We are hiring a new Executive Director!

Position Profile:
Executive Director


Friends of the San Juans (Friends), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is seeking an experienced, passionate, and charismatic environmental leader to continue its strong community leadership in stewardship and legal protections of the land and waters of the San Juan Islands archipelago and the Salish Sea. Friends is a high performing science-driven environmental advocacy organization with a projected $1.3M operating budget for 2023, 10 staff/~7.5-8 FTEs, and a 40-year+ history of promoting ecosystem stewardship and accountability to relevant policies and laws. Through promoting and informing science-driven policy, the Executive Director will lead and strengthen a small yet highly effective staff team and board of directors at a critical time in history. This unique leadership opportunity will allow for a blending of your passion for conservation and restoration of the lands, species, and waters of the Pacific Northwest with the chance to personally experience life in the beauty and vibrancy of one of the most unique and special places in the contiguous United States.


Friends of the San Juans is an innovative and effective force and catalyst for positive change, with expertise in shoreline and nearshore habitats, vessel traffic risks and oil spill prevention, land use, and climate change.

A citizen group formed Friends of the San Juans in 1979 to help preserve the beauty, character, and wildness of the San Juan Islands in the face of increasing development. To protect the islands’ most special places and guide growth, Friends spearheaded the County’s first Comprehensive Land-use Plan. Today, Friends envisions and strives for a healthy economy and environment, renewable energy, abundant resource lands, strong island culture, recreation, and good governance.

The Organization & Programs

The mission of Friends is to protect and restore the San Juan Islands and the Salish Sea for people and nature. High priorities for the organization are thoughtful, science-based decision-making about San Juan County land use and habitat protections, and the strengthening of the regional ecosystem.

Friends’ primary goals are to:

  • Foster wild and healthy shorelines;
  • Promote thriving and sustainable communities;
  • Conserve forests, farmlands, freshwater and prairie habitats; and,
  • Ensure the health of marine ecosystems in the Salish Sea.

Thanks to the dedication of its members and supporters, Friends has come a long way from its roots in growth management and has expanded its actions to include research on marine shorelines and responses to sea level rise; restoration actions for forage fish and juvenile salmon; and advocacy for oil spill prevention and the recovery of Southern Resident orcas.

Key organizational priorities for 2021-2025, identified in the draft strategic plan developed through the last year, include:

  • Launch new research, on-the-ground projects, and policy work to improve ecosystem health and resilience;
  • Increase impact and effectiveness as protectors of the San Juan Islands and Salish Sea;
  • Expand education programs for K-12 and community audiences;
  • Integrate best practices of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice into the work and organization;
  • Center climate action as guiding principle across programming;
  • Increase scope, impact and effectiveness of communications and messaging; and,
  • Grow organizational capacity to respond to current and emerging issues.

To achieve overall impact, Friends uses science, education, community engagement, field research, and advocacy to identify and advance solutions that support people and the natural environment. The organization collaborates with tribal and other governmental agency leadership, elected officials, agency and department staff at the local, regional, state, and provincial levels, business leaders, conservationists, other environmental nonprofit organizations, and individual property owners to protect this transboundary region’s cultural and ecological resources. Friends also participates in regional vessel traffic risk assessments and research, planning, and recovery efforts for orca, salmon, forage fish, eelgrass, and kelp.

For additional information about Friends of the San Juans, see the organization’s website: www.sanjuans.org.

The Position and Key Priorities

The new Executive Director (ED) will inherit a successful organization with strong community support. The ED will serve as the face of the organization so it can grow and expand its reach and impact as it passes its first half-century milestone successfully protecting and conserving the land, water, and sea. In the first few months, the new ED will strengthen Friends’ existing partnerships and will be expected to introduce themselves and begin to develop core relationships with key stakeholders, including engaging with the communities of the San Juan Islands, Salish Sea and tribal sovereign nations and First Nations, and become known as a member of the community through engagement with Friends’ members, donors, community partners, local, tribal, and state governments, and other groups. With such relationships underway, the new ED’s first 18-24 months should focus on the following top strategic priorities which have been identified by the Friends’ board of directors and staff:

