Jobs: Executive Search

Executive Director, Transition House

Cambridge, Mass.
Mar / 21 / 2018

About Transition House

Founded in 1976, Transition House was the first organization on the East Coast and the second shelter in the United States to address domestic violence. For 42 years, Transition House has realized its bold mission: to prevent and end domestic violence in our community through culturally respectful intervention and housing services, and holistic education and outreach. Transition House serves people of all ages and diverse cultural backgrounds in the Cambridge, MA and Greater Boston area.

While best known for its housing programs, Transition House has always questioned and challenged traditional assumptions about domestic violence and approaches to prevention and intervention. As a result, it has quadrupled its broad range of prevention and intervention in the past five years, all for free to survivors of domestic violence. It also adjusted its approach to messaging about domestic violence. Transition House uses a survivor-driven approach that combines choice, guidance and support, options, and timely intervention.

Transition House is recognized as a vital part of the community safety net and it collaborates with 70 regional, municipal and local partners to provide essential resources to over 800 people each year.  This whole-community approach expands its capacity far beyond the walls of the organization. Transition House resources include:

  • a continuum of safe shelter, longer term housing and holistic trauma care for individuals and families, tailored to their individual needs 
  • community outreach, intervention, support services, legal and benefits advocacy, elder abuse prevention, and counseling resources for all ages, in multiple languages
  • referrals to emergency shelter, housing search programs, legal services, mental health care, substance abuse programs, sexual abuse counseling, and employment services
  • violence prevention education for children, youth, and adults about the realities of domestic and dating violence and to offer viable and effective intervention strategies.
  • professional training and consultation

Transition House is an agent for social change, drawing on its founders' feminist, activist roots as advocates for human rights, social justice, and equity. Changing systems is a key part of its agenda and organizational leaders work actively with multidisciplinary networks to advance understanding about the impact of domestic violence throughout the life cycle and throughout the community.

A growing, signature initiative is Transition House’s domestic violence awareness training and support to local Police, Fire, Housing Authority, and nonprofit employees. This has resulted in changed institutional practices to create better options and outcomes for survivors as well as a deepened relationship with the City of Cambridge. The success of this professional training on cutting edge of best practices indicates its potential for national replication and as a new source of revenue.

Transition House employs 28 staff (13 part- and 15 full-time), all appreciated for their longevity of service, caring approach, and commitment to the work. It is governed by a board of 10 community members with professions in law, marketing, research, and media. Four of the members joined the board last year. They have two three-year terms and meet six times per year. The Transition House operating budget is approximately $2.2 million and the organization sustains a strong financial position. The organization’s administration, prevention and intervention programs, and other resources are housed at the YWCA-Cambridge in nicely renovated space.

Executive Transition

Transition House’s future is exciting and important. It has been very ably led by its current executive director, Risa Mednick, who will leave her position effective June 30, 2018.  Under her leadership for 10 years, the organization renovated its shelter; tripled its budget; doubled the staff; increased housing capacity; provided more programming support; and developed many new cross-sector partnerships that led to the creation of the Community Support Partnership and the city’s Cambridge Domestic and Gender Based Violence Prevention Initiative. A six-member search committee is comprised of three board members and three staff.

Strategic Opportunities and Challenges

Important priorities for the new executive director include:

  • Building the Development Program to diversify funding opportunities in creative, new ways while maintaining existing government support. This includes utilizing more strident board engagement in fundraising, increasing donor giving, reaching the untapped area businesses and corporations, and holding fundraising events. Cambridge is a competitive market for fundraising and will require broadening the view to the Greater Boston community. The Executive Director will have the opportunity to hire a Director of Development.
  • Expanding board membership and tapping well the expertise and influence of all board members. Cambridge is a challenging environment for board recruitment, however Transition House will benefit from a more diverse and well-connected set of trustees with the time and energy to devote to governance.
  • Maintaining a strong community partnership approach to client outreach, prevention, community education and social change, embracing this as the cornerstone of the organization. Transition House’s public presence and credibility with the City of Cambridge, policy makers, client community, collaborators and funders must continue and opportunities for creative partnership expansion always be pursued.
  • Building on the strong community spirit and dedication that already exist among Transition House staff, continually strengthen connections and teamwork. It is essential that the entire organization is empowered to contribute to achieving the organization’s mission and vision, living the values, and bringing fully to bear the staff knowledge about domestic violence, social violence, homelessness, trauma and intersectional oppression.
  • Managing effectively and efficiently the daily operations of a standalone nonprofit with a $2.2 million budget. A well-defined short-term vision and plan lays out goals for building the organizational culture, enhancing client services and developing the organizational capacity. Important near-future needs are a marketing strategy, strategic plan, and systems of accountability, roles and responsibilities for staff.
  • Being vigilant about understanding the many federal policies that have impact on the organization and clients, such as health care, immigration and tax reform.

