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Head of External Relations / Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
California, United States
$180,000.00 - $220,000.00
Closing date
Feb 16, 2023

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is seeking a Head of External Relations to add to its leadership team. YBCA is a welcoming living art space that is committed to bringing together artists, cultures, and communities, in bold, urgent, and accessible ways to deepen understanding of—and engagement in—the essential issues of our time and place. The Head of External Relations is a new overarching role for YBCA, in that it brings Fundraising, Government Relations, Communications, Public Relations, and Marketing under one umbrella for the very first time in the organization’s history. YBCA will be looking to the successful candidate to bridge the work of the Center to a variety of audiences, communities, and stakeholder groups, and to work cross-functionally to focus storytelling efforts across all of YBCA’s activities.

Work Shouldn’t Suck has been retained to assist with this search, and we are currently inviting expressions of interest from fierce and grounded individuals who are ready to answer the call for the radical levels of hope and repair that are required in this time. We are excited to hear from candidates who have energy to work as a part of a team in transition, are compassionate leaders, and skilled storytellers. YBCA is committed to diversity in its programming and in creating a work culture and environment that is reflective of the San Francisco Bay Area demography. The Center actively welcomes and encourages applicants from equity seeking groups who represent dimensions of difference that include — but are not limited to — age, national origin, ethnicity, race, religion, ability, sexual orientation, gender, or political affiliation.

YBCA will consider for employment all qualified applicants with criminal histories in a manner consistent with the requirements of the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance (SF Police Code, Article 49).

Opened to the public in 1993, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts was founded as the cultural anchor of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens neighborhood. Located at 701 Mission Street in downtown San Francisco, CA, the office building and workspaces are wheelchair accessible. Read more about YBCA venue accessibility.

YBCA prioritizes above all the safety, health and wellbeing of its staff, collaborating artists and partners, and community. They strictly follow the COVID-19 guidance of local and state public health agencies, OSHA, and the CDC to ensure that their protocols address and mitigate the risk of illness and injury and promote wellbeing. Please refer to the Application Package for details about YBCA’s current hybrid work policy and health and safety plan amid COVID. As of January 1, 2023, staff will be working onsite as least 3 days per week.

About YBCA

The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is a California non-profit, public benefit corporation founded in 1993, that is committed to the transformative power of broad, boundary-breaking participation in art. As a first-class cultural facility with ancillary uses including education, fundraising, convenings, and social events related directly to arts and culture:

  • YBCA offers, develops, and supports all forms of art through multidisciplinary participatory experiences, civic initiatives, community partnerships, investments, and experimentation
  • It’s an innovative home for the region’s artists, creatives, and communities, supporting their capacity to thrive
  • They promote proximity and spark dynamic exchange 
  • Their priorities and programming are directly shaped by the Bay Area’s kaleidoscope of perspectives  

In 2020, with the onset of the global pandemic YBCA shifted into virtual operations and responded with a focus on providing much-needed relief to artists in these difficult and complex times. The organization’s pandemic recovery efforts created opportunities for equity-driven digital and investment work that profoundly changed the DNA of YBCA.

Today, YBCA is simultaneously navigating at least three transitions: a leadership transition, a move to increasing and renewing in-person activities across both buildings (and integration of new activities), and the shifting role that arts institutions play in society. YBCA stated that, “It is critical that we take stock of history and clarify, for ourselves and the public, what we do (and don’t do), why and how we will continue to have impact in the communities we serve, and refine our logic, story, and financial resilience while building our team to make that happen.”

2023 marks YBCA’s 30th anniversary – a milestone they look forward to celebrating with clarity of purpose, an inviting program, and the wherewithal to do great work at the intersection of art and social justice. This is an incredible opportunity to rescript YBCA and understand the impact this organization has been able to contribute to San Francisco, as the place where cutting edge, experimental art invites people to connect to, and be changed by, one another through evocative creative experiences—in collective pursuit of a better way forward. 

Leadership Team 

Since 2021, YBCA has been led by its Chief Executive Officer, Sara Fenske-Bahat. In addition to the CEO and the newly-created Head of External Relations, the other roles currently on the leadership team include:

The Board and Search Committee acknowledge that the Head of External Relations is a new leadership position within a structure in transition and as such will require care, humility, and investment from the whole team in order to be successful. They are dedicated to providing this support.

Key Responsibilities of the Role


  • Interface with fellow senior leaders on strategic and management issues.
  • Lead financial planning, management, and budgeting for the External Relations functions. Maintain a strong situational awareness of financial capabilities, risks, and trends. Work with the Chief Finance Officer to maintain fiscal awareness and accountability.
  • Foster collaboration and guide continuous improvement within a large team and promote cross-functionally throughout the organization.
  • Team design: Clarify roles, build cohesive structure, understand knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required in the team and create plans to train/develop/upskill existing staff.
  • Implement feedback loops and practice active listening to help the team feel heard and make evidence-based decisions.
  • Forge excellent working relationships with program directors, project managers, and curators, and develop a thorough – and always evolving – knowledge of YBCA’s programs and activities.


  • Serve as a key external face of YBCA, doing the work of connecting what’s happening in the sector, and city, to what’s happening within YBCA. 
  • Build and maintain strong local relationships and encourage a sense of belonging that draws community members to YBCA.
  • Scale stories of YBCA’s hyperlocal activity to the broader cultural moment.
  • Work across internal organizational boundaries to build the infrastructure, processes, and structures that facilitate communication, unite YBCA narratives and build alignment in storytelling for multiple audiences.  


  • Assess the needs of programs, community investment, and funding functions of YBCA and determine how marketing works in relational service to these activities.
  • Ecosystem development: Refine the organization’s understanding of the longer arc stories YBCA should tell and the opportunities to share the shorter arc experiences.
  • Develop and build consensus and a consistent tone for the YBCA brand, visual identity, and voice.
  • Connect deeper, cohesive points of view to inform marketing activities to draw participation and attendance, and to facilitate fundraising efforts.
  • Identify and prioritize broader trends in marketing, technology, and storytelling to ensure marketing strategies are current and engaging as many audiences as possible.
  • Discover revenue generating opportunities.
  • Collaborate internally with IT, facilities, and other departments to understand compliance, health and safety, legal and contractual risks linked to use of technological platforms and public facing events. 


  • Collaborate with internal stakeholders to understand how YBCA’s activities align with the communities they serve in order to develop an institutional fundraising strategy that meets YBCA’s revenue goals, securing financial support from diverse funding sources.
  • Acts as a bridge between the interests of YBCA’s development, funders, artists, and community stakeholders to manage, translate, and align priorities.
  • Support grant writers and fundraisers by ensuring access to current organizational identity frameworks and documents to ensure a storytelling approach to fundraising.
  • Actively participate in the identification and cultivation of strong, long-term development relationships, and the solicitation and stewardship of funders.
  • Serve as YBCA’s primary contact for development campaigns and high profile donors, and attend YBCA events to cultivate and meet potential funders on behalf of the organization.
  • Coordinates with the CEO, leadership team, and YBCA Board to maximize presence and representation of YBCA externally in the community and philanthropic spaces.
  • Collaborate with Events, Facilities, and Programs on related events and productions to support event management.

A full job description, including detailed information about YBCA’s activities and operations, the position compensation and benefits package, its current work plan amid COVID-19, and a myriad of other items of interest can be found in the Application Package.

Who Should Apply?

Research shows that folx from groups closest to the harms of institutional racism and inequality often apply to jobs only if they meet 100% of the qualifications. We believe that no one meets 100% of the listed qualifications. We are less concerned about whether you’ve done everything on a laundry list of specific things and more interested in cultivating a pool of candidates who want to join a connected, mission-driven, hard-working team of practitioners driven by creativity, curiosity, justice, and equity.

Ultimately, we are seeking applicants who have a blend – in some way – of the following:

  1. In-depth understanding and practice in the public sphere and at least one or more specializations including Fundraising, Marketing, Communications, and/or External/Public Engagement, evidenced by a relevant combination of at least 5-7 years’ experience, related certification, accreditation, or a degree in a related field of study.
  2. An anti-racism and accessibility lens including, i.e., ongoing personal learning and development, an understanding of history and its implications and accountability to contemporary social justice issues, familiarity with integrating equity principles into all aspects of organizational strategy, and a caring, inclusive, facilitative leadership style.
  3. Personal experience that relates to YBCA – i.e., as a champion of multidisciplinary, multiperspective, multicultural and multilingual art, as a San Franciscan, or someone invested in a just, equitable and inclusive region and a holistic understanding of the communities YBCA serves, as someone with a passion for working in organizations seeking to create positive change.

If much of this describes you, we encourage you to apply.

Compensation & Benefits

The salary for this position is between $180,000-$220,000 based on full-time hours, and includes a competitive benefits package that is available to all employees.

YBCA is in the midst of an organization-wide compensation assessment process in service of increasing pay equity and transparency throughout the organization. A range above is provided because, at the time this position posting went live, the assessment’s preliminary information had been received but not the full and final compensation levels.

In addition, reimbursement of relocation expenses, as required by the successful candidate, will be provided. Please see the Application Package for more information about benefits.

Application & Hiring Process
  • PHASE ONE: Expression of Interest. Interested individuals are encouraged to send an expression of interest — in any format they choose — to Tim Cynova and Katrina Donald at or by submitting an application using the “Apply Now” button here. Video and/or audio applications are welcome in addition to written expressions of interest.
  • PHASE TWO: Formal Application. A resume and writing sample may be requested from those who choose to formally apply, should they be invited to interview.
  • PHASE THREE: Interview Process. Two rounds of interviews via Zoom are anticipated, with a likely third round interview conducted on-site at YBCA in San Francisco, CA. (Travel expenses will be covered for candidates invited to the final round.)

    If you need accommodations to make this application process happen, please connect with us at We will work to support you through the application process via email, phone call, and/or video chat. Expressions of Interest will be accepted until at least Monday, January 23, at 5PM PT. Priority review given to those received before that date.
Search Committee

Expressions of interest and formal applications will be reviewed by the YBCA search committee and the team at Work Shouldn’t Suck. Search committee members include: Angela Carrier, Ursula Hunting, Daniela Lencioni, Julie Mae Lopez, Mark Sabb, and Sara Fenske Bahat (CEO), who will make the final decision on the successful candidate.


If you have any questions regarding this search, please contact Tim Cynova and Katrina Donald at

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