Vice President of Policy and Conservation

The Vice President of Policy and Conservation has a role on the Senior Leadership Team which develops and implements the strategic direction of Openlands. The VP of Policy and Conservation engages internal and external teams to develop innovative policy solutions and land and water conservation initiatives that have regional impact and support Openlands’ mission. In addition, the individual in this role, plans, implements, and oversees Openlands’ policy and advocacy agenda and specific projects to protect land and water in the region. This can take the form of landscape scale initiatives, research projects, advocacy and lobbying regarding the legislative change, constituency building, and coordination and leadership of coalitions. This is a full-time exempt position that reports to the Chief Executive Officer.

This position offers a Hybrid Work Model.

Essential Job Functions:

Executive Team Leadership Functions:
Organizational Strategic leadership and management

  • Support, advise and maintain excellent communication with the President and CEO and Senior Leadership team members on a wide variety of operations and strategic issues, opportunities, and challenges; help build collaborative, results-driven culture.
  • Establish and implement work plans and advance the alignment of resources and priorities among work teams.
  • Evaluate the outcomes and effectiveness of programs and projects and their delivery across the organization and adjust priorities accordingly.
  • Originate, execute, and oversee innovative and complex multi-party projects to keep Openlands current and relevant and to advance regional conservation goals.
  • Recruit hire and supervise staff and interns, including motivation, setting objectives, supporting employee growth, and managing performance.

Planning and Policy Functions

  • Develop and implement consistent policies and positions which reflect the values and priorities of Openlands to protect nature-based solutions for all communities in the region to be healthy, connected, and resilient to climate change.
  • Originate, execute, and oversee innovative and complex multi-party projects to protect significant open space, water, agricultural areas, and natural resources.
  • Lead internal and external teams to identify, research and implement planning and policy initiatives relating to public open space, water quality and quantity, local food systems, and natural resource protection.
  • Lead and coordinate stakeholder groups and manage partner relationships to develop and implement recommendations and on-the-ground projects around policy issues.
  • Identify cross-correlation of policy projects across Openlands focal areas including land conservation to provide maximum organizational benefit.
  • Advocate for the protection of land and water resources with local, regional, state, and federal elected officials and agency representatives.
  • Devise the Openlands legislative and local policy agenda and create strategies for its implementation.
  • Represent Openlands through leadership roles in coalitions with other environmental organizations and civic groups
  • Advise the Openlands Board of Directors and top management on policy and planning issues
  • Work with Director of Communications on communications and media outreach on policy issues
  • Supervise and manage staff of the Policy and Land Conservation team.
  • Manage budgets for policy and planning division.
  • Other duties as assigned

External Relations, Fund development and Partnerships

  • Engage funding community in support of Openlands’ work through philanthropic foundation and donor cultivation, research, grant proposals and reports.
  • Grow and sustain a portfolio of positive relationships among government, elected officials, and private partners to support projects and initiatives both politically and financially
  • Guide communications and outreach efforts to accomplish successful outcomes.
  • Provide leadership in state-wide land conservation and environmental communities to advance mutual goals; serve on boards, committees, and panels and build coalitions as appropriate to advance the broader Openlands agenda.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • Bachelor’s degree in political science, public policy, planning, or a related field: master’s degree preferred
  • At least 7 years of experience working in the conservation or public policy arena  
  • Supervisory experience and experience managing multiple projects
  • Understanding of the public policy process and land conservation issues
  • Persuasive public speaking and excellent verbal and written communications skills
  • Coalition building and team management skills
  • Proficiency in Microsoft office applications
  • Experience in fund development and grant writing


Salary range is market competitive. Benefits include health, life, and disability coverage, a 403(b)-retirement plan, paid holidays, and vacation time. This is a full-time, non-exempt position. Openlands is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

To Apply:

This position is open until filled. Interested applicants should send a resume and cover letter explaining why your skills and experience would complement this position to jobApps@Openlands.org. Please include “Vice President of Policy and Planning” in the subject line.

Please note that applications without a cover letter will not be considered.

Work Environment:

  • This position offers a hybrid work model with a combination of remote and work in our downtown Chicago office which is ADA accessible. This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as computers, phones, and scanners. The employee is regularly required to talk, hear, see, and communicate effectively via computer. Smoke- and drug-free environment
  • Openlands is an equal opportunity employer and seeks to employ qualified individuals based on individual merit. Openlands does not discriminate against any individual with respect to the terms and conditions of employment based on that individual’s race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin, disability, genetic information, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender

Vaccination Statement

To protect our staff and community, Openlands requires all employees to be fully vaccinated upon hire or may request a medical/religious exemption if extended an offer.

About Openlands:

Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives.

Openlands’ vision for the region is a landscape that includes a vast network of land and water trails, tree-lined streets, and intimate public gardens within easy reach of every city dweller. It also includes parks and preserves big enough to provide natural habitat and to give visitors a sense of the vast prairies, woodlands, and wetlands that were here before the cities. In sum, Openlands believes that protected open space is critical for the quality of life of our region.