Chief Executive Officer- CEO

The Community Action Organization of WNY - Buffalo, NY

The Opportunity

The Community Action Organization of Western New York (CAO) is a deeply mission-driven non-profit, dedicated to promoting opportunities for low income individuals, families, and communities to achieve and sustain self-sufficiency through advocacy, partnerships, access to services and low-to-moderate income housing development. Originating from the Economic Opportunity Act and the “War on Poverty” initiatives implemented in the 1960s, CAO has positioned itself as a problem solver and solutions provider, rather than just an outlet to “service the poor.” This approach has allowed the organization to lead the charge and provide solutions that empower their clients to become more self-reliant and overcome the crippling cycle of poverty. CAO is a multifaceted organization with a “five-pronged approach to fight poverty” through community health, economic empowerment, educational advancement, neighborhood revitalization, and workforce development initiatives.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will be the organization’s leading “anti-poverty warrior,” boldly and strategically leading the charge to break the cycle of poverty by building equity in the citizens and communities of Western New York. The CEO will be an be an active, empathetic listener with a passion and commitment to the children, families, individuals, and communities CAO serves. This individual will be an influencer and partner, building meaningful relationships with CAO key constituents, grantors, regulatory bodies, governmental representatives, and partner agencies. The next leader will utilize their extensive experience and knowledge as a senior leader in a non-profit organization, evaluating organizational structures, strategic priorities, and community initiatives, in order to fulfill the mission and equip the organization, it’s leaders and employees to meet the evolving needs of the community and those they serve.

Catapult has been retained to conduct this search for The Community Action Organization of WNY.

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About The Community Action Organization of WNY: Visit  

Position & Organization Overview

The CEO must be a mission-driven leader and influencer, with the dedication, integrity, and community “know-how” to work across lines of differences in order to bring people together and accomplish objectives. This must be combined with a track record of success as a senior leader in complex, non-profit organizations, leading and managing strategic change initiatives to meet the needs of the community. Key competencies include:

  • Relationship Building/ Influencing
  • Mission-Driven Leadership
  • Strategic & Agile
  • Organizational Development Expertise/Knowledge
  • Business & Financial Acumen

The CEO reports to a highly distinguished, newly appointed (2019-2020), 12-member Board of Directors.

Direct reports include the following positions:

  • Senior VP of Program Administration
  • Vice President of Finance
  • Vice President of Human Resources
  • Early Childhood Administrator
  • Vice President of Development
  • Director of Youth Services
  • Director of DART

    Organization Overview:

  • Total Revenue - $40-50 million*
  • Total employees- 800+*
  • Number of clients/individuals served- over 50,000* annually

*totals approximate

Mission-Driven Leader

The successful candidate will be a “anti-poverty warrior” who believes all people should be treated with dignity and respect and recognizes that structural race, gender, and other inequities remain barriers that must be addressed. They will do this through inspirational leadership boldly affirming what the company hopes to achieve and pushing toward desired outcomes. To do this, the CEO will:

  • Lead with CAO’s Mission and Vision consistently prioritized and in focus.
  • Work to ensure the causes and conditions of poverty are effectively addressed and to strengthen, promote, represent, and serve the Community
  • Work to create opportunities for all people to thrive, build strong, resilient communities, and ensures a more equitable society.
  • Understand the needs of the community and works to ensure CAO has the programs and resources necessary to support them.
  • Build trust amongst the organization, Board, regulatory bodies, and other constituents by establishing a genuine commitment to the social good and embed this mindset throughout the organization.
  • Consistently communicate the purpose of the organization to prospective donors, team members, partners, and other relevant constituents.
  • Establish transparent and regular communication with constituents at all levels.

Community Relationship Leader

The CEO of CAO will be an integral part of the WNY community and will be skilled in the areas of advocacy and community relations. They will continuously build upon their understanding of the needs of low-income individuals, families and communities to help them achieve and sustain self-sufficiency. They will utilize their relationships, knowledge, and “know-how” to establish partnerships and accomplish organizational objectives that will further the mission of the organization. In order to do so the CEO will:

