Executive Director

Executive Director

The Sentencing Project

Washington, DC   |   December 18, 2019

About The Sentencing Project

Founded in 1986, The Sentencing Project is a national leader in criminal justice reform. Through a program of research, public education, and advocacy, the organization engages with a wide range of stakeholders to advance policies and practices that challenge mass incarceration and promote racial justice. The organization has been recognized for its visionary leadership in identifying the causes and consequences of mass incarceration and for achieving success in policy reform on issues of sentencing reform, racial justice, and the collateral consequences of a felony conviction.

The Sentencing Project’s work includes the publication of groundbreaking research, aggressive media campaigns, and strategic advocacy for policy reform. Most recently, The Sentencing Project team has developed and released reports focused on prison decarceration, the capitalization of mass incarceration, felony disenfranchisement reform, and the impacts of incarceration on women and families. Advocacy at the state and federal levels has partnered The Sentencing Project with advocates in 15 states, providing support in developing and refining communications plans, political strategies, and public education campaigns. Key presentations and speaking engagements across the country have raised awareness about the need for reform and brought The Sentencing Project’s expertise to researchers, advocates, government officials, and academia.

A committed funding community of private foundations and individuals supports the work of The Sentencing Project, enabling a budget of about $1.7m.

The Sentencing Project’s staff and Board of Directors represent a diverse group of individuals with expertise in fields including research, policy, advocacy, and law, with a shared passion for criminal justice reform. Based in Washington, D.C., the highly accomplished team is comprised of 10 professionals who bring deep values of rigor and collegiality to the organization. The Board of Directors includes 10 leaders from different arenas of criminal justice, government, philanthropy, and law.

To learn more about The Sentencing Project, please visit: https://www.sentencingproject.org/.

The Opportunity

This is a unique opportunity to take the helm of a leading organization in the movement to reduce the US prison population. The Sentencing Project is seeking an experienced, dynamic, visionary, and skilled leader to oversee all facets of the organization’s work and to guide it into its next stage of development. The Executive Director is responsible for overseeing the administration, program development, strategic planning, and fundraising of the organization, and reports directly to the Board of Directors. The individual will work in a collaborative manner with an experienced and capable staff to assess needs and opportunities in the field of criminal justice reform and will represent the organization to funders, organizational partners, media representatives, and policymakers.


Leadership and Vision

  • Create and implement strategies that advance criminal justice reform and racial justice.
  • Build relationships with diverse national and local organizations to develop strategic partnerships for reform.
  • Maintain and enhance the organization’s reputation for path-breaking research, credibility with a broad spectrum of constituencies, and vision of a compassionate approach to public safety.

Program Development and Implementation

  • In conjunction with staff, develop annual strategic plan for Board review, including activities in the areas of research, public education, and advocacy, that recognizes the current political environment and takes advantage of opportunities for growth and new directions.
  • Represent the organization’s criminal justice reform agenda to the public, policymakers, and media as a key spokesperson and in partnership with staff leaders.
  • Build and maintain relationships with other national, regional, and local organizations engaged in criminal justice reform, as well as with policymakers and practitioners in the field.
  • Serve as final voice on all research, publications, and other communications by the organization, including policy reports, press releases, amicus briefs, newsletters, website content, and social media.
  • Ensure that the organization’s program initiatives and strategy incorporate a commitment to racial justice and participation by diverse constituencies in carrying out its work.

Management, Administration, and Operations

  • Inspire and support high staff productivity through mentoring and partnership to maximize staff talents and skills.
  • Champion and value diversity, equity, and inclusion among staff and Board of Directors.
  • Recruit, hire, train, and evaluate staff and interns in compliance with all applicable employment laws.
  • Develop organization’s annual operating budget for Board approval and provide board members with regular reports of organizational progress and financial reports.
  • Negotiate contracts, lease agreements, and supervise office improvements as necessary.

Fundraising and Development

  • In consultation with a development consultant, develop and lead a comprehensive fundraising strategy that incorporates foundation grants, individual donations, contracts for services, and honoraria.
  • Supervise preparation of grant proposals and reports.
  • Cultivate and maintain relations with current and prospective funders, program officers, major donors, and prospects.

Financial Oversight

  • Maintain financial viability of the organization.
  • Oversee accounting functions, revenues, and expenses, in conjunction with operations manager, contract bookkeeper, and accountant.
Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate will bring a values-driven approach to leading the strategy, staff, and operations of The Sentencing Project during this important time for criminal justice reform in the United States.

Ideal candidates will bring the following qualifications:

  • Expertise in either criminal justice or racial justice research, legal issues, policy advocacy, or another associated area; a track record of commitment to research-driven reform of laws, policies, and practices that address mass incarceration and racial/ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system
  • Experience serving as a compelling and engaging speaker and writer around criminal justice and racial justice issues; outstanding skills in oral and written communications
  • Judgment that is guided by core values of justice, fairness, and thoughtfulness about the human experience in the criminal justice system; a politically astute lens with the capability to apply complex social justice research to policy and advocacy insights
  • Ability to guide and lead a fundraising plan that includes strategic and effective stewardship and cultivation of foundation and individual donors; previous engagement with criminal justice and/or racial justice donors is an asset
  • Experience with nonprofit budgeting, governance, and oversight; preference for at least five years executive experience in a nonprofit organization
  • Collaborative and supportive management style that enables the development and community-building of a highly effective staff
  • Experience setting and implementing a strategic vision for forward-thinking social justice work
  • Bachelor’s degree and experience in a relevant field; Master’s degree, law degree, or PhD preferred
  • Ability to travel as needed

The Executive Director is hired and supervised by the Board of Directors and is subject to an annual review, including consideration of salary and bonuses. The compensation package includes a competitive salary; four weeks of vacation leave; health, dental, life and disability insurance; contribution to 403(b) retirement plan and Metro transportation subsidy.


Molly Brennan, Melissa Madzel, and Meghan Franklin of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role, please submit materials here. Materials should include a thorough resume and compelling letter of interest. Candidates proceeding into formal interviews will be asked to share a writing sample.

All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

The Sentencing Project is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer committed to cultural diversity and recruits without regard to gender, race, ethnicity, color, age, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities, or prior convictions.

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 www.koyapartners.com.