reaches nearly 88,000 students, teachers and chaperones annually through its formal education programs. In addition, the zoo supports 35 field conservation programs working to save animals and habitats around the world from Asia, Africa and Indonesia to the Pacific Northwest.

The organization has annual revenues of $32M supported by admissions, programs, events, government grants, individual and corporate contributions and is currently engaged in an $80M comprehensive campaign. Recent successful fundraising efforts have resulted in new exhibits as well as capital projects focused on guest experience and physical improvements recognized with a LEED gold certification. Woodland Park Zoo is led by a dynamic and talented leadership team with a strong and engaged 45 member Board. Through a 20-year operating agreement partnering with the City of Seattle, the zoo is truly a beloved regional institution.

The Woodland Park Zoo is seeking a Vice President of External Relations. Reporting to the President and CEO, leading a team of 26, and serving as a member of the zoo’s executive leadership team this position will be critical in furthering the mission of the organization and driving its financial sustainability. The key areas of responsibilities are:


  • Development, Fundraising and Membership
  • Public and Government Affairs
  • Communications and Social Media

Responsibilities Include:

Development, Fundraising and Membership

  • Oversee a comprehensive capital and operating fundraising campaign. Current campaign ($80M target $71M raised to date) is in its public phase.
  • Work closely with the Board of Directors and senior staff to establish and meet fundraising goals.
  • Create annual performance goals and operating plans leading fundraising objectives within Development.
  • Responsible for the oversight, planning and implementation of a comprehensive development program that secures significant financial resources from multiple sources to support the goals and assists the capacity of the organization to gain future support.
  • Manage Development activities, including staff functions in annual giving, major gifts, planned giving, donor prospecting and research, membership, special multi-year capital fundraising campaigns.
  • Advance the organization’s position with relevant constituents to drive broader awareness and donor support.
  • Lead and implement short and long-range strategic fundraising priorities.
  • Plan and direct a comprehensive program of building and maintaining institutional relationships with foundations, corporations and government agencies.
  • Maintain a thorough working knowledge of issues and trends affecting government funding and communicate regularly to other staff to facilitate awareness of strategic opportunities and challenges in building support for zoo priorities.
  • Develop and implement programs to seek funding from local, regional and national foundations.
  • Develop and leverage personal relationships with key foundation and corporate representatives.

Public and Government Affairs

  • Lead creation and implementation of public and government affairs strategies.
  • Work with legislative body and executive branch to maintain good standing with government stakeholders.
  • Lead efforts to identify and execute strategies that will maximize government funding and support legislation that will positively impact the zoo.
  • Partner with research and Business Development staff to identify and government grant funders.
  • Lead organization efforts for public affairs campaigns.
  • Develop and maintain effective relationships with Seattle, King County and State government leaders to help support the mission of the zoo.
  • Work with CEO and Board to support passage of the upcoming King County Bond Act.
  • Build and maintain successful relationships with the local community and zoo neighbors.

Communications and Social Media

  • Lead communications functions by establishing clear outcomes and objectives.
  • Implement strategic communication plan to ensure coherent messaging internally and externally across platforms and audiences.
  • Work with communications team in creation of new communications strategies, including adoption of new social media and zoo branding opportunities.
  • Enable effective communications both inside and outside organization.
  • Guide regular communications with donors. Develop and implement tracking system and assure that timely and accurate information is shared with appropriate staff relative to other Advancement efforts and prospects. Oversee the maintenance and integrity of donor/prospect records, data base management and research for program evaluation.
  • Stay abreast of important trends (including business competitive, technological, social, and economic) that could potentially impact the organization.
  • Build a positive image and create vital public awareness of and interest in the zoo.
  • Foster strong relationships with key institutions, individuals and stakeholders to harness support and create a positive environment for the zoo and enhance the organization’s impact.

