Executive Director

About the Job

Hours: Full-time

Start date: Flexible, but preferably before November’s scheduled Board retreat (by Zoom).

Reports to: Board of Directors

Positions reporting to this position: Deputy Director, Finance and Operations Manager, Partnership and Community Outreach Coordinator

Location: Flexible: Asheville, NC, or within the Southern Appalachian regional footprint, including Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas and Kentucky

Compensation and Logistics: Compensation will range from $60,000 to $70,000 based on experience. Benefits are competitive with other conservation non-profits of a similar size. SAWS is an equal opportunity employer. We welcome diversity including race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. 

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

Executive Leadership

  • Lead the development and implementation of the strategic plan in collaboration with staff and Board of Directors.

  • Engage staff and key stakeholders to develop action plans for successful program implementation and expansion. 

  • Build mutually beneficial relationships in and around the communities SAWS works in, in which racially and ethnically diverse and other underrepresented people are well represented and have equitable access to opportunities and benefits created by SAWS.

Fundraising and Development

  • Develop and implement annual and long-term fundraising plans to cultivate new donors, maintain and deepen relationships with existing donors, and increase the organization’s fundraising capacity.

  • In collaboration with the Deputy Director, complete grant applications and reports, and serve as the main point of contact for funding sources.

Organizational and Board Management

  • Promote an organizational culture that fosters passion for SAWS’ mission, collaboration and teamwork, open communication, and a shared organizational vision.

  • In concert with the Deputy Director, conduct hiring, management, and retention activities consistent with best human resource management practices.

  • Ensure staff has access to proper training, with consideration for health and safety, personal development, and equity and inclusion.

  • If located outside Asheville, have a willingness to travel frequently to the area to engage with staff, provide professional development opportunities, and strengthen internal processes

  • Plan and prepare agendas and materials for board meetings in coordination with the board chair, provide timely updates to the Board of Directors on program progress and needs, and support active Board participation in strategic planning, outreach, and fundraising.

  • Engage the Board in financial planning, diversification, accounting, and annual budget and audit process.

Administration and Financial Management

  • Serve as the organization’s lead fiscal manager, closely following (through the Finance and Operations Manager) financial activities, expenditures and liabilities and ensuring compliance with federal, state, and local regulations, including items related to SAWS’ non-profit status.

  • Lead the process of preparing and managing the Board-approved annual budget with staff. 

  • Alongside the Board Treasurer, Finance Committee, and Finance and Operations Manager, ensure sound stewardship and sustainability of our financial resources.

  • Develop and meet revenue projections on an annual basis and identify strategies that support progress toward achievement of revenue goals.

Outreach & Communications / Public Relations

  • Lead the core team in the development  and implementation of  outreach strategies that support SAWS’ mission, program expansion and revenue generation, including sharing SAWS’ work and value to the community.

  • Provide oversight of all external communications and serve as a public spokesperson for SAWS with the media, donors, and other key constituencies.

  • Engage frequently with partners, particularly the United States Forest Service, and other public lands stakeholders and establish new partnerships with community leaders.

  • Monitor developments in public lands policy that affect the mission of SAWS, and communicate and collaborate with partners and key decision-makers to affect positive policy changes.



  • At least 5 years in management or leadership, or comparable experience 

  • Track record as a successful fundraiser, including successful grant writing

  • Familiarity or experience with wilderness, public lands, and federal land management agencies

  • Experience leading an organization through a strategic planning process

  • Proven record of success in organizational leadership and setting and achieving strategic objectives. Experience leading a regional or national organization a plus  

  • Experience managing, mentoring and coaching staff to develop high-performing teams 

  • Proven record of developing and managing partnerships, and establishing lasting relationships with key stakeholders 

  • Racial justice competencies

  • Have worked directly with people from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

  • Financial acumen, with a proven ability to establish and manage budgets of $500,000+ and provide financial  oversight of organizational operations  

  • Familiarity with public lands policy strongly preferred; willingness to learn a must 


  • Excellent interpersonal skills including a welcoming, approachable, and compassionate manner

  • An understanding of the concepts of institutional and structural racism and bias and a commitment to further SAWS’ justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) work

  • Eager to actively develop, mentor and empower staff

  • Able to lead through complex or changing conditions, including a creative approach to problem solving and conflict resolution

  • Strong written and verbal communication skills, including experience presenting to diverse audiences, specifically racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse communities. 

  • Proven record of engaging a diverse range of constituents and finding common ground 

About Us

Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) is a conservation non-profit dedicated to stewarding protected public lands in the Southern Appalachian region, focusing on wilderness management, ethics, and education. Founded in 2010, SAWS partners with federal agencies and community organizations to provide additional support for training, skill-building and community engagement. 

SAWS has three primary goals: 

  • Grow capacity, knowledge and traditional tool skills of the current and next generation to take care of wild public lands in our footprint; 

  • Provide transformational job opportunities in the outdoors that cultivate, educate, empower and create equitable career pathways for the next generation of conservation stewards; and

  • Increase public awareness about, equitable access to, and the relevancy of public lands and wilderness.

Because of this unique opportunity, SAWS is seeking an energetic, focused leader to build on the organization’s first decade of work. As the principal spokesperson and fiscal manager, the Executive Director promotes the organization’s vision, mission, and successes and increases awareness of SAWS in the communities we work and beyond. The Executive Director is skilled at cultivating mutually beneficial relationships, and is a seasoned fundraiser who will sustain and grow the organization’s $1.15 million budget . The Executive Director is responsible for thoughtfully leading a dynamic team and nurturing an inclusive work culture that attracts and retains skilled wilderness stewards to successfully carry out the SAWS mission.

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