The Position: Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”)
Reports to: National Board of Directors
Location: Chicago, Illinois / Location Flexible
Mikva Challenge (Mikva”), a national leader in providing civic education to young people for over 20 years, offers the right leader a rare opportunity to serve diverse communities of students and to contribute to the health and equity of democracy by leading this influential, mission-driven nonprofit through a national expansion fueled by the growing demand for Mikva’s innovative programs.
To develop youth to be empowered, informed, and active citizens who will promote a just and equitable society.
Mikva launched its first program in 1998 as a tribute to former White House Counsel, Judge and U.S. Congressman Abner Mikva and his wife Zoe, a teacher and lifelong education activist. Today, with chapters in Illinois, and Washington, D.C., and programs in 20 states and 46 school districts, Mikva reaches more than 100,000 young people and provides professional development to more than 700 teachers annually. Mikva is committed to serving communities that have faced historical obstacles to political participation and quality education, working to amplify the voices of students of color and prioritizing the needs of all students in under-resourced public schools.
Mikva has led the way in reinventing “civics” education in America. Mikva’s model programs and curricula provide youth a platform for their voices to be heard, both in the classroom and beyond, and the tools to advocate, innovate and enact change for themselves and others. It uses the approach of Action Civics, an apprenticeship learning model built on three principles: (1) youth voice matters; (2) youth are experts on the issues that affect them; and (3) our communities and schools are stronger when youth leaders are involved in all aspects of civic life.
Mikva has ambitious goals: to develop young people into active, informed citizens and community change agents, and to produce whole-child effects on mental health, academics, and workforce preparation. In middle and high school classrooms, Mikva youth develop critical thinking, public speaking, and research and writing skills, which all contribute to an increase in their rhetorical abilities and academic confidence. Students build their social-emotional learning by engaging with those with divergent or unfamiliar perspectives.
Mikva believes the best means of training young people for their roles as citizens and leaders – now and in the future – is to provide real opportunities to participate in authentic democratic activities. And Mikva believes this work is essential to preserving democracy and making it more equitable, just and representative. “Democracy is a verb,” is a constant refrain at Mikva Challenge events.
Demand for Mikva’s programs is increasing. This is largely due to Mikva’s track record and reputation, but also, perhaps, by the growing realization that American democracy can be seriously threatened and needs to be renewed by each new generation.
This is a unique opportunity for the next CEO, who will guide Mikva’s expansion, safeguard its integrity, and embody its core values as a leader in the vital work of civic education.
Mikva Challenge is governed by a 14-member National Board of Directors. Additionally, there are regional Advisory Boards in Washington, DC, Chicago, and California.
The current Mikva Challenge staff is comprised of 40 full-time employees in the following areas: National Team in executive functions, regional teams in management and programs, site staff, evaluation and data, finance, and administrative support staff.
Mikva has an annual operating budget of approximately $5 million.
For additional information on Mikva Challenge, please visit mikvachallenge.org.
The new Chief Executive Officer will succeed Brian Brady, who has led the Mikva staff for 20 years. Brian will support a careful, deliberate onboarding process, as will the National Board of Directors to whom the CEO reports.
The CEO will be supported by a strong senior staff and will have flexibility in building an organizational structure. The CEO will likely have to manage ongoing disruptions and uncertainties caused by the pandemic.
The CEO will assume all of the customary duties of the head of a complex, values-driven nonprofit organization. The CEO will steer Mikva’s strategy, fundraising, public representation and inspiration. The CEO will have the gravitas and charisma to represent Mikva publicly, and the organizational, managerial, and strategic savvy to guide a complex, multi-site team. The CEO will have deep experience in advancing organizational diversity, equity and inclusion.
Mikva’s current growth path is partially, and crucially, supported by generous major grants from influential national foundations; stewarding and expanding those relationships is a priority. These funders are drawn to Mikva due to the communities that it serves as well as Mikva’s focus on equity and social justice.
With energy and creativity, the new CEO will keep the Mikva team focused on the number one priority: Mikva’s young people.
Organizational Leadership & Strategy
- Lead Mikva’s strategic planning in a highly systematic, inclusive and transparent manner.