Team Leadership and Key Relationships

  • Partner with the CEO on operational and strategic issues as they arise; provide strategic recommendations to the CEO based on analysis and projections.
  • Participate in the ongoing strategic planning process as an integral member of the executive leadership team. Engage all members of the executive leadership team to align operational management with short and long-term planning and projections
  • Provide necessary leadership for five or more direct reports in the Division.
  • Develop and administer External Relations budget. Monitor grants budgets and grantee expenditures, as well as organizational budgets, as appropriate. Recommend for approval any deviations from approved plans and budgets, and ensure that such changes are documented.
  • Motivate and coordinate efforts of a multi-disciplinary staff team and volunteers in fundraising, including donor cultivation and solicitation.
  • Work closely with the VP of Business Development to appropriately forecast revenue monthly against annual goals. Assure timely and accurate reporting on funding.
  • Serve as a key liaison to the zoo’s Board of Directors. Partner with the CEO and other leadership team members in Board of Directors communications and engagement.
  • Establish and maintain a strong, effective partnership with Board members to further a culture of collaboration, cooperation, and consultation.
  • Prepare materials for the Board.
  • Prepare and deliver employee performance evaluations, appropriate disciplinary actions and documentation of excellent work performance to assure a mutual understanding of goals and progress towards ever improving professional achievement.
  • Establish appropriate performance measures to ensure organizational success.
  • Recruit and hire qualified applicants for open positions; ensuring adequate staff to meet operational requirements. Ensure on-going training and planning.
  • Leverage constructive and effective relationships with team and leaders within the organization. Analyze data to understand operational effectiveness. Provide regular and actionable management reporting that will assist in guiding daily business.
  • Drive continuous improvement in all organizational processes and services.
  • Maintain and identify staff and resources to meet goals.
  • Mentor and develop staff with an eye towards developing future leaders.
  • Provide effective and inspiring leadership as well as stewardship to the organization by being actively involved in all operations. Promote regular and ongoing opportunities for all staff to give feedback regarding operations.

Strategy and Vision

  • Develop a clear vision for the future of the External Relations Division. Maintain a long-term, big-picture view of the organization and assist the leadership team in identifying long-term, future needs and opportunities.
  • Anticipate the evolution and future of the industry and how, through external relations, the organization must adapt to these changes in order to sustain competitive advantage.
  • Clearly communicate the organization’s external relations vision and goals.


  • Proven track record securing major foundation and government funding.
  • Demonstrated experience developing and executing strategic funding plans and programs, developing and managing budgets, and producing quality deliverables within stated timeframes.
  • Strong northwest network and connections in the Seattle philanthropic and government communities.
  • Political savvy with strong understanding of advocating for legislative matters including bonds.
  • Proven success in utilizing PR and Social Media to drive organizational growth.
  • Demonstrated success in developing and executing a strategic communication plan.
  • Ability to create an environment of diversity and respect, dignity and entrepreneurial spirit
  • Expert knowledge of current and evolving trends in major gifts giving and solicitation and capital campaigns.
  • Proven success in asking-for and closing major gifts and building and maintaining long-term relationships with fundraising constituents such major donors, foundations and corporations.
  • Articulate, energetic and driven.
  • Team oriented and inclusive.
  • Excellent written and verbal communications as well as negotiations skills.
  • Proven ability to manage multiple priorities across a complex organization setting deadlines and ensuring program accountability.
  • Proven success in a constantly changing environment with minimum supervision
  • Commitment to creating an environment of enthusiasm and excellence by communicating high expectations and fostering optimistic, positive attitudes about people and their work in the organization. Nurture a common vision and shared values.
  • Knowledge of advanced gift planning concepts a plus.
  • Fast learner with a great sense of humor desirable.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • Experienced in clear and persuasive writing and editing of proposals and documents.
  • Ability to read and analyze financial reports and legal documents.
  • Ability to communicate effectively with influential people and to command attention.
  • Ability to effectively present information to top management, public groups, and/or boards of directors.
  • Ability to respond to common inquiries or complaints from customers, regulatory agencies, or members of the business community.
  • Ability to evaluate business plans and financial reports.
  • Commitment to the mission of the zoo and the organization’s core values.


  • Bachelors (B.S. or B.A.) or Master's (M.S. or M.A.) degree or equivalent from a nationally accredited college or university in business, marketing, administration or related field; and 10+ years related-work experience in fundraising.

Compensation will include an attractive base salary and other executive benefits.

For confidential inquiries and more information, please contact:

Scott Rabinowitz, Managing Director
(206) 299-2138