Organization: Chicago Youth Centers

Location: Chicago, IL

Express Interest

About Chicago Youth Centers:

“Our vision is that our children will be the last generation in their family to live in poverty and violence.”

The mission of Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) is to empower children to recognize and experience their possibility and promise.  CYC is one of the city’s largest private organizations serving urban youth.  Since 1956, it has prepared children ages 3-18 for lifelong success.  Through seven centers on the south and west sides of Chicago and numerous partner sites throughout the city, CYC helps bridge the employable skills gap and empowers families to break the persistent cycles of poverty and violence.  The organization serves more than 2,000 children, and their parents or guardians, annually from inner-city communities.  96% of the families served are below the federal poverty line.  Approximately 75% are African American and 20% are Hispanic.

CYC provides year-round holistic education that integrates academic, social, emotional, and physical development to support and challenge the whole child across all age groups. Its programs and teaching strategies are modeled after nationally tested curricula and best practices, including Partnership for 21st Century Learning, which teaches youth lifelong, non-cognitive skills that employers value. CYC children begin to build these critical skills while focusing on academic progress and persistence. CYC works with children early in life, continues to support them as they grow and stems issues before they begin. CYC provides a strong alternative to gangs and violence, access to educational opportunities that might not exist in their schools, and networks that help them plan for college and a career.

To realize its vision, CYC focuses on improving children’s academic persistence and achievement, as well as social-emotional competencies so they can navigate complex life and career environments to ultimately experience success.

If you walk into one of CYC’s seven centers today, you will find:

  • Children engaging in project-based learning to increase their academic and social skills;
  • Children and teens designing projects and building products in one of CYC’s three Maker Labs, strengthening their computer literacy, technological competence, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) skills;
  • Youth collaborating and learning experientially in one of CYC’s gyms—playing basketball or ascending the climbing wall—challenging the physical to develop the cognitive and increase their confidence and resiliency;
  • Parents participating in a variety of family education programs that strengthen their ability to provide a nurturing support system and become advocates for their children; and
  • Caring, enthusiastic, dedicated staff facilitating learning and ensuring well-being of everyone at CYC.

CYC has an annual budget of approximately $10 million.  Almost 60% of its revenue is derived from government programs and grants, with the remainder primarily from private contributions.  In its latest fiscal year, 87% of expenses were for programs that directly benefited children and families, and the balance of costs were fundraising and administration.  CYC employs over 125 individuals on a full-or part-time basis.

Over the last five years, CYC has implemented a strategy to more strongly position itself in the Chicago community.  It has developed new programming to address developmental gaps children experience at school and home and to foster 21st century skills that will enable children from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods to be successful in life.  It has increased private funding sources in an effort to strengthen its capacity to deliver programs tailored to the needs of the children it serves and to reduce its dependence on uncertain government funding.  CYC’s reputation for providing innovative and effective programming is growing among its peer organizations and funders, as well as among regional and national youth development consortiums.

During 2015-2016, CYC partnered with other transformative organizations, including Associated Colleges of Illinois, CareerBuilder, Chicago LAMP, Chicago White Sox, Cisco, Ernst & Young, Get IN Chicago, Harvard University, IBM, Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, PwC, Ravinia, Service Learning Exchange, Skadden, Smart Chicago, Travelers, Tyson Foods, Xerox, and others to deliver the most impactful programming possible.

At CYC, today’s children are tomorrow’s community leaders, innovators, designers, and engineers. At CYC, tomorrow’s Chicago is the Chicago our founders imagined: a place where all children can recognize and reach their full potential.

For more information on Chicago Youth Centers, please visit

The Opportunity:

Reporting to the Board of Directors, the next President/CEO will bring sincere passion for serving children and families.  S/he will be a proven and respected nonprofit leader whose skills will inspire continued growth in fundraising, stakeholder engagement and brand awareness.  Internally, s/he will maintain excellence in the content and delivery of CYC’s programming and services, ensuring that it continues to adapt and innovate to best meet the needs of the children and families CYC serves.