- Articulate and communicate Mikva’s organizational goals explicitly and clearly; ensure alignment of goals with staff and boards.
- Build on Mikva’s reputation as a thought leader in civics education, advocate for a sharp focus on equity and youth voice in the field.
- Systematize structure and operations between Mikva’s chapter sites (Chicago, and Washington D.C.) and its growing number of partner sites and fee-for-service clients.
- Ensure quality control of Mikva’s programs, curriculum development, trainings and convenings; establish rigorous, data-driven documentation of outcomes and impact.
- Provide ultimate oversight of Mikva’s many programs in the field and in schools
- Excel as Mikva’s chief fundraiser; steward and expand current relationships; lead establishment of important new relationships with national and local foundations, corporate donors and major individual partners; expand and engage Mikva’s community of small donors.
- Establish and continuously update a systematic fundraising strategy.
- Secure and expand Mikva’s revenue from grants, donations and fee-for-service programs; diversify sources of revenue. Undertake a comprehensive analysis of fundraising strengths and weaknesses.
- Serve enthusiastically as Mikva’s national spokesperson in varied settings.
- Nurture and motivate the larger Mikva family of alumni, volunteers, teachers and friends.
- Shepherd Mikva’s goodwill and relationships with clients and program partners including school districts, education policymakers and administrators.
- Lead collaboration with allied organizations and coalitions to increase collective impact and influence in advocating for increased support and resources for Action Civics, youth voice, youth civic leadership programs and civic education.
- Assume ultimate oversight and accountability for Mikva’s $5 million budget.
- Work in partnership with Director of Finance on annual budgeting, forecasting, and sound financial management of the organization.
Human Capital and Culture
- Provide ultimate oversight of more than 40 staff.
- Attract, retain and inspire talented, diverse values-driven staff.
- Empower senior staff and nurture them to be new leaders in the civic education field.
- Ensure Mikva’s technology is optimized for purpose, expandable and secure.
- Foster the suite of values associated with diversity, equity and inclusiveness in all corners of the organization and in its relationships, partnerships, programs and influence in the field of civic education.
Candidate Qualifications / Experience / Attributes
Mikva’s next CEO will have a proven passion for youth work and a deep belief in the importance of civic knowledge and empowerment in young people’s personal development, and in the value of expanding youth voice in civic life.
The CEO will have a palpable, proven commitment to racial equity and social justice, and will embody the values of diversity, equity and inclusiveness that are of paramount importance to our organization, our culture, our people, our partners and, most importantly, the communities we serve.
- An undergraduate degree strongly preferred, or equivalent experience.
- Minimum of ten years of progressively responsible experience in a complex organization or enterprise.
- Experience in education and/or youth civic engagement is strongly preferred.
- Track record of success in building and/or managing a complex organization or enterprise with a multi-million dollar budget.
- Demonstrated track record of fundraising and the ability to identify and secure new sources of funding by building relationships with foundations, corporations, government agencies, and individual donors.
- Successful record of creating the conditions for high performance and talent retention by fostering an environment of support and accountability.
- Understanding of K-12 education system, school district dynamics and curriculum development.
- Demonstrated communication skills to become a true public advocate and spokesperson for Mikva and its mission in front of varied and diverse audiences.
Attributes of the successful candidate include
- Passion for Mikva’s mission and values.
- Love of working with young people – students and staff.
- Strategic thinking; be highly disciplined and systematic in approach to planning and operations.
- Flourishes amidst diversity; committed to and comfortable with embracing and serving the evolving challenges of building diversity, equity and inclusion in the organization and its programs.
- An entrepreneurial orientation and approach, non-bureaucratic in temperament; collaborative, transparent, innovative, tenacious.
- High emotional intelligence, a “people person.”
- Humility and a sense of humor.
A competitive salary, with comprehensive benefits, will be offered based on experience.
Mikva Challenge is an equal opportunity employer and encourages the candidacy of professionals with diverse lived experience.
For additional information regarding this opportunity, please contact:
Sally Carlson, Managing Partner
Heidi Holzhauer, Partner