  • Refine and strengthen Friends’ strategic direction. Continue to refine, finalize, and execute a holistic strategic plan and develop annual action plans, working closely with staff and board of directors, including achieving clarity around policy, advocacy, and litigation strategies and climate change work. Building upon work and existing momentum, the ED will mobilize staff and board together around shared mission/purpose and direction.
  • Support and strengthen the board of directors. Work closely with the community-based board leadership as a ‘co-creator’ to strengthen and diversify the board of directors through board management, engagement, recruitment, and development, so that the board evolves towards a ‘best practices’ governing board.
  • Strengthen board-staff communications and alignment to support and expand the organization.
  • Build a strong and revitalized organizational culture, including supporting strategies for effective in-office and virtual work environments. Work creatively to develop and offer more in-person connections among community stakeholders. This task may involve significant inter-island travel by the new ED.
  • Continue and strengthen fundraising. Support board and staff to develop and roll out a strong and sustaining culture of philanthropy. Play a leading role in developing a diversified funding base.
  • Support and champion a strong and committed staff team through leadership, coaching and development.
    • Get to know the staff professionally and personally, including understanding their journey of the past several years.
    • Build staff cohesion towards common goals, including strengthening collaboration, effectiveness, resolving communications barriers, while also recognizing unique roles, work styles, and professional expertise.
    • Help staff attain work-life balance.
  • Increase and strengthen organizational brand awareness and public positioning so that Friends is known as a protector and defender of science-based habitat and ecosystem planning and decisions, and as an asset for the community. Strengthen and expand partnerships and leverage support for Friends’ work both within and outside of the San Juan Islands and Salish Sea.

Essential Experience, Skills, and Qualifications

Friends of the San Juans is seeking an experienced, passionate, and charismatic environmental leader with a depth of experience in nonprofit board and staff leadership and management, strategy, policy and advocacy, community relations, planning, budgeting, and fund development. The ideal candidate will be excited to play an on-the-ground leadership role in the local community and have a collaborative and supportive communications style with demonstrated professional and personal judgment to effectively relate with the media, elected officials, and the diverse local community.

Essential qualifications include:

  • Demonstrated advocacy experience and success, including translating scientific information into understandable narratives for laypeople and policymakers. Can handle complex political issues with diplomacy. Experience and comfort with litigation strategies, science, laws related to environmental/habitat/species protection, shoreline and ocean/water protection, and San Juan Islands/Salish Sea ecology are pluses.
  • Strong political and social skills to navigate and develop relationships in a small community with local political complexities.
  • A collaborative, inclusive and supportive leadership style; willing to listen to others even in disagreements and is empathetic and values diverse opinions and can facilitate and lead to clear decisions.
  • Highly strategic perspective: Experience seeing the big picture and how smaller issues and factors relate to each other and the whole. Track record of issue/project prioritization leading to winning campaigns and outcomes.
  • A track record of successful fundraising including major individual gifts and a proven ability to build and execute a culture of philanthropy. Preferred experience with successful government grants and contracts fund development.
  • A minimum of 8 years’ nonprofit organizational and financial management experience that demonstrates the ability to successfully manage and sustainably grow a ~$1.3M budget.
  • An excellent communicator, with public relations skills including media relations, public testimony, essays, and op-eds, communicating with the local community, and speaking before large groups.
  • Excellent written and oral communications. Experience developing messaging for and communicating with different audiences.
  • Demonstrated commitment to equity and inclusion work, including participation in relevant committees and trainings and a deep understanding of their own race, culture, ability, gender, age, and other identity, and how it relates to the staff, the community, and the world at large.
  • Familiarity with the environmental, political, and cultural issues of the Pacific Northwest, including tribal relations, are desirable.
  • Bachelor’s degree in environmental science, environmental policy or related field required, advanced degree in relevant field preferred.

Working Conditions

The office of the Friends of the San Juans is in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island in the state of Washington. Significant regional travel required, inter-island in the San Juan archipelago, and within the broader Salish Sea community. Some national and international travel (Canada) expected.


$105,000-$130,000 depending upon experience. Benefits include health, dental, vision insurance for the employee, reimbursement for air ambulance insurance, up to 5% of salary employer contributions to a retirement plan, 13 paid holidays, 3 weeks’ vacation, 2 weeks of medical leave, a cell phone allowance, and flexibility in employee work schedules. Relocation/housing stipend available.

Application Process

The Friends of the San Juans has engaged Jan Glick & Associates to facilitate this search. To apply, interested candidates should e-mail their resume and cover letter to: [email protected]

Only e-mail applications with a cover letter and resume will be accepted. The position is open until filled. Please include your last name in the title of each document submitted (e.g., ‘Smith Cover Letter’).

Friends of the San Juans values diversity and recognizes its role in building a more inclusive culture which will result in a capable organization. Friends’ core values lead us to seek a broad range of perspectives and backgrounds to achieve our mission and to maintain an inclusive environment where all staff are valued and respected. As an equal opportunity employer, we are committed to employment practices that ensure that employees and applicants are provided with equal opportunities without regard to race, color, national origin, ancestry, age, religion, physical or mental disability, medical condition, veteran status, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity or expression, genetic information, or any other factor that is not related to the position. We are committed to building a team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, and skills. After all, the more inclusive we are, the better our work will be.

The Friends of the San Juans do such a wonderful job of keeping on top of things like the transit of freighters through the Straits and their impact on whales as well as protecting our environment. Jim and I fell in love with the islands, the wildlife, and fishing. We hope to preserve it, not only for our family but for other families, well into the future.

Glen and Deb Bruels

members, San Juan Island