Director, Los Angeles
NOTE: Applications must be made through Koya Partners
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
Founded in 1922, PEN America works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others. Our strength is our Membership—a nationwide community of more than 7,500 novelists, journalists, nonfiction writers, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other writing professionals, as well as devoted readers and supporters who join with them to carry out PEN America’s mission. PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 centers worldwide that make up the PEN International network.
In 2018, PEN America and PEN Center USA, based in Los Angeles, unified under PEN America with the goal of unifying writers coast to coast in a national organization. Since then, the Los Angeles team has built support for PEN America’s work in Southern California, continued the signature LitFest Gala with extraordinary honorees, inaugurated new programs and initiatives, elevated free expression advocacy, and forged important partnerships with California art institutions. The PEN Out Loud and World Voices Festival literary programs expanded to the West Coast, the Emerging Voices Fellowship relaunched nationally, and the foundation for a coalition of literary groups in Southern California was established.
PEN America, a registered 501(c)(3) organization, is headquartered in New York City, with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and chapters in seven regions.
PEN America seeks a forward-thinking, innovative Los Angeles Director to lead and build a thriving Los Angeles organization dedicated to freedom of expression, the promotion of literature and the elevation of the voice of the writer in public discourse. Building on PEN America Los Angeles (PEN LA’s) decades-long presence in the city, wide network of local writers and supporters, and track record for innovative programming and pathbreaking events, the new Director will bring a sharp eye and dynamic energy to creating an even stronger force advancing the literary community and free expression in the region.
Backed by the brand of a revered organization with a deep connection to writers, the Director will shape and guide the next phase of PEN LA’s growth in one of the world’s most dynamic creative communities. The Director will draw on PEN America’s national reputation, world-class research, and communications and advocacy strengths to elevate the organization’s presence, deepen its networks, raise the profile of its programs, and build an even larger, more active hub of activity that in turn enriches the national organization. The leader selected for this role will galvanize and inspire writers, staff, supporters, and audiences behind a collaborative vision for PEN LA that engages new and existing constituencies with programs that reflect the diversity of writers throughout Los Angeles and the breadth of free expression concerns affecting Southern California.
Taking on cutting-edge issues and designing new programming, the Director will have the opportunity to build a prominent, vibrant hub that serves as an essential advocate for writers and creators. Reporting to the Chief Executive Officer, the Director will be responsible for the achievement of PEN LA’s mission, including the breadth of its programmatic, financial, and administrative objectives. The Director will enjoy the advantages of a highly autonomous leadership position that is supported by a robust national organization to achieve these goals. This natural relationship-builder will have excellent interpersonal and communication skills as well as an ability to work constructively and collegially with a diverse constituency and community.
The Director must have a deep commitment to upholding free speech, amplifying diverse voices and promoting books, writing in all genres, and creativity.
Key responsibilities of the Director include, among others:
- Serve as a thought leader and provide innovative leadership to grow and guide PEN LA’s program and impact.
- Lead staff and local supporters in identifying and implementing strategic initiatives that build the organization’s momentum and expand its capacity to serve the diverse Los Angeles writing and literary community.
- Build PEN LA’s profile through partnerships, dynamic programming, media coverage, outreach efforts, and being a presence at key events and in prominent settings.
Fundraising & Revenue Generation:
- Drive successful and expanded fundraising from individuals, corporations and foundations, and others, working in consultation with the Chief Development Officer, national leadership, and the Board of Directors.
- Evolve PEN LA’s signature annual event, the star-studded Los Angeles LitFest Gala, into an even more prominent, memorable, and visible rallying point for support and participation.
- Generate new sources of revenue by expanding and deepening PEN America’s donor base through outreach and cultivation.
Employ an appreciation and understanding of the Los Angeles writing and literary communities – including screen and television writers – to be the primary spokesperson and ambassador for PEN America, effectively communicating its mission and vision to a wide variety of community partners and constituents.
- Build PEN LA’s touchpoints, engagement with and relevance to Hollywood through continued engagement and a strong, reasoned voice on free expression issues relevant to the film and television industries.
- Oversee the creation and development of innovative initiatives and public programs that will appeal to and foster new connections within Los Angeles’s writing community.
- Develop and seize strategic programming opportunities and initiatives that open up fundraising possibilities.
- Provide leadership for all aspects of operations, including financial oversight, and management of programs/events.
- Ensure that long-range plans are in place and that organizational resources are efficiently deployed to meet PEN America’s mission.
- Liaise with PEN America’s operational departments including Human Resources, Finance, and Administration
- Lead and develop a small, deeply engaged team of world-class, high performers who are well-integrated into the national organization.
- Continue to evolve PEN LA culture, specifically as it relates to equity, inclusion, diversity, and access, to be aligned with the communities PEN LA serves.
Strong candidates will bring a diverse set of skills, characteristics, and experiences, both professional and lived. PEN America and Koya strive to mitigate inherent biases that influence hiring practices by focusing on a holistic view of potential candidates. The following offers an aspirational view of the ideal candidate profile; we encourage applications from candidates with a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, especially those from underrepresented groups.
Strong candidates will possess the belief in and commitment to the protection of free expression in Los Angeles, United States, and worldwide. They will champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.
The Los Angeles Director of PEN America will possess the following attributes and competencies:
Proven Leadership and Innovation Skills
The successful candidate will have a track record of building initiatives, programs or organizations through their own vision and drive and with measurable results. They will bring a strong intuition and sense of direction to help build PEN LA into an even more vibrant and effective force. They will bring high energy, ambition, creativity, a toolbox of approaches and strategies that have worked for them in the past and an ability to galvanize others to drive the organization forward. They will have the will and commitment to accelerate PEN LA’s development through both singlehanded effort and the mobilization of a range of constituencies.
Building Networks and Visibility
The Director will be a voracious network builder, committed to growing PEN LA’s relationships with eminent and emerging writers across all genres, counterpart organizations, local leaders, the media, peers and supporters. The Director will be outward facing, building and strengthening contacts across Los Angeles that help to strengthen PEN LA’s position and relevance. The Director will have a passion for representation, attending events and programs with the aim of forging new ties relevant to their own work to build up PEN LA. The Director will have an eye for how to generate visibility and excitement through programs, events, campaigns and media engagement. The Director will consistently solicit input from varied sources, facilitate robust dialogue, successfully navigate divergent opinions, and surface vulnerabilities, while being skilled at making decisions and turning discussion into action. Understanding that leadership is partnership, the Director will build bridges and sustain meaningful relationships across PEN LA’s diverse constituencies. The Director will have a rich understanding of and belief in the power of celebrating and advancing equity, inclusion, diversity and access at all levels, internally and externally.
Mission and Culture Alignment
The Director will have a passionate belief in PEN America’s mission and will have a background or experience in areas relevant to the arts, literature and/or human rights as well as a passion for reading, and interest in the Los Angeles writing and literary community. The Director will recognize the uniqueness of PEN LA’s position in the local community, the region, and the broader cultural landscape, proactively seeking out opportunities to increase its impact and add value. The Director will have networks and contacts that enable PEN LA to strengthen its links to the entertainment industry and build a program that is relevant and valuable to screen and television writers as well as the many literary writers who are crossing over to write for entertainment outlets.
Communication and Listening
The Director will serve as the key public ambassador for PEN LA, elevating its visibility, presence and relevance to writers, the literary community, entertainment constituencies and allies in the free expression field. This executive will be a charismatic public speaker who possesses the ability to tell the story, engage audiences, listen, and moderate communications with a wide variety of constituents. The Director will be a strong verbal and written communicator able to make clear the value of the organization to a broad range of constituents including donors, funders, writers, staff, the community at large, and more. The Director will enthusiastically convey goals to new and existing constituents and develop a powerful sense of shared purpose in others and motivate others to engage in the work of PEN LA. The Director will also be skilled at listening to and learning from others, understanding nuanced perspectives, and providing opportunities for varied constituents to engage in ways that are meaningful.
The Director will be a visionary and strategic doer who can effectively drive forward innovative approaches to identifying and engaging the Los Angeles constituencies furthering PEN’s strategic priorities in the literary and free expression realms. With superior conceptual and critical thinking abilities, this executive will curate ideas into reality. The Director also pioneers new ways to connect with diverse constituents and cultures in authentic and meaningful ways. This leader will have the enthusiasm and curiosity to remain at the forefront of the Los Angeles writing and free expression realms and to develop new and unique opportunities to serve the mission.
The Director will be organized, detail-oriented and accountable with the requisite experience to manage a small team, liaise with large numbers of constituents, simultaneously drive forward multiple programs and initiatives at varied stages of development and identify and troubleshoot challenges. The Director will have a proven track record for effectively managing up, down and across and the requisite skillsets to form effective working relationships with peer leaders from across PEN America’s functional areas.
Compensation & Benefits
PEN America offers competitive compensation and benefits, commensurate with experience.
Koya Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement. Amy Shea and Jason Mannino of Koya Partners are leading this search. To make recommendations or to express interest in this role, please submit your materials here or email Amy and Jason directly at [email protected]. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.
Statement of Non-Discrimination
PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices, and in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.
About Koya Partners
Koya Partners, a part of Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.
For more information about Koya Partners, visit koyapartners.com.