Organization: Advance Illinois

Location: Chicago, IL

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About Advance Illinois:

Advance Illinois is a leading education advocacy organization with a track record of tackling and moving complex issues. It is an independent, objective voice promoting policies to create a world-class education system in Illinois that prepares all students to be college and work ready in today’s competitive, global society. Since its founding in 2008, Advance Illinois has become widely regarded as one of the leading education advocacy organizations in the country.

Despite being one of the top economies in the country, Illinois’ education performance is generally below average. Worse still, while there have been some recent gains, the state’s lackluster performance is longstanding and overall state averages hide some of the worst achievement gaps in the nation. In an effort to increase students’ chances for success in the emerging global economy, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Joyce Foundation, in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group and civic leaders came together to form Advance Illinois in 2008 as a bipartisan, collaborative, research-based advocacy organization focused on policy change.

Advance Illinois has earned its reputation as a trusted partner for those interested in improving opportunities and outcomes for all students and a go-to resource on cutting-edge research and best practice. Known for its orientation towards results, a nonpartisan approach, and a talented staff, Advance Illinois has built strong relationships and credibility with educators, community leaders, state agencies, elected officials, membership organizations, business leaders, and the media. The staff, in collaboration with an engaged, top tier Board, works collaboratively with its partners both to develop and enact policy priorities.

Advance Illinois has successfully advocated for legislative and regulatory change over the past seven years. It has supported more substantive feedback for teachers and principals, rigorous training and field experience for principals and teachers entering the field, stronger data systems, the inclusion of student performance as a significant factor in personnel decisions, college and career ready standards and assessments, career and technical education tracks that meld college-ready skills with industry experience, more robust early education programming – especially for bilingual students – more accessible and relevant school and district “report cards” for families, and fair funding for all Illinois students.

Advance Illinois has offices in both Chicago and Springfield, and has thirteen full-time employees, with a range of expertise in community outreach, communications, policy, and research and government relations.

For more information on Advance Illinois, please visit

The Opportunity:

Reporting to a Board of Directors comprised of top Illinois leaders from government, business, education, civic, and grassroots groups, the next Executive Director of Advance Illinois will lead this important organization into its next successful chapter.

The Executive Director will:

  • Focus on impactful, achievable results and effecting legislative and regulatory change;
  • Refine and shape a researched-based policy agenda that will close gaps in student achievement and prepare students adequately for college and work;
  • Build public and political coalitions to influence implementation of the organization’s policy agenda;
  • Act as a partner in implementing and monitoring reform to ensure student achievement improves and the achievement gap closes;
  • Maintain and enhance Advance Illinois’ credibility and relationships with key opinion leaders in education, business, government, civic, and grassroots groups;
  • Position education as a top priority among state officeholders and candidates;
  • Grow the funding base among foundations, corporations, and individuals;
  • Manage and support a highly talented and committed staff; and
  • Work closely with the Board to make strategic decisions and expand upon and execute Advance Illinois’ vision in this next chapter.

Candidate Profile:

Advance Illinois seeks a dynamic and inclusive leader who is passionate about and dedicated to its mission, politically savvy, resilient, collaborative, and able to partner effectively with a committed and engaged staff and Board of Directors. Successful candidates will have a demonstrated record of visionary leadership, as well as managerial success and fiscal responsibility in a non-profit, public sector, corporate, or entrepreneurial organization.

It is preferred that candidates possess relevant work experience, including experience bringing together groups with diverse interests to find common ground. An understanding of K-12 education reform and knowledge about the social and political context and educational opportunities in Illinois will be advantageous, but candidates with a range of experiences will be considered.

The Executive Director will possess the following qualities, attributes, and characteristics:

Strategic Leadership:

The Executive Director will be a visionary, yet practical and resilient leader who comes to Advance Illinois with a fresh and optimistic take on opportunities to make Illinois a leader in education reform. S/he will have the capability to lead efforts to take findings from research and the field to develop compelling and effective policies. S/he will have the skills to productively and respectfully collaborate with key opinion leaders in education, business, government, civic, and grassroots groups. The Executive Director will stay true to the bi-partisan values of Advance Illinois while being able to skillfully move public opinion.

Team Management:

The Executive Director will have an understanding of internal operations needed to effectively lead a successful organization. S/he will have strong staff and financial management experience that includes the ability to build, inspire, and effectively manage a team with a diverse set of skills towards common goals. The ability to provide clear expectations and accountability measures for staff deliverables and assist the staff in prioritizing efforts will be especially important.

Relationship Building & Leading Through Influence:

The Executive Director will have the ability to persuasively communicate Advance Illinois’ direction and strategy both internally and externally, ensuring effective communication among the wide range of audiences. S/he will be a charismatic communicator who can serve as the public face and voice of the organization to diverse constituencies (parents, students, educators, administrators, policymakers, journalists; business, civic and foundation leaders), and who is equally capable of delivering inspiring messages to community leaders or legislators. S/he will also be able to build deep relationships with media reporters and editors in all major Illinois markets to generate serious coverage on key issues and priorities. The Executive Director must be a proven or emergent fundraiser able to bring in new sources of funding. S/he will develop a powerful sense of shared purpose in others and motivate them to engage in the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Passion for the Mission:

The Executive Director will possess an unwavering commitment to improving student achievement in Illinois and a fundamental belief that improving policy can result in societal change. S/he will be politically savvy, yet apolitical and focused first and foremost on the work at hand. S/he will be confident with a low ego and quick to share credit for success. In pursuit of the mission, it is imperative that the Executive Director is able to treat others with respect and always stay true to the values of the organization. Moreover, the ideal candidate is an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values who can be trusted without reservation.


Koya Leadership Partners has been exclusively retained for this search. This search is being led by Alison P. Ranney and Trisha Sutrisno.

To express your interest in this role, please email Alison and Trisha directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

Advance Illinois is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women and LGBT applicants.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit: