Program Director, PEN Across America

PEN America, a dynamic nonprofit organization of writers and their allies celebrating and defending free expression, seeks a program director for PEN Across America to direct partnership strategy and serve as the lead liaison with diverse PEN America communities throughout the United States. This hands-on role will mobilize PEN America Members, supporters, and community allies to address threats to free expression, engage with literature, and link PEN America’s mission to issues of local concern by strategizing activities, developing regional leadership, and nurturing partnerships toward a sustained nationwide presence. Candidates should be high-energy, creative and practical, attuned to political and social issues, and able to push forward a multielement initiative at the center of PEN America’s organizational growth. This is a full-time position based in the New York office (with remote locations considered pending reopening).

The PEN Across America program director will direct the PEN Across America initiative and its cornerstone programs, as well as the Press Freedom Incentive Fund and the Literary Engagement and Activism Fund—which seek to mobilize constituencies for press freedom defense and literary advocacy in local communities, including in volunteer-led chapter cities. This position, utilizing grant funds and tapping PEN America expertise and projects, serves to interest, educate, and activate local audiences on issues of press freedom, the intersection of literature and activism, the amplification of marginalized voices, and the defense of free expression. This is an exciting opportunity to build and oversee new advocacy efforts at the local level by leveraging PEN America’s unique assets, including a national membership; experts on free expression; press freedom and media literacy; and connections to fiction and nonfiction writers, journalists, poets, playwrights, and other literary community voices.

The PEN Across America program director will be responsible for identifying opportunities; pursuing new partners and diverse stakeholders in journalistic, literary, cultural, and academic circles; organizing compelling and impactful work; and fostering collaborations with various PEN America departments, office locations, and external partners. The program director will autonomously develop and execute activities across the country. These activities—including town halls, civic dialogues, skill-building sessions, film screenings, lectures, panel conversations, bookstore events, activism and engagement opportunities, and other advocacy-related activities—will be led by journalists, writers, and community activists, many of whom are PEN America Members, and allied organizations such as libraries, independent bookstores, universities, and civic groups. In addition to envisioning opportunities, nurturing a national network of key stakeholders and community partners, and prioritizing impact, the program director will develop programming models, toolkits, content, audience-building, and community engagement strategies to ensure vibrant programming at the local level, support regional PEN America chapter leaders, support the creation of new chapters, and expand Membership. Responsibilities also include initiating broader literary advocacy and press freedom mobilization activities on the national level, including in partnership with PEN America’s Washington, D.C. office, collaborating on direct organizing efforts, supporting local membership acquisition efforts, and working closely with the Literary Programs and U.S. Free Expression teams.

The role is central to PEN America’s expanding role as a national organization, and the ideal candidate will have an entrepreneurial drive; a demonstrated background in creative and tenacious problem-solving techniques; and a collaborative, high-energy spirit. This candidate will have an affinity for work across varied geographical regions and experience in strategic program development, community engagement, event planning, outreach and media relations, fundraising, project management, and logistics. Applicants may come from a background of journalism, community or political organizing, literary programming, or the nonprofit field. Candidates should ideally have an interest in literature, a keen awareness of political and social justice issues, and the ability to envision and drive an ambitious program while patiently addressing the details.

Candidates representing diverse backgrounds strongly encouraged to apply.


  • Conceptualize, direct, and execute a strategy to engage a wide range of community partners in PEN America activities, support a sustained nationwide presence, expand participation and impact in new regions of the country, and stimulate organizational growth
  • Design event programming, mobilizations, and other initiatives to engage Members, supporters, and other allies in new and established regions in response to threats to free expression, press freedom defense, and literary advocacy
  • Creatively implement grant funds in combination with the utilization of organizational resources, staff expertise, and opportunities for mission alignment
  • Lead the development of PEN America’s community partnerships strategy, with Members and non-Members, and cultivate relationships with key partners with an eye toward sustainability
  • Engage with PEN America’s Literary Programs and Free Expression departments to embed PEN America’s mission into all local and national efforts
  • Identify insights and evidence to tell the story of PEN Across America, and create measurement frameworks to assess outcomes and evaluate impact
  • Empower and equip PEN America communities for partnership building, community and audience engagement, outreach and media relations, event production, project management, and fundraising
  • Identify and support emerging PEN America regional leadership and chapter infrastructure in locations nationwide
  • Integrate PEN America communities within other aspects of the organization, including advocacy campaigns, the Board of Trustees, and digital communication channels
  • Participate in marshalling resources to support and expand these initiatives, including through the identification of funding opportunities, engagement with individual and institutional donors, and preparations of proposals
  • Represent PEN America regionally at events, book fairs, and industry events


  • Five-plus years of demonstrated professional experience relevant to PEN America’s mission to advance free expression, an affinity for the literary community, and an expressed interest in justice and human rights activism
  • Relevant work in strategic partnership building, community engagement, project development and management, and capacity building
  • Experience in transforming programming ideas into successful multidimensional programs, with a background in implementing and evaluating impact frameworks
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusiveness through proactive approaches, including building diverse alliances and promoting dialogue that embraces and responds to varied communities and views
  • Track record as an energetic self-starter with the ability to think creatively and collaboratively, and to work independently and as part of a professional, fast-paced team
  • Exceptional writing, research, design, and communication skills, including the ability to quickly create engaging content targeted toward specific audiences
  • Great empathy, listening skills, and negotiation skills, with a keen interest in considering various scenarios to benefit multiple parties
  • Knowledge of media, press freedom, and literary expression issues at both national and local levels, with expertise preferred in regions outside of New York City, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles
  • Experience in fundraising, proposal development, and donor stewardship
  • Ability to travel in the United States as needed and when safe (estimated at up to 25 percent) 

Salary and Benefits: PEN America offers competitive compensation and benefits, commensurate with experience.

To Apply:

Please submit a detailed cover letter that directly addresses your qualifications for the specified requirements as outlined above, your resume, and the contact information for three references. Please submit the entire application as one PDF to [email protected]. Please use Program Director, PEN Across America” with your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Program Director, PEN Across America – Jane Doe”). Only complete applications will be reviewed, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

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.

No phone calls, please.

About PEN America:

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.