Title: Illinois Executive Director
Reports to: National President, Brian Brady, with dotted line reporting to IL Board Chair, Peter Barber
Location: Chicago (The Loop)
Preferred start date: Early winter (2020)

*A cover letter is not required to apply for this role. Instead, all candidates will provide written answers to the application questions. Your responses will be shared with the hiring manager as well as the hiring committee for this search, so please put forth your best effort.


Mikva Challenge (Mikva) was founded on the premise that youth voice and participation matter.  We believe that our civic and political life will be stronger when youth participate and help shape their destinies. Mikva programs began 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.

Mikva Challenge envisions a world where:

  • Citizens are informed, empowered, and active
  • Youth voice is valued in decision making
  • Civic leaders reflect the nation’s diversity
  • Action civics is prioritized in education

The organization started as a pilot program with an all-volunteer staff running an electoral engagement project in four schools.  Since then, Mikva has grown this strategy of real-life democracy education into five robust “Action Civics” programs that serve over 100,000 students and over 2000 teachers in over 1500 schools across the country.  We hope to grow to 40 partner sites and 3M students in the next 5 to 7 years. Mikva IL has the highest levels of youth engagement within the organization and runs more programs than any other chapter.  What is particularly unique about the Mikva IL chapter is the amount of direct youth work that happens outside of school, although the school based programs are robust in size and scope as well.

In 2015, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. piloted replication efforts to expand Mikva programming and we now partner with another 12 sites across the country training them in Action Civics.  Our four main youth program areas – electoral participation, policy-making, community problem solving, and public service internships – teach young people civic knowledge and leadership skills while transforming their attitudes about political participation. These programs focus on helping young people achieve success in schools, in their careers, and in life. To learn more about our theory of change, please visit here.


Mikva Challenge’s core values challenge the status quo:

  • We believe that by providing high quality programming in under-resourced communities and schools, we can eliminate the civic achievement gap.
  • We believe that if youth voice is included in decision-making that policy makers will make more informed decisions.
  • We believe that the best way to learn democracy is to do democracy.
  • We believe Action Civics is an essential tool to help young people develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to be informed, empowered, and active citizens.
  • We believe youth are not apathetic, and that by inviting them into the political process they will become powerful and thoughtful citizens.
  • We believe that Mikva Challenge always needs to be nonpartisan to allow young people to formulate their own opinions and choose the candidates and issues they want to support.


Mikva Challenge IL’s Board of Directors has embarked upon a search for a dynamic, inspiring, and talented leader to serve as the Illinois Executive Director.  This role is an exciting opportunity to grow Mikva’s Chicago-area footprint (we’ve recently expanded beyond metro Chicago to Aurora and Waukegan), and amplify its status as hub of innovation. Our new leader must feel at ease engaging both C-Suite and district stakeholders to take part in Mikva’s mission, and also be excited about supporting and working alongside Mikva youth and alumni on a frequent basis.

The Illinois E.D. will join the organization at a pivotal time, as the organization seeks to expand its footprint and impact both locally and nationally. As a member of the Leadership Team, s/he will be charged with helping the organization pivot to a national focus, where everyone at Mikva, regardless of location, is unified and learning across all sites to ensure organizational success.

Mikva Illinois’s approximately $2.7M budget is nearly half of the overall organizational budget of $5.5M. The Illinois E.D. will work in concert with the National Director and the IL Board Chair to ensure long-term financial sustainability through the identification of new supporters, and deepening relationships with existing institutional and individual donors.

The Illinois E.D. will manage, coach, develop and support Mikva Illinois staff, with two direct reports, the Chief Program Officer, and the soon to-be hired leader of the Development team. The Illinois E.D. will also have a thought partner and peer E.D. in Washington, D.C.

The Illinois E.D. is managed by Mikva’s National President, who is managed by Mikva’s National Board. The National President provides oversight of all Mikva chapters, which currently includes Illinois, Washington, D.C., and California.



  • Work with the National President to develop strategies that promote Mikva’s unique brand and model of programs that include Issues to Action; Elections in Action; Project Soapbox; neighborhood based and city-wide Youth Councils; Election Judge, and Campaign Internships.
  • Lead the implementation of Mikva Illinois’s 5-year statewide expansion plan
  • Lay the foundation for deepening Mikva’s programmatic impact in Chicago and other regions throughout the state
  • Help develop Chicago as civic learning and innovation “hub” for other cities and states to learn from and observe the Chicago Action Civics model in action.

