The Windsor Historical Society: Bridging Centuries. Bridging Cultures.
The Windsor Historical Society’s mission is to inspire public awareness and appreciation of the diverse people, places, and events that contribute to Windsor’s evolving history.
We preserve and interpret Windsor’s historical record through active collecting, research, exhibitions, programs, and communications in the belief that an understanding of history can provide individuals and communities with connections to the past, a sense of belonging in the present, and responsibility for the future.
Founded in 1921, the Windsor Historical Society (the Society) has brought the rich and evolving history of Windsor to life for the community and its visitors for nearly 100 years. Its extensive museum campus, which includes two historic homes, exhibit galleries, a research and genealogy library and a museum shop, is a centerpiece of Windsor’s historic district, a town that is known for being the oldest in Connecticut. The Society is known for its wide breadth of collections, an extensive research library and its innovative, engaging and varied public programs that draw people from across town and state lines. Additionally, the Society recently gained national attention for the innovative restoration and re-interpretation of one of its historic homes. The organization rests on a foundation of financial stability and a staff team of five of both professional and support staff.
With the retirement of its long-term executive director, The Windsor Historical Society now seeks a dynamic leader and enthusiastic fundraiser who can build from the Society’s many strengths to grow it to the next level of its important mission. The successful candidate will be passionate about history and have significant experience and success in raising funds from diverse sources and advancing the strategic direction and operations of a not-for-profit organization.
About The Windsor Historical Society
In the field of historical societies across the nation, the Windsor Historical Society is looked on as a thought leader in its development of creative, diverse and responsive programming and exhibits. Its public programs include lectures, family events, a genealogy support group, writing contests and an oral history project currently underway in partnership with Windsor’s local TV station. It has a strong partnership with Windsor Public Schools and provides tours, student exhibitions, classroom presentations and student scholarships.
Its collection of approximately 11,000 items is extensive, varied and always growing. In 2015, the Society renovated the Strong-Howard House – supported by a $750,000 capital campaign – and, in a stroke of innovative genius, re-interpreted the home to appear as it looked in 1810, complete with all reproduction furnishings so that it could be a hands-on exhibit, which has since gained national recognition.
The Society has a strong presence on social media, with approximately 3,000 followers who enjoy the daily photo posts of items from their collection with commentary and links to related articles. In addition, staff members publish a quarterly newsletter that includes professional-quality articles on various aspects of Windsor’s history.
The organization is very involved in the broader Windsor community – staff members attend community events and often take an advocacy lead in community preservation efforts.
The Society stands out among many of its historical museum peers for the level of professionalism among its team of three full-time and three part-time staff: all uphold strong professional standards of practice excellence and customer service. It also has a committed corps of volunteers who perform daily supportive functions as docents, receptionists and researchers. The organization is governed by a 13-member board of directors comprised of community leaders from the fields of history, speech pathology, education, social services, finance, legal, information technology and website design.
The Society is a membership organization and currently has approximately 550 members, some of whom live in other states. It has a budget of just under $500,000. Its operations are also supported by a sizeable endowment, thanks to generous bequests in 1959 and 1985 and more recent times, which contributes between 60% and 70% of the annual budget. The organization is in the process of implementing a thoughtful strategic plan that re-positioned the mission and vision and set a clear path for the organization 2017-2020.
Strategic Opportunities and Challenges
The Windsor Historical Society is at an important juncture as it transitions from a long-term executive director who built a firm base of financial stability and strong and professional operations to a new leader empowered to maintain and strengthen the Society’s legacy of bringing Windsor’s history to life through innovative programs and exhibits and extensive library collections.
The next Executive Director of the Windsor Historical Society will inherit a tremendous opportunity to further leverage the Society’s many strengths to take its innovative programming to a new level, broaden its reach and engage more diverse segments of the community in learning about the rich history of Windsor.
- There is across the country a renewed interest in history, perhaps stoked by the increasing number of people exploring their genealogy. The Society has an opportunity to leverage this interest to attract more people to its programs, exhibits, extensive library collections and its already active genealogy program.
- Trends in the historical museum arena have made history more accessible. Historical museums across the country are reimagining their exhibits to create experiences that place the person in another time and “personalize” or tailor, their programs to specific segments of the population. These trends give the individual a more direct experience of the historical moment and thus make the historical museum experience more attractive. The Society is already doing some innovative programming along these lines, but has an opportunity to further enhance this aspect of its work.
- An increasing number of young families in Windsor: the Society has the opportunity to engage younger residents in new and creative ways.
- Increase in the use of digital platforms for accessing information: the Society has already leveraged this in bringing its collections and historical content to people on Facebook and Instagram, and can continue to stay on the forefront of digital platforms through the use of video and on-line fundraising methods.
- Windsor’s population has been growing each year by around 1% - housing is relatively affordable and thus attractive to young families; median household income is in the mid-80s, with a high level of giving potential.
- Outreach and Community Engagement:
A number of factors pose challenges to engaging all segments of Windsor’s diverse community:
- With busy lives and an ever-expanding range of entertainment and information at their digital fingertips, residents under 40 are an audience whose attention is difficult to capture and who may be unlikely to attend the Society’s events.
- Many people may perceive the Society as focusing on white colonial history; the organization is challenged in its attempt to reach out and engage all segments of Windsor’s diverse population.
- Windsor has a fairly high turnover of residents and those who are more transient feel less connection to the history of the town.