Key responsibilities of the President/CEO include:

Executive Leadership & Organizational Management

  • Articulate and implement CYC’s vision and mission
  • Set and advance a positive, success-oriented culture within the organization
  • Provide thought-leadership to guide and inform fundraising, program development, and growth that benefits the children CYC serves
  • Ensure responsible financial management and achieve the annual financial budget as well as long term revenue goals
  • Ensure compliance with all city, state and federally funded programs
  • Develop the leadership team to improve effectiveness and ensure retention of top talent, recruiting great leaders into key positions


  • Grow revenue and fundraising aggressively to support current and new initiatives, as well as additional expansion and program development
  • Maintain and grow a portfolio of high wealth/high opportunity individual, corporate and foundation donors
  • Engage and inspire the Board as active brand ambassadors and in their critical role in fundraising
  • Assure the integrity and growth of the CYC brand, including the development and execution of external communication efforts

Board Relations and Development

  • Work with the Board President and leadership staff to set objectives for the Board and its committees, including the planning of Board and Executive Committee meetings and agendas
  • Advise the Board on organizational achievement of strategic objectives, significant trends in programming and funding, and important developments in communities CYC centers serve
  • Assure the staff is organized to serve as advisor and resource to the Board in all areas of finance, policy, programs and governance
  • Partner effectively with the Board and its committees to maximize their efforts and maintain a focus on the mission and vision, including expanding their role in fundraising to meet the needs of the mission
  • Partner with the Board leadership to identify, cultivate, recruit and engage new board members


  • Provide the strategic thinking required to ensure CYC’s programs evolve to meet the needs of the communities and children it serves
  • Lead staff in consistent and meaningful program innovation
  • Ensure that programs are aligned to mission, vision and community priorities
  • Assure program outcomes are achieving mission, vision and intent and that a rigorous method of continuous improvement is active across all programs

Candidate Profile:

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

A Passion for the Mission

The President/CEO will have a demonstrable passion for serving youth and addressing the challenges within the economically disadvantaged communities CYC serves. S/he will actively promote ways to develop children into engaged, caring citizens of their community and the world. The President/CEO is a dynamic, inspirational, energetic and credible leader, with the presence and gravitas to capture the attention and interest of the donor community and other key stakeholders in order to advance the organization’s mission. S/he will be an individual of impeccable integrity, ethics and values who can be trusted implicitly.

A Proven Ambassador & Fundraiser

The President/CEO will be an inspirational and charismatic leader who will serve as the chief ambassador and fundraiser for CYC. An articulate, informed and passionate public speaker, s/he will represent CYC as a thought leader in key areas of youth development and education. S/he will be able to effectively articulate and convey CYC’s mission and priorities to a range of constituents including the donors, partners, children, parents, the Board of Directors and staff.  S/he will build strong brand equity and awareness, will establish partnerships and seek opportunities to promote CYC. With deep knowledge of the Chicago funding community, the President/CEO will demonstrate leadership in the field of development and a high capacity to lead successful fundraising initiatives. S/he will have a fundamental understanding that successful fundraising and the development of partnerships with allied organizations are core responsibilities. S/he will embrace CYC’s desire to continue to expand the organization’s development capacity as it continues to move away from government funding. The President/CEO will adopt an entrepreneurial approach to expanding and deepening new and existing donor support.

A Strategic Leader Who Executes for Results 

The President/CEO will be a strategic and creative thought leader and problem solver with a solid understanding of the strategies needed to advance the work of a mission-based organization, from funding to mission delivery.  Accomplished in transformational program development, s/he will offer creative, yet practical, ideas to continue to scale CYC’s programs, while staying focused on outcomes and cost effectiveness. S/he will lead a performance-driven team to ensure the vision of the organization and strategic plans are implemented effectively. S/he will have a track record of motivating and inspiring others to achieve impact through creativity and teamwork and of leveraging individuals’ strengths to meet organizational goals.

Business and Management Acumen

The President/CEO will be a builder with the ability to set priorities decisively, delegate responsibilities, assure accountability and allocate resources to ensure results.  S/he will strengthen and retain an empowered team that will work with him/her to implement the course of action for achieving the vision. S/he will possess the skills and experience needed to manage and lead, with profit and loss responsibilities, a $10 million organization with multiple facilities and more than 125 employees. Experienced in managing a large and diverse Board, s/he possesses the knowledge and ability to assure that the Board is achieving its primary responsibilities of best practice governance and fundraising.


Alison P. Ranney and Anne B. McCarthy of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here or email Alison and Anne 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. 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