Executive Director

Executive Director

Innocence Project

New York, NY   |   June 28, 2019


The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization that restores justice and freedom to people convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. Founded in 1992 as a legal clinic at Cardozo School of Law by civil rights lawyers Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, the Innocence Project, now an independent non-profit affiliated with Cardozo, was the first organization to systematically apply DNA testing to reveal innocence in cases of wrongful conviction. To date, the Innocence Project has helped to exonerate over 200 people. Overall, more than 360 people in the United States have been exonerated through DNA testing. Cumulatively, they served more than 5,000 years of wrongful imprisonment.
The exoneration cases have exposed the widespread failures in the criminal justice system. The Innocence Project promotes science-based solutions to address the factors that most frequently contribute to wrongful convictions: eyewitness misidentifications, misapplication of forensic science, false confessions, government misconduct, and incentivized witnesses. We also work to reform the system’s profound systematic failures — overreliance on guilty pleas, the lack of accountability for prosecutors, and inadequate public defense systems, and racial bias — through education, advocacy, and litigation.
Nationally, the Innocence Project has worked with people who have been exonerated to advance hundreds of policy reforms through partnerships with policymakers, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and other stakeholders and in the courts. Successful policy reform efforts on the federal, state, and local levels have protected millions of people under laws designed to identify, rectify, and prevent wrongful convictions. In 2018, the Innocence Project and its allies won 18 major policy victories in 15 states.
Much of the work we do to achieve reform has been in collaboration with the Innocence Network, an affiliation of almost 70 independently governed member organizations across the world that also litigate cases of wrongful conviction and have helped hundreds of people to be exonerated and freed. The Innocence Project is a founding member of the Network and serves as its headquarters.
For more information on the Innocence Project, please visit www.innocenceproject.org.


This is an extraordinary opportunity for the right person to lead the Innocence Project into its next phase of impact. The organization has experienced 27 years of steady growth, and is now 80 staff members strong with a budget of $19M, in addition to nearly $30M of pro bono local and national law firm services. The Innocence Project’s staff is based in New York City, and includes many leaders who bring more than a decade of experience at the organization, in addition to an organization-wide commitment and passion for changing the unjust systems that impact innocent people. Co-Founders Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld continue to offer their support and dedication as Special Counsel. An Exonoree Advisory Council engages exonorees in an ongoing capacity to learn from their experiences and insight, with rotating membership in the Council.

The Executive Director reports to a highly engaged and experienced Board of Directors and oversees all aspects of the organization, from strategy to fundraising to internal leadership.


The Executive Director’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

Leadership and Management

  • Provide visionary and compassionate leadership and maintain a participatory and collaborative culture that attracts, retains, and motivates a diverse and talented staff.
  • Develop strategic plans and annual operating goals with the Board and department heads. Ensure staff accountability on progress toward goals and objectives. Serve as the primary liaison between the Board of Directors and staff. Build and maintain a meaningful collaboration with Co-Founders.
  • Partner with the Exoneree Advisory Council to provide the Board and staff with input and perspectives from exonerated people on programmatic and organizational initiatives and procedures.
  • Develop overarching strategic plans that integrate current expertise with opportunities for growth and new directions for the organization.

Fundraising, Resource Development, and Fiscal Management

  • Work closely with the Development Director and the Board of Directors to lead the organization’s diversified fundraising program.
  • Actively and directly engage in fundraising by making major financial solicitations, cultivating relationships with individual donors, foundations, and other external stakeholders.
  • Maintain and deepen relationships with the Innocence Project’s highest level and most committed supporters.
  • Work closely with the CFO to develop long and short-range financial plans, make major financial decisions for the organization, and provide regular updates to the Board on financial matters.

Manage External Relationships for the Organization

  • Promote the mission, objectives, policies, and programs of the organization to external stakeholders, including peer organizations, policymakers, and other key constituents, including as a key spokesperson at public events and in the press.
  • Serve as a primary liaison to the 68 member organizations of the Innocence Network, serve on its Network Executive Board in the one Ex-Officio position, and directly supervise the Director of the Network Support Unit, and support the identification of resources to build capacity.
  • Work in collaboration with the Chief Communications Officer to maintain and protect the organization’s brand and messaging.

Lead Overall Programmatic Direction

  • Partner with the organization’s leaders to identify resources and support. Collaborate with organization’s programmatic and operational leaders to set and guide strategic direction required to achieve vision and goals.
  • Support cross-departmental efforts to coordinate programmatic initiatives.
  • Communicate progress on programmatic initiatives to the Board of Directors and non-programmatic departments.


The Executive Director will be a passionate, accomplished leader with practical and substantive experience in social justice-based movements. The ideal candidate will have a demonstrated ability to manage a dynamic and evolving organization, as well as significant fundraising experience.
Extensive experience in the criminal justice policy arena is also strongly desired and a law degree is preferred. Ideal candidates will bring the following competencies and personal characteristics:

Passion for the Mission: The Executive Director will have a true passion for criminal justice reform and addressing the needs of people who are wrongfully convicted, as well as a demonstrable commitment to racial and social justice. Leading with integrity and authenticity, the Executive Director will have experience contributing to a setting that prizes listening to and valuing the experiences and voices of all of the exonorees and clients, recognizing the role that race, in particular, plays in the criminal justice system.

Operational Expertise and Management Experience: The Executive Director will have demonstrated success in leading a diverse, complex, and high-performing organization. This leader will possess the management acumen, supervisory experience, and financial skills needed to direct the operations of the Innocence Project and to grow and develop staff. With experience leading significant organizational change, the Executive Director will be nimble and efficient in managing challenges and will proactively create and leverage opportunities to grow the organization’s impact.

Commitment to Diverse, Inclusive Organizational Leadership: Understanding the value of diverse and inclusive organizations, the Executive Director will bring enthusiasm for leading a multi-racial, multi-generational organization. The Executive Director will be comfortable engaging in conversations around diversity and will demonstrate capacity and willingness to bridge differences in regard to issues of race, socioeconomic status, gender, and other viewpoint diversity.

Relationship Builder and Collaborator: A natural and deliberate consensus-builder, the Executive Director will be skilled at building and sustaining excellent relationships across all levels, including management and staff, the Board of Directors, Co-Founders, exonorees, funders, external allies, and the media. The Executive Director will bring a compassionate and caring approach in their leadership and stakeholder interactions.

Exceptional Communication Skills: The Executive Director will communicate effectively, and with integrity to a broad group of stakeholders, including the community, staff, Board, and exonerees. The Executive Director will be a leader known for honesty, strong diplomacy, and for being an engaged and active listener. This individual will build and enhance the work of the Innocence Project through strong partnerships.


The Innocence Project has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume to Molly Brennan and Melissa Madzel here.


The Innocence Project considers the diversity of its workforce to be vital to our organization’s success in meeting its mission. The Innocence Project strongly encourages applicants from all cultures, races, educational backgrounds, life experiences, socio-economic classes, sexual orientations, age, gender, and physical abilities to apply. Individuals with personal connections to the criminal justice system are particularly welcome to apply.

As an Equal Opportunity Employer, it is the Innocence Project’s policy not to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, familial status, marital status, predisposing genetic characteristics, actual or perceived domestic violence victim status, unemployment status, caregiver status, or any other category protected by law.


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 www.koyapartners.com.