- Resource Development:
Many nonprofits in town are tapping the same funding sources; those passionate about history are aging out, leading to a decline in funders, membership, and volunteers; and corporate funding priorities have shifted toward education or youth programming. Most of the larger corporations in Windsor are located in the outskirts of town and don’t feel connected to the community.
- The Historical Museum Market:
Competition for attention is stiff – nearly every town has its own historical society, and some of the more substantial ones – with large budgets and varied and attractive programs – are within an hour or so of driving distance from Windsor. Additionally, Connecticut’s historical organizations tend toward independence and there’s little/no interest in collaborating or partnering in ways that could increase visitor-ship and revenues for all involved. On top of this, Windsor has an unusually high number of civic and nonprofit organizations who are all competing for residents’ time and attention.
- Space for Collections:
As the Historical Society’s profile has grown, so have its collections. Despite the Society’s cautious criteria for accepting pieces that align with the mission, items continue to stream in, thus placing more strain on its storage capacity.
High priorities for the new executive director include:
- Managing effectively and efficiently the daily operations;
- Maintaining a collaborative work environment that has a strong team culture of mutual support and respect;
- Developing and implementing a human resource strategy to recruit, support and retain the highest quality staff;
- Facilitating the development of a robust and diverse board of directors with an eye to engaging members more fully in fundraising and critical governance functions;
- Continuing to foster and retain relationships and build new partnerships with initiatives and organizations throughout Windsor and in the historical museum arena and related fields;
- Continuing to implement the strategic priorities outlined in the 2017-2020 strategic plan and thinking strategically about the long-term positioning of the Society;
- Assessing the current collections and managing the limited space considerations;
- Maintaining relationships with current donors and building new relationships to increase revenues;
- Maintaining a strong public presence within the city, state and broader field community to advance the Society’s positive profile.
Profile of the Ideal Candidate
The next Executive Director of the Windsor Historical Society will be able to build on the many strengths of the Society in order to lead it in innovative directions. She/he/ they will be passionate about history, will possess an understanding of historical museum management and will be dedicated to Windsor and its rich historical heritage. The person who assumes this position will be a leader with high emotional intelligence and excellent communication and public speaking skills, and a relationship-builder who can easily and genuinely connect with people and is astute at building strategic partnerships.
Bachelor’s degree required; advanced degree in a relevant field preferred. At least five years of experience in a senior leadership role in a similar size organization in the field of museum management or a related field.
- Passionate advocate for the mission
The ideal candidate will have demonstrated passion for history in general, and will be able to translate that passion into an articulate and compelling story. She/he/they will be able to ignite passion in others.
- Keen emotional intelligence
The ideal candidate will have keen listening skills, empathy, self-awareness, and the ability to connect with people of different styles, professional levels and backgrounds.
- Demonstrated core values of integrity and honesty
The essential quality of personal humility and an intuitive understanding of when to give credit to others while exercising effective leadership is a must. The ideal candidate will be open-minded, approachable, and fair.
- Flexibility and balance
The ideal candidate will be able to face difficult challenges with competence, grace, and a sense of humor.
- Innovative and entrepreneurial approach
The ideal candidate will continually scan the environment for key trends and new opportunities, can leverage opportunities and support for initiatives, and has an innovative approach to solving problems and overcoming challenges.
Skills and Experience
- Experienced nonprofit manager
The ideal candidate will have significant professional experience in supervision and management of staff, in administering a multi-source budget, and in efficiently and strategically aligning and maximizing resources. Experience working in the historical museum or related field is preferred.
- Respectful, inclusive and effective leader and developer of staff
The ideal candidate will be able to inspire, develop and empower staff and create a productive team-based culture that welcomes inclusion and diversity. She/he/they will be able to build and maintain a climate of trust and respect where each worker feels appreciated for her/his/their strengths and contributions.
- Demonstrated success in diversifying and expanding revenue streams
The ideal candidate will have demonstrated success in fund development and will have the ability to lead the board and staff in executing a comprehensive fundraising plan.
- Exceptional communication skills
The ideal candidate will be able to passionately articulate, both in writing and orally, the organization’s mission and deliver compelling presentations to public and private audiences. She/he/they will be able to communicate effectively with people with diverse backgrounds and styles.
- Experience working with boards of directors
The ideal candidate will be skilled in working effectively in partnership with boards of directors to carry out the mission of the organization, set strategic direction, and build a board culture of diversity and inclusiveness.
- Social media and information technology knowledge and curiosity
The ideal candidate will have a basic understanding of the landscape of information and social media technology and be eager to leverage emerging trends to engage increasingly diverse audiences with Windsor’s rich history.
Candidate Guidelines and Additional Information
Transition Consultant Catherine Bradshaw with TSNE MissionWorks' has been exclusively retained for this search.
Electronic submissions are preferred.
Please include a resume and a cover letter that includes a description of how your qualifications and experience match Windsor Historical Society’s needs. All submissions will be acknowledged. All inquiries and submissions are strictly confidential. Submissions of candidacy will be accepted until the position is filled.
Selected candidate will undergo thorough reference checks as well as a criminal history background check.
Salary is commensurate with experience, within the framework of the organization’s annual operating budget. Total compensation includes a competitive benefits package with health insurance and a generous paid time off program.
The Society is an equal opportunity employer and complies with applicable state and federal fair employment practices laws. The Society does not discriminate against employees or applicants because of race, color, religious creed, national origin, citizenship, ancestry, age, present or past history of mental disorder, mental retardation, learning disability, physical disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal, state, or local laws.