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Executive Director Position Profile

Published July 2017

 CelticMKE CelticMKE CelticMKE

About CelticMKE and Milwaukee Irish Fest

CelticMKE, the Home of Milwaukee Irish Fest, is a year-round organization with a mission to: preserve, promote and celebrate all aspects of Irish, Irish American and Celtic cultures, and to instill in current and future generations an appreciation of their heritage. Outreach endeavors include an active foundation, several scholarship and grant opportunities, a summer school and the Milwaukee Irish Fest Choir. The CelticMKE Center opened its doors in 1998 to provide a year-round facility dedicated to Irish and Celtic-related activities including concerts, workshops, rehearsals and meetings. It also houses the John J Ward Music Archives and the School of Music. True to its mission statement, CelticMKE is much more than a festival. To learn more about CelticMKE, please visit the website:

Milwaukee Irish Fest has been part of the Milwaukee community for more than 36 years and the Smithsonian Institution called it “the largest and best Irish cultural event in North America." What originated as the seed of an idea for an event to celebrate and promote Irish heritage, Milwaukee Irish Festivals Inc. has emerged into a thriving organization that celebrates the music, culture and history of Ireland and all the Celtic Nations during its four-day festival held the 3rd week in August each year.  

Based on the continued interest in the festival, CelticMKE established a summer school program held at the CelticMKE Center and other close by locations. The summer school is held the week leading up to Milwaukee Irish Fest and provides a week of courses for adults and children. Courses include a showcase of workshops in Irish dance and music, crafts, lectures, Gaelic language instructions and a historical overview of the Irish heritage. The school continues to draw hundreds of individuals from all over the world to teach and participate in this annual favorite prior to the festival.

The Irish School of Music began in 2002 offering lessons in traditional Irish instruments and song at the CelticMKE Center. The Ward Irish Music Archives has a collection of more than 50,000 sound recordings and other music items related to Irish and Irish-American music. It is named after the late father of the festival’s founder, Ed Ward.

CelticMKE  CelticMKE Home of Milwaukee Irish Fest  CelticMKE Summer School

In early 1994, Milwaukee Irish Fest established the Milwaukee Irish Fest Foundation to support the organization’s philanthropic efforts. Financed by a portion of the festival revenues, the Milwaukee Irish Fest Foundation provides grants to organizations to promote the development of community service, excellence in Irish music and drama and to support the special needs of the Irish community in the United States and Ireland. Since the foundation’s inception, they have provided more than $500,000 to civic, cultural and educational organizations.

Throughout the continued popularity of the festival, Milwaukee Irish Fest has developed its own entertainment group. The Milwaukee Irish Fest Children’s Choir is for youth ages 7-14.  The Milwaukee Irish Fest Youth Choir is a group for young people, ages 14-20 performing traditional Irish and Irish American songs. The group has performed throughout the United States and Ireland and was honored to perform several times with the Omagh Community Youth Choir.  

Nearly 150 volunteers spend months planning the event incorporating an extensive lineup of musical entertainment and cultural programming including theater and sports. During the festival, 4,000 volunteers keep things going. Milwaukee Irish Fest has evolved into the largest Irish Festival in North America. Each year, Milwaukee Irish Fest presents, new performers, cultural exhibits and special events. The festival has an international reputation for presenting more than 100 of the world’s best Irish, Irish American and Celtic musicians and artists each year on 17 different stages.    

While the festival only lasts four days each year, the commitment to preserve, promote and celebrate Irish, Irish American and Celtic cultures throughout the year has earned CelticMKE, Home of Milwaukee Irish Fest, worldwide acclaim. To learn more about Milwaukee Irish Fest, please visit the website:

To learn more about the Milwaukee area, please visit the website:

Ward Irish Music Archives  CelticMKE  Volunteerism CelticMKE

Executive Director Position

The Executive Director position reports to the Board of Directors, and often leads the staff, operating independently. 

The Executive Director must be able to apply principles of logical and critical thinking to a wide range of intellectual and practical situations. Like any business manager, the Executive Director is responsible for addressing a wide range of situations (large and small, strategic and tactical, simple and highly complex). This position requires highly developed interpersonal skills, including an ability to relate to many individuals using leadership strength and sound personal judgment. The Executive Director has the distinct honor of overseeing the 150 year-round volunteers and nearly 4,000 volunteers during the festival. 

It is essential that the Executive Director be committed to the belief that all things are possible and have a commitment to the future growth and enhancement of CelticMKE.

About the Opportunity 

Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director will develop deep knowledge of the organization, core programs, operations, and business plans. This role will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for the staff, programs, expansion, and execution of the mission and vision of CelticMKE.

The Executive Director demonstrates organizational leadership and passion by engaging, inspiring and motivating paid and volunteer staff to achieve organizational goals; creating a culture that is creative, engaging, exciting and fun.

The Executive Director is the face of the organization and is responsible for establishing and maintaining sustainable, robust relationships with government and cultural officials across the domestic and international communities in which we operate. This involves public speaking plus hosting and interacting with prominent leaders.


• In conjunction with the board of directors, is responsible for development, implementation and enhancement of the organizational strategic plan.
• Executive coordination and oversight of Irish Fest and all other year-round events and programming.
• Cultivating, engaging, and supporting the board of directors. Serve as an ex-officio member of board committees and select standing committees.
• Responsible for all aspects of fund development; including planned giving, cultivating relationships with existing and potential sponsors and donors, and grants.
• Administration and management of all operations; including building operations and maintaining the records and documents of the organization.
• Responsible for staff on-boarding, coaching, training, development, performance reviews, and salary administration; provides oversight and direction of paid and volunteer staff.
• Fiscal management including development and management of annual budget and financial reporting to the board; holding all budget owners accountable for achieving budget objectives.
• Responsible for strengthening and promoting the CelticMKE brands, including Milwaukee Irish Fest, through marketing and public relations administration, and acting as primary spokesperson for the organization.


• Bachelor’s degree in business, event management, fund development, or related field. A post-graduate degree in a business-related field is beneficial.
• 10+ years of management experience.
• 5+ years of non-profit experience required; volunteer-based organization preferred.
• Experience working with a board of directors; including board development and cultivating relationships. Prior service on boards is preferred.
• Fund raising experience required; grant writing experience preferred.
• Event planning and management experience preferred.
• Ability and willingness to travel domestically and internationally up to 20% of the time.

How to Apply 

• Apply online by submitting your cover letter and resume.
• The application deadline is August 25, 2017.
• No phone calls or in-person applications.



CelticMKE | 1532 Wauwatosa Avenue | Milwaukee, WI 53213-2623 | Phone: (414) 476-3378 | Email:

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