External Relations/Fundraising

  • Serve as Mikva’s “public face” by maintaining and developing relationships with nonprofit organizations, public officials, corporations, schools, media, staff and donors including networking, meetings, site visits, and public speaking
  • Fundraise from multiple donor sources to support Mikva’s programming in the Chicagoland area, with a focus on Chicago area foundations and corporations; also help identify Chicago area institutional donors with the potential to provide national support
  • Promote and foster equity and nonpartisan civic engagement internally, externally and programmatically

Management (Staff & Board)

  • Build, manage, coach and support IL staff members; ensure a strong and inclusive team culture and help develop and retain staff
  • Build, manage, leverage and provide direction to IL Board, to ensure successful achievement of programmatic and fundraising goals
  • Work in close collaboration with National President to establish and achieve Illinois’s fundraising, programmatic and operational goals

Organizational development

  • Help make Mikva Illinois the innovation hub for the entire organization
  • Develop internal systems and infrastructure to help build institutional knowledge and better contribute to the fulfillment of the organizational mission
  • Develop and help implement short and long-term fundraising, programmatic, and operational goals
  • Collaborate and work with national staff to guide and support learning across sites and to use data and lessons learned from our youth and Action Civics movement building to help inform curriculum and professional development.


The strongest candidates for this role will possess many of the following characteristics, experiences and skills:

  • Strong belief in the talent and skills of Illinois’s youth, and a passion for developing young leaders and engaged citizens, particularly young people from under resourced communities
  • In-depth knowledge of and experience working with youth-focused civic or education based organizations, with an appreciation and understanding of positive youth development strategies and theory
  • Able to build community internally and externally, and foster solid and trusting relationships across a range of stakeholders
  • Desire and ability to work collaboratively with staff across the organization
  • Understands the importance of non-partisan civic education and can build relationships with leaders across the political spectrum
  • Commitment and ability to foster equity both internally and externally and across our programs
  • Thoughtful and dynamic communicator with exemplary writing skills
  • Strong critical and strategic thinker, with an ability to solve problems, identify opportunities and generate next steps
  • Proven success and history of fundraising for organizations with budgets $1M+
  • Strong business acumen to manage expenses and operations for the Illinois office
  • Ability to coach, develop and build capacity in others, with demonstrated success in coaching managers to build strong team cultures and retain staff
  • Collaborates effectively with others to reach common goals and objectives
  • Impeccable integrity, judgement, and discretion along with a professional demeanor and interpersonal style that elicits trust from leadership, peers, staff, and board members
  • A Bachelor’s Degree is required; a Master’s degree, or equivalent experience is a plus


Travel for this role is primarily local and typically for evening events, and meetings with institutional funders, supporters and stakeholders. Occasional travel outside of Illinois for Mikva-aligned conferences as either a panelist or attendee.


Compensation for this role is competitive, and commensurate with experience. Mikva Challenge offers a generous benefits package, which includes health, dental and vision insurance, life insurance, short and long-term disability insurance, an employee assistance program (EAP), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), commuter benefits including paid parking, and a 401k retirement plan. Mikva offers flexible work arrangements (negotiated with hiring manager), as well as a competitive vacation and holiday policy.


At Mikva Challenge, we celebrate difference and are committed to providing equitable opportunities, addressing the effects of power and privilege. Mikva Challenge is proud to be an Equal Employment Opportunity workplace. We are committed to equal employment opportunity regardless of race, color, ancestry, gender, gender identity, national origin, sexual orientation, age, citizenship, marital status, disability, veteran status, or any other factor covered by federal, state, or local statutes. We want to create an empowering space to change lives!


We have retained KLB Consulting to lead our Illinois E.D. search. KLB Consultancy is an executive search consultancy that helps find highly qualified leaders for nonprofit organizations. To express your interest in this opportunity, please apply at bit.ly/MikvaED. No phone calls please.

It’s important to note that all finalists for this role will need to provide professional references. Also, Mikva requires a background check prior to hire.