Organization: Chicago Literacy Alliance

Location: Chicago, IL

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About Chicago Literacy Alliance:

The Chicago Literacy Alliance (CLA) is an association of more than 90 agencies operating in and around the city to help meet literacy needs for people of all ages and backgrounds. Founded in 2009 and mindfully built to model a technology startup, the organization is dedicated to increasing the combined impact of its member groups by providing opportunities for creative and effective collaboration. In total, CLA’s member organizations serve more than 3.6 million people each year, from young children all the way through K-12 students and adult learners.

In May 2015, CLA opened the country’s first nonprofit shared workspace dedicated to literacy, the Literacenter. Borrowing from the playbooks of 1871 and other successful coworking accelerators, the Literacenter embodies the spirit of collaboration and of getting more done, more efficiently with more people. Located in Chicago’s West Loop, the Literacenter incorporates CLA’s mission in multiple ways through design and furnishings. Today more than 90 organizations make their homes, attend programs, serve students, create collaborations and accelerate their work in the space. Being in the same setting fosters collaboration, stronger affiliation among agencies and potential for mergers. As the CLA network grows, the programs and support for the organizations continue to expand.

The CLA was formed with a collective passion to help people of all ages and backgrounds receive the critical literacy support they need, from basic education and tutoring through enrichment, literary arts, and book distribution. Working together, the CLA envisions a future in which 100% of Chicagoland residents are functionally literate, and in which that shared literacy is a defining characteristic and point of pride for the city. The CLA leads the efforts and works toward this goal through specific methods, including, but not limited to:

  • Supporting member organizations with education, advocacy, thought-leadership and project management;
  • Coordinating innovative partnerships to provide collective impact and increase organizational capacity;
  • Providing educational, capacity-building, and professional development programs ranging from weekly best practice sessions and quarterly Unconferences through an online member search tool and an intensive cohort experience for future leaders in the literacy sector; and
  • Creating a true community of colleagues across the cause through shared social experiences, a culture of respect, fun, and sharing, and a dedication to advancing together.

For more information on the Chicago Literacy Alliance, please visit

The Opportunity:

The next Executive Director will be an inspiring, energetic and collaborative leader. As an innovative leader in collective impact and capacity building with member organizations, CLA is entering into an exciting new chapter in its history. The Executive Director will provide fearless leadership and creative direction to expand collaboration and work to fulfill the CLA mission, working closely with the team to reach the goals and vision highlighted in the current strategic plan.

Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for Chicago Literacy Alliance’s staff, programs, expansion, and execution of its mission. As a charismatic, strategic yet hands-on executor, and entrepreneurial business-minded leader, s/he will already have or will develop strong knowledge of the literacy field, CLA’s programs, member programs, operations, and business plans. The Executive Director will work proactively with the Board to fundraise, cultivate new Board Members and strategically lead the organization. Internally, s/he will ensure the team (seven high-energy, highly motivated, and cheerful professionals) is working effectively to support the organization and advance the mission of the CLA. Inspired by a genuine passion for literacy and collaboration, s/he will work tirelessly to promote and expand the efforts of the organization, and will evangelize the organization throughout the community to help raise financial support, expand programming, engage with a wider range of organizations, and accelerate CLA’s reach and brand in the community.

Key metrics for success of this new role include:

  • Embodying a clear, inspiring, entrepreneurial vision CLA and guiding the team to translate those strategies into effectively executed plans;
  • Providing professional leadership to the Board of Directors to assure development of an effective and motivated Board, including identification, recruitment and stewardship;
  • Ensuring ongoing programmatic excellence, rigorous program evaluation and continuous quality of finance and administration, fundraising, communications and systems; and
  • Achieving strong fundraising success for the CLA through a robust and permanent fundraising program, including expanded institutional engagement with corporations, foundations and individuals.

Candidate Profile:

The Executive Director will be passionate about fulfilling CLA’s mission. S/he will have the character, confidence and personality to work successfully in a highly visible role and to interact effectively with a broad range of constituents.

The ideal candidate will have the following personal competencies and characteristics:

A Passion for the Mission

The Executive Director must be passionate about this opportunity. S/he must appreciate the importance of collaborative impact and its relationship to supporting the CLA’s member organizations. This leader will embrace the dynamic and optimistic environment and this leadership opportunity. S/he will embody the core values of the organization and its commitment that all Chicagoland residents are functionally literate. S/he will be energized working in a collaborative and creative environment, which continually innovates to expand the brand and reach. The Executive Director will be an inspirational and team-focused leader, treating others with respect. S/he will be an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation.

An Expert in Development

The Executive Director will be a demonstrated leader in the field of development with a measurable track record of success. S/he will embrace the CLA’s entrepreneurial culture and will have the character and confidence to expand the organization’s development capacity. With a creative and business mindset, and working collaboratively with the Board and the Development team, s/he will be responsible for leading a process to achieve success and strategically executing on the plan. S/he will flourish in a mission-driven business environment and be energized by the prospect of building a culture of philanthropy and implementing processes and best practices. A tactical leader, s/he will have a strong data and analysis orientation and a proven ability to use metrics to drive development decisions and achieve strategic objectives. Hand-in-hand with a process orientation, the Executive Director will also adopt an entrepreneurial approach to expanding and deepening new and existing donor support.

An ‘Ambassador’ for the Chicago Literacy Alliance

The Executive Director will be a high-energy, charismatic leader who will serve as an ‘Ambassador’ for the CLA. S/he will have an executive and appealing, mission-driven presence and will be notable for an ability to articulate and convey CLA’s mission and priorities to a range of external constituents including the CLA team, Board of Directors, member organizations, donors and staff. The Executive Director will have an inspirational approach to building collaboration and buy-in and generating support from all stakeholders. As the external voice of the organization, s/he will articulate and broaden the vision of the CLA to its current supporting community and future stakeholders. The Executive Director must be a confident public speaker and have a solid understanding of how to utilize advertising and public relations for an organization such as the CLA. S/he will help expand CLA membership by engaging the literacy community as well as representing the CLA locally and nationally in civic, philanthropic and education and advocacy arenas.

Strategic Leadership and Entrepreneurial Mindset
The Executive Director will be a strategic and results-oriented leader who, along with the team and Board of Directors, works towards the shared vision, builds and executes a development plan and evaluates outcomes to help accelerate more progress. S/he will offer creative, yet practical, ideas to achieve the strategic direction. S/he will be an innovative and energetic individual who functions well in a fast-paced, changing environment. S/he must be agile, decisive and versatile, with the ability to switch gears from fundraising with corporate donors to engaging a group of volunteers on the same day. S/he will have a track record of motivating and inspiring other to achieve impact through creativity and teamwork and of leveraging individual strengths to meet organizational goals.

A Bachelor’s degree is required; an advanced degree in a related field is preferred.


Marissa Martin of Koya Leadership Partners has been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here or email Marissa directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

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