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President & Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

The Opportunity

A voice for children since 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy that serves as a fierce champion of Detroit children. The Foundation works to ensure Detroit youth achieve their highest aspirations by strengthening K-12 public education, afterschool learning opportunities, and college and career pathways.

With assets of nearly a half-billion dollars and annual grant budgets of $15-20 million, the Skillman Foundation supports quality educational and economic opportunities for Detroit children, and equitable civic action that champions the city’s youth. Inspired by the unwavering advocacy of our founder, the legacy of Rose Skillman continues to live on through the organization, its leadership, and its critical work, today, and for years to come. Detroit – like our nation – is at a critical juncture, and the Skillman Board has recently endorsed pursuing an opportunity to increase grant investments through a social bond for even greater impact.

As a fierce champion of Detroit children, the Foundation is driven to create a community where all Detroiters—especially youth— are valued, heard, and mobilized in the service of opportunity and prosperity for all. The Skillman Foundation is committed to confronting inequitable and unjust practices, policies and narratives, pushing bold, equitable change on behalf Detroit children, and breaking through the historical, systemic barriers that hold kids back from pursuing their dreams.

As the organization enters this next chapter of its history, the Board of Trustees seeks a passionate and equity-minded executive to advance Skillman’s critical work. This is an exciting opportunity for a dynamic leader to build on a rich legacy, collaborate with a committed community of internal and external stakeholders, and drive strategy that energizes and activates real impact.  

The Foundation’s next leader will be passionately committed to Detroit children, to building racial equity and inclusiveness within the city of Detroit and for its youth, especially black and brown children. This leader will also amplify the Skillman voice in regional and statewide platforms that affect policy. Skillman’s CEO will demonstrate agility and the ability to navigate change, both in implementing the organization’s strategic mission, and in response to dramatic shifts in our external environment, such as the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on schools and children.  In the face of a rapidly changing world that requires nimbleness and adaptability, the next CEO will foster innovation and thoughtfully manage the organization’s pursuit of opportunity and equity for Detroit’s children.     

Position Description

The Skillman Foundation’s Board of Trustees is seeking a dynamic executive to build on the organization’s legacy and lead the organization through this next chapter. This individual will provide energy, vision, strategy, and management to drive the Foundation’s impact across Detroit.

Reporting to and partnering closely with a committed Board, the President & CEO will have overall accountability and responsibility for the philanthropic, operational and financial affairs of the Skillman Foundation.

This leader will represent Skillman in its work to advance the organization’s mission, will live out the organization’s values and will inspire an equity focused culture that honors the legacy of Rose Skillman and commitment to leveraging the foundation’s grantmaking and broader influence to improve the lives of Detroit children.

Specific responsibilities include:

Vision & Mission Stewardship:  

  • Provide the creative and strategic vision, direction, inspiration, and motivation necessary to ensure the Foundation’s success and continued advancement toward the mission.
  • Incorporate the organization’s vision into its programs and operations and ensure that this vision is embodied in the organization’s work.
  • Effectively communicate a compelling, shared vision for staff, the Board and pertinent external groups, ensuring that the mission and programs are accurately understood.
  • Ensure careful stewardship of the endowment and the Foundation’s role.

Board Engagement:

  • Work with the Board to help ensure proper constitution and available resources and information for effective governance; support Board members as they individually and collectively fulfill their governance and fiduciary responsibilities; ensure transparency and regular communication with the Board in all key areas.
  • Serve as a liaison and foster effective relationships within the Board and between the Board and with key Foundation leadership, staff teams, and external audiences.
  • Engage in contemplative discourse with the Board around emerging trends, and exploration of investments in existing and new initiatives; cultivate an open, thoughtful, and collaborative partnership with the Board to execute against Skillman’s strategy and respond nimbly in an evolving external environment.

Organizational Leadership:

  • Financial Management: Ensure the endowment management and financial administration strategies and systems are effective, aligned with the Foundation’s mission/values, and implemented well. 
  • Programmatic Oversight:  Ensure the development of programming, grant-making and investment strategies and systems are effective, aligned with the mission/values of the Skillman Foundation, and implemented well.
  • Innovation and Impact: Ensure standards and systems are in place that track the foundation’s effectiveness and impact, including more robust measurement and rigor around programmatic innovation and outcomes, and increased programs integration with endowment for a greater impact platform.
  • Staff Management: Recruit, lead, develop and inspire a diverse and autonomous staff.  Ensure that staff are supported, entrusted, and empowered, and that their unique contributions to the work of the Foundation are recognized, appreciated, and amplified.  Foster a community of meaningful collaboration, intellectual curiosity, continuous learning, and open feedback.
  • Culture:  Model and create an equity-focused environment centered on Skillman’s guiding principle of embracing diversity and authentic inclusion in all areas of work and as a prerequisite for positive social change.  Actively support a culture of impeccable integrity, professionalism, commitment, and humility. Demonstrate the value of diversity, equity and inclusion in all actions and decisions, and instill those values across the organization. Ensure the adoption of and adherence to appropriate values and ethical standards in all foundation business.  

 External Affairs:

  • Serve as the key representative of the Foundation to external constituencies, strategically leveraging its public voice and credible influence, and maintaining strong reputation and identity of the foundation’s legacy and its work.
  • Leverage existing connections outside of Detroit and build new national relationships that may increase philanthropic investments in Detroit from across the country.
  • Cultivate relationships with relevant community organizations and leaders in government, business, and other nonprofits, contributing to thought leadership around philanthropy, equity, and impact; work collaboratively with other private and/or public funders, grantees and community partners, lifting the voices of the community, and influencing measurable change.

Who You Are

The successful candidate will be a proven senior executive and stellar people manager who will be a fierce champion of Detroit children.  The individual will bring equity focused and collaborative values alignment, notable intellectual curiosity, a steady presence, and strategic and outcome-oriented leadership to advance the organization’s goals. Additional ideal qualifications include:

  • Knowledge of issues most pressing for children and education.
  • Experience driving systems change.
  • Experience in some combination of philanthropy and/or other nonprofits, government, private sector, and an ability to work across sectors and boundaries.
  • Proven experience managing board governance and engagement. 
  • Strong people leadership and management skills. Track record of empowering a diverse group of professionals and content experts, entrusting and amplifying the work of others.
  • Experience executing a strategic plan, managing organizational complexity, and enhancing an organization’s capacity/impact.
  • Understanding of power dynamics around philanthropy and grantmaking structures.
  • Strong business acumen and results-orientation; a good manager of assets – people, money, and time.
  • Outstanding communications and diplomatic skills, including the ability to relate well to a wide range of constituencies and people at all levels. Political savvy, can listen well, and is able to clearly articulate the message and command the respect of any audience.
  • A history of successful engagement, partnering, fostering alliance-building among a broad range of constituencies. An ability to work with and effectively inspire innovative thinking among stakeholders and audiences in multiple sectors.
  • Champion and leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Ability to engage a broad network of strong relationships with youth service providers, educators and civic leaders. Demonstrated success building and sustaining collaborations that produce outsized results.
  • Reputational clout in the community and understanding of politics necessary to lead in this ecosystem. Influential (or has the potential to be influential) in Detroit.
  • Community driven experience, preferably working with/in economically disadvantaged community(s).
  • A demonstrated commitment to accountability and continuous improvement.
  • High level of emotional intelligence, empathy, and humility.
  • Impeccable character and integrity.


An undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university is required. An advanced degree and/or pertinent experience is preferred.


A competitive compensation package will be offered to attract the most qualified candidates.

How to Apply

Interested and qualified candidates are welcome to submit application materials for consideration via e-Korn Ferry’s online portal here: Please ensure that any attachments are uploaded in Word or PDF format, with your first and last name clearly labelled in the document title. Applications should include a full-length resume and a customized statement of interest indicating your motivation to apply for the Skillman CEO role and your relevant experience. Please note that applications including only a LinkedIn profile or those lacking insufficient information will not be considered. Nominations and inquiries may be directed to the Korn Ferry team (Divina Gamble and Cristina Fisher) at

The Skillman Foundation

A voice for children since 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy that serves as a fierce champion of Detroit children. The Foundation works to ensure Detroit youth achieve their highest aspirations by strengthening K-12 public education, afterschool learning opportunities, and college and career pathways.

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