  • Establish relationships/partnerships across CAO amongst the leadership team, employees, Board, and constituents, in order to build teams, manage conflict, and promote an engaged and inclusive culture.
  • Be a partner & influencer in order to forge new partnerships and strengthen existing ones throughout the community to enhance and increase access to critically needed resources.
  • Understand the dynamics of the local, regional, and national environments, and uses this knowledge to meet the needs of our community.
  • Participate in government advocacy activities in both Western New York and across the state, including being up to date on issues/legislation impacting the Agency and engaging in in-person advocacy.
  • Establish and maintain effective partnerships with CAO key constituencies, grantors, regulatory bodies, governmental representatives, and with partner agencies.
  • Be skilled in and oversee public relations and outreach strategies and speak on behalf of the organization to employees, the public, partners and the media.
  • Utilize their expertise in the human services field and their political savvy to influence decision-makers, leaders, and donors to support CAO in accomplishing their strategic goals.
  • Work collaboratively and maintain open lines of communication and cooperative working relationships with the Board, employees, and community in which they serve.
  • Be responsible for ensuring that CAO continues to find innovative approaches and funding sources for new programs that support the organization’s mission.

Strategic & Agile Leader

The Community Action Organization of WNY is on the frontline each day to mitigate the impact of poverty on low-income communities throughout Western New York. The CEO will lead the vision for the future and drive the strategy for the organization to build the necessary talent, systems, and culture to optimize the organization’s ability to continue to accomplish this work. In order to do so, the CEO will:

  • Lead strategic planning and its implementation – consulting the governing Board and other governing bodies to establish a road map with strategic priorities, measurable outcomes, plans for implementation, and ensuring alignment of resources behind that plan.
  • Be a systems thinker who is goal driven and a strong advocate for systems and policy change.
  • Plan, monitor and evaluates the organization’s program of service in order to maintain a high level of effectiveness and responsiveness to community needs.
  • Serve as the principal resource to the Board of Directors and collaborate with the members to champion new initiatives, push for needed changes, anticipate and solve problems, and be a team player.
  • Understand the complex realities of the community and maintains a belief in a better future, providing purpose, direction, and motivation.
  • Create an environment that pursues innovation and excellence through multi-sector partnership and collaboration.
  • Motivate a cohesive, effective management team to problem solve.
  • Promote workable solutions that connect more families to opportunity.

Anti-Poverty Organization Leader

The CEO will possess extensive non-profit leadership experience with a high-level of business, financial, and organizational leadership skills and will be responsible for ensuring the organization’s financial and operational success. In order to accomplish this the CEO will:

  • Shape the organization to effectively support the programs and services offered now and in the future.
  • Be knowledgeable about the market and anti-poverty trends that would impact CAO, the industry, and funding.
  • Work closely with the Board of Directors to ensure CAO’s fiduciary and compliance responsibilities are fulfilled in a transparent and responsible manner.
  • Work with the Program Directors to oversee, evaluate, and administer programs.
  • Work with the VP of HR to maintain an environment to attract and retain a highly motivated staff, develop future leadership, and provide guidance to ensure the organization attracts and retains the most qualified employees.
  • Build cohesive teams across CAO that engage the ideas of people with diverse skillsets and backgrounds at all levels.
  • Cultivate a culture of employee empowerment and encourage innovation throughout the organization.
  • Work with the VP of Finance and the Board to manage organizational spending, monitor budget compliance, and mitigate financials risks.
  • Provide strategic input and leadership on decision making issues affecting the organization i.e. evaluation of potential alliances, funding sources, acquisitions and or mergers and investments.
  • Operate with transparency and accountability at the Board and staff level.


  • Bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 10 years of experience in a non-profit senior leadership role required
  • Master’s degree or higher with a minimum of 8 years of experience in a non-profit senior leadership role preferred.
  • Successful experience with fundraising, resource development, and grant writing.
  • Social Work degrees and certifications valued.
  • Extensive non-profit leadership experience in administration of organizations of comparable complexity and mission, including responsibility for strategic planning design and execution.
  • Thorough knowledge of low-income community needs; sensitivity to community issues; sound decision making ability.
  • Experience working with government agencies and regulatory bodies.
  • Demonstrated track record of leading a team of senior management professionals, as well as extensive experience with budgeting, financial management, and financial reporting for an organization with a multi-million-dollar budget with multiple funding streams.
  • Experience developing partnerships with like-minded parties and across lines of differences, building teams, and leading/managing change initiatives.
  • Effective communicator.
  • Proven experience working successfully to bring people together in a racially and ethnically diverse environment.
  • Strong leadership and interpersonal skills, as well as demonstrated skills in budget, staff and program management in a large organization; ability to effectively manage diverse programs and complex funding streams.
  • Knowledge of labor union contracts valued.
  • Proficient and up to date with current computer and technical skills to effectively communicate, lead, and manage (Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, Video Conferencing, etc.).
  • Confidence to push for initiatives that promote impact and growth for the organization and community.

Posted On: Friday, October 9, 2020

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