The Ideal Candidate

The next Executive Director of Transition House will be comfortable being an active community member and able to inspire others to take action to address domestic violence.  Transition House seeks a strong leader with experience in nonprofit fundraising and management; social justice advocacy; relational skills with a board of directors, partners and community members; and strong communication and staff teambuilding skills.

Required qualifications:

Bachelor’s degree required; equivalent work and life experience will be considered; Master’s degree preferred

8-10 years of progressively responsible nonprofit leadership or management experience

The executive director will make the biggest impact in her/his/their role with the following skills and experience:

Commitment to Social Justice

The successful candidate will have professional or life experience of a genuine passion for and commitment to social justice. She/he/they will have an understanding of (or eagerness to learn) about what it takes to create opportunity for people to live their lives in safety without harassment, threat or harm. Also, she/he/they must demonstrate a cultural curiosity and humility and a view of the work through an anti-oppression lens.

Effective Fundraiser and Resource Manager

The next executive director will have the qualities reflective of the ability to fundraise: comfortable in soliciting funds from donors and other diverse funding sources and the understanding of the structure of fundraising. Experience with diversifying nonprofit revenues is considered a plus.

Strategic Thinker

We seek candidates who can demonstrate long-range thinking and action to advance a cause and can guide overall strategy in collaboration with a board, sector partners, and policy makers. Creative problem-solving skills in an environment of trauma informed care is essential, as is experience with strategic planning.


The successful leader will embrace the value of community partnerships and will be able to describe experiences of collaboration and leveraging opportunities into significant, long-lasting collaborative change. The next leader will have the ability to relate effectively to a broad range of community stakeholders.

Team Builder and Developer of Staff

The executive director must inspire, develop and empower others, while generating staffs’ trust and respect across the entire organization. Successful candidates will be adept at building consensus, listening carefully, soliciting points of view, and have experience in providing a range of leadership opportunities for staff to grow and work to their greatest potential.

Politically Astute Networker, Thought Leader and Influencer

The next leader must have a strong interest and skill in creating an external presence and strategy for Transition House, inclusive of networking with political, business and nonprofit leaders in the City of Cambridge and in the sector region-wide. Candidates must have experience being an eager public face for an organization or cause, with the charisma to navigate and be prominent and impactful in a nonprofit rich and politically lively environment.

Strong Communicator

The executive director must be an engaging, motivating and consistent spokesperson, possessing the ability to share Transition House’s vision to clients, staff, board members, external partners, donors or the public. Writing competency is also desired.

Effective Administrator

Nonprofit acumen is important. Candidates must demonstrate the ability to tailor effective organizational structures, optimize staffing patterns, manage human resources and leverage human capital, oversee outsourced finances, forecast finances, leverage the board’s expertise wisely, and comply with regulations and nonprofit law. Experience with systems of accountability in a family-like staff environment is a plus.

Candidate Guidelines

This search is being conducted by TSNE MissionWorks’ Executive Transitions Program with Transition Consultant Nancy Jackson. All submissions are confidential. Interested candidates should submit materials online.

Apply online here.

Please include a resume and a cover letter with salary requirements, where you learned of the position and a description of how your qualifications and experience match Transition House’s needs.  Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Salary is commensurate with experience, within the framework of the organization’s annual operating budget.

Transition House is an Equal Opportunity Employer and actively seeks a diverse pool of candidates including people of color and LGBTQ people.