Founded in 1981, Isles, Inc. is a community development and environmental organization based in Trenton, New Jersey. With a mission to foster self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities, Isles designs and develops effective services and products that support this mission and share its solutions with others who can make a difference, including policymakers and other leaders. The foundation of Isles’ work starts with honoring the capacity of those they serve, who are most capable of managing their own journey towards self-reliance and health. Isles develops innovative ways to create places and tools that further that mission. To achieve that, Isles fosters an internal culture and practice of continuous innovation, developing pathways that didn’t previously exist. Isles:
- Revitalizes Communities by planning and developing real estate projects including affordable housing, community gardens and parks, and community facilities by working with residents and other stakeholders to create neighborhood master plans. To implement those plans, Isles collaborates with funders, community groups, and public officials to fund and help manage development projects on the ground. Over the years, Isles has co-founded regional and statewide organizations that serve as building blocks for community development. A major project over the past 12 years includes the redevelopment of a large abandoned textile factory, Mill One, in Hamilton, NJ. Isles is redeveloping Mill One to serve as a Social Profit Center where 30 mission-driven organizations (both nonprofit and for-profit) will co-locate, along with artists. The Social Profit Center is expected to open in early 2020, when Isles will move its headquarters to the site.
- Builds Wealth by preparing homeowners to buy and/or protect their home from foreclosure. Isles also builds homes, prepares families for first time home ownership, and develops innovative ways for employees in the region to become more financially resilient and capable through Isles Financial Solutions (IFS). IFS helps families tackle unsustainable debt, and offers a blend of training and counseling/coaching services and low-cost loans. IFS helps its customers budget, make wise financial choices, bolster financial assets, and improve credit scores.
- Trains and Educates through Isles Youth Institute (IYI), an alternative way for young people to take control of their futures by earning a high school equivalency diploma, learn construction or nursing skills, and gain important life skills. IYI serves youth and families with life skills support and other support services. Isles’ Center for Energy and Environmental Training (CEET) trains adults with high school diplomas in future-focused, green jobs.
- Promotes Healthy Living by researching the effect of environmental hazards – especially lead in homes – on health and self-reliance. After testing over 2500 homes, Isles learned to remediate and abate home hazards at a low cost, and educate residents on protecting their health. Based on this learning and experience, Isles helps others, including policymakers, to apply the same approaches to other settings. In 2020, Isles is creating the New Jersey Healthy Homes Training Center to train and certify home health workers, contractors, building inspectors, weatherization workers, and other professional networks that can improve community health statewide.
Governed by a 17-member board, Isles serves its community with a staff of 45, volunteers, and an annual operating budget of $6M. On average, funding is split roughly 50/50 between public and private sources. About 200 institutional sources and 1,000 individuals support Isles annually.
In 2018, Isles:
- Tested 500 homes in Trenton for lead in water, soil, and paint. The tests identified 45 homes in danger which Isles rehabbed to be lead-safe, energy efficient, and healthy.
- Provided 814 elementary school students with gardening and nutrient education. More than 20,000 pounds of food were grown in schools and community gardens.
- Distributed $68,000 to 15 organizations through community and arts-focused small grants.
- Trained 181 energy efficiency and lead remediation workers, and 290 community members in healthy homes services.
- Delivered financial solutions and housing counseling to 400 employees and households.
- Secured, after years of planning and negotiation, a New Markets Tax Credit package totaling $8M. With these funds, Isles will complete construction on the 75,000 sq. ft. Social Profit Center.
Strategic Priorities Looking Forward
- Continue efforts to transform Trenton into a vibrant, safe, healthy, and fun city that attracts investment and utilizes that investment wisely to cultivate sustainability and equity.
- Help to change youth’s educational and life outcomes by removing ecosystem barriers to self-reliance.
- Improve the health, comfort, and safety of family indoor environments.
- Support family efforts to acquire or protect their long-term assets and help them achieve their financial goals.
- Train and support workers and contractors to obtain and keep jobs that pay a livable wage.
- Influence health and public policies to improve lead safety and community health.
- Complete the construction and lease-up of the Social Profit Center, ensuring that it supports a thriving community that helps mission-driven organizations across the region, and develop a long term strategic plan for the Center.
- Continue to integrate Isles’ service areas and reduce administrative costs.
- Improve Isles’ long-term financial sustainability and continue efforts to expand and diversify Isles’ funding base, particularly unrestricted funding.
The CEO is ultimately responsible for all agency services, fundraising, finances, and administration. This includes setting the strategic direction, translating that strategy into action and deliverables, and for successfully meeting Isles’ goals and mission. The CEO is Isles’ primary representative to external and internal stakeholders. S/he is responsible for processing and leveraging Isles’ insights to refine, eliminate, or develop services or products to better meet Isles’ mission, with an eye towards innovation. S/he must also expand Isles’ influence across a wide range of audiences and policies.
Reporting to the Board of Trustees, the CEO has the following day-to-day duties:
- Transition and nurture relationships from Isles’ Founder and build new significant relationships; develop new sources of unrestricted funds by pursuing various forms of major gifts, particularly from high net-worth donors.
- Serve as the primary ambassador to various stakeholder groups including, but not limited to, state and local government leaders, the press, nonprofits, funders etc., to expand Isles’ impact regionally and nationally.
- Collaborate with Isles’ COO / Managing Directors to respond to community needs and demands, research best practices, and innovate new or transform existing services in response to insights gained from Isles’ unique view across multiple service lines.
- Establish and achieve financial goals set by the annual budget in collaboration with Isles’ COO / Managing Directors. Provide oversight to the endowment.
- Set an organizational tone that results in high functioning employees who understand Isles’ mission and remain true to self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities.
- Represent Isles to the Board of Trustees, keeping members abreast of services and products, fundraising, financial matters, and public communications.
- Oversee the development of Mill One Social Profit Center including construction schedules, leasing and ensuring ongoing revenue (rental income).
- Develop the long term strategic plan for the Social Profit Center.
- Update Isles’ overall Strategic Plan.
Skills and Attributes
Given the unique mission and culture of Isles, the below characteristics are important:
- Passion for Isles’ mission of family self-reliance and healthy, sustainable communities; believe deeply in the capacity of the people Isles serves.
- Relevant background in community and/or environmental development.
- Demonstrated experience in leading a high functioning, impactful organization, including finance and administration.
- Demonstrated results in leading continuous fundraising activities.
- Capacity to establish and build relationships with community, business, government, philanthropic and nonprofit leaders, along with the ability to collaborate with partners.
- Demonstrated experience managing an organization with multiple, diverse service/business lines.
- An innovator and stellar strategist with a successful track record aligning multiple stakeholders around a common vision and related strategies.
- Demonstrated experience taking calculated risks and effectively evaluating the full return on investment.
- A masterful communicator and excellent listener with a strong ability to build trust among a wide range of cultures and constituents, with high emotional intelligence.
- Experience leading and inspiring a large, experienced staff; success in fostering staff leadership and professional development; demonstrated experience managing a matrixed organization.
- Ability to work collaboratively with the Board of Trustees, and support board priorities.
- A history of working with the politics, disparities, and struggles that affect urban communities; ability to interact effectively with a broad mix of people, both within and outside the organization; a familiarity with Trenton is a plus, but not required.
- Bachelor degree required; advanced degree helpful.