Executive Director, Western Center for Law & Poverty

$220,000 - $240,000 yearly
  • NPAG
  • Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Jun 27, 2024
Full time Executive Legal Management Nonprofit-Social Services

Job Description

The Western Center on Law & Poverty (Western Center) invites applications and nominations for their next Executive Director. Through the lens of economic and racial justice, Western Center litigates, educates, and advocates in courts, cities, counties, the State Capital, and the public arena to secure just housing, health care, economy, and legal systems for Californians with low incomes. Throughout all this work, Western Center works to leverage their partnerships, passion, and expertise to transform systems, end poverty, and create a socially just world for today and generations to come.

Headquartered in Los Angeles with offices in Sacramento and Oakland, Western Center is California’s largest legal services support center. Western Center’s talented and dedicated staff of 34 are a truly statewide presence and the “go-to” team amplifying the marginalized voices of low-income Californians across a range of issues and contexts. The Center has an annual budget of just over $7.5 million and is supported by an endowment of approximately $5 million.

Organizational North Star
Western Center on Law & Poverty seeks to eliminate poverty and advance racial and economic justice by dismantling and transforming systems so all communities in California can thrive.
-WCLP Strategic Plan 2023-2025

The next Executive Director will build on the achievements of outgoing Executive Director Crystal Crawford, who deepened Western Center’s commitment to centering racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion in its strategic litigation, administrative advocacy, and policy advocacy work. From advocating against state budget cuts that disproportionately impacted California’s most vulnerable populations, or defending the property rights of the unhoused, Western Center’s long-standing reputation as a trustworthy, reliable partner who represents the interests and voices of low-income Californians has been further enhanced during Crawford’s tenure. The next Executive Director is well-positioned to build and refine organizational strategy that increases this impact through Western Center’s sixth decade and beyond.

ORGANIZATIONAL OVERVIEW
The passionate group of attorneys and scholars from California law schools that founded Western Center in 1967 sought to create a unique organization, guided by the belief that all Californians deserve the finest possible legal representation before every institution that shapes their lives.

Western Center views issues of racial and economic justice, food security and public benefits, health and mental health, housing and homelessness, and income and wealth inequality as inextricably linked, and recognizes that low-income individuals and families may be experiencing several challenges and barriers at the same time. Western Center seeks solutions across these issues, using the law to deliver critical resources to Californians, streamline disparate legal systems, and create efficiencies within public programs.

By applying a coordinated concert of tools including legislative and policy advocacy, high impact litigation, administrative advocacy, and technical assistance and education for legal services and community-based organizations in each of our priority areas, Western Center ensures that low-income Californians receive the support they are entitled to and fights for them to keep the precious assets they do have.

WESTERN CENTER COMMUNITY PRIORITIES
Western Center has deep expertise in four areas of legal impact, grounded in our long history and rich collaborations. Our greatest opportunities for eliminating poverty and advancing racial and economic justice come by leveraging our strengths in these areas, while remaining flexible in our methods and near-term objectives to meet the changing needs of the community.

Financial Security
For every Californian to have a living income, access to public services, and opportunities to build wealth to surpass their subsistence needs and to thrive.

  • Establish the right to guaranteed income, wealth accumulation, and elimination of unequitable fees, debt collection and predatory behavior.
  • Ensure access to public benefits and services for Californians most impacted by unjust systems.

Access to Justice
To ensure Californians with low incomes are treated fairly, have legal representation, and are heard when engaged with courts, in administrative hearings, and in the Capitol.

  • Advance equal access to a fair and equitable court system.
  • Build more equitable processes in the criminal legal system with an emphasis on eliminating laws and enforcements that make poverty a crime.
  • Expand access in administrative hearings and before the legislature, municipal, and county bodies.

Health Equity
For all Californians to have universal access to equitable systems that support health, including food access and security, a healthy environment, as well as health care.

  • Advance universal affordable health care coverage for all Californians.
  • Eliminate medical debt in California.
  • Promote a robust state enforcement system to eliminate racial, ethnic, gender, and age-related health disparities.
  • Decrease health and food deserts in rural and other underserved areas.

Housing Equity
To establish that all Californians have access to healthy, sustainable, and affordable housing in neighborhoods of their choosing.

  • Advance housing as a human right.
  • Reduce speculation in the housing market and repeal laws that further institutionalized racism.
  • Campaign to center very low-income people in land use planning.

YOUR OPPORTUNITY FOR IMPACT
Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director leads the Western Center on Law & Poverty and its support organization, the WCLP Endowment Foundation. At a time of unprecedented opportunity for impact, and with the support of an outstanding staff, strong and diversified financial resources, and excellent statewide relationships and reputation, the new Executive Director will be poised to implement a vision for growth and continued leadership on the critical and persistent challenges driving Western Center’s work. Specifically, they will engage with the following opportunities and challenges:

Vision & Leadership

  • Collaboratively formulate and advance a clear organizational vision for transformative, system-wide public policy solutions to help millions of low-income Californians.
  • Building on the existing strategic plan, bring bold, new ideas, approaches, networks, and strategies to the continued work of raising Western Center’s profile - both in the field and in the broader public consciousness - such that its reputation as a “go-to” partner to represent the interests and voices of low-income Californians continues to grow and develop.

Development & Fundraising

  • Partner with the Development Department to design and execute a robust fundraising strategy that includes grants, major gifts, special events, and other development tools to enhance financial sustainability and grow the organization.
  • Collaborate with the Development Department and the Board to proactively cultivate relationships with new individual and institutional funders at the state and national level.

Team Management & Culture

  • Inspire, lead, and manage a diverse and talented team of professionals and staff who are connected across roles by a shared commitment to social justice. Invest in authentic relationships and dialogue across individuals and teams to build trust, cohesion, brave space, and opportunities for team members to do their best work individually and collectively.
  • Lead in a collaborative, connecting way across the team, developing strong feedback loops, empowering members of the team to take on leadership roles and opportunities, and building internal structures and policies that foster unity and alignment across the organization.
  • Manage the performance and professional growth of team members across multiple locations.

Partnerships & Networks

  • Build and expand partnerships, relationships, and strategic alliances with other legal services programs, community-based organizations, private lawyers, and other stakeholders and interested parties.
  • Provide thought leadership to the legal services field and broader legal and social justice communities on critical approaches to anti-poverty and racial justice work.
  • Elevate Western Center’s voice in relevant state and national public dialogues as a powerful force for economic and racial justice.

Stewardship of Organizational Resources & Infrastructure

  • Lead the dedicated Endowment Board to ensure that Western Center’s financial base remains secure and wisely managed.
  • In close collaboration with the Director team, ensure that organizational structures, processes, and support systems across finance, technology, HR, and other core functions are adequately resourced and continuously well-aligned with Western Center’s values, strategy, and vision.

Board Engagement

  • Support the engagement, recruitment, and onboarding of board members as thought and fundraising partners and key advisors, effectively leveraging their diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to inform the strategic direction and growth of Western Center and its continued financial strength.
  • Support effective governance practices and mechanisms and seek opportunities to marshal the board’s collective capacity to champion and advance Western Center’s mission.

DESIRED QUALIFICATIONS
While no one candidate will embody all the qualifications listed, strong candidates will possess many of the professional and personal abilities, attributes, and experiences enumerated below. The Executive Director must be a courageous leader who models integrity, conviction, and clarity, with a vision to fight injustice and seek restorative action on behalf of impacted communities externally and the ability to hold space for and effectively address differences and critical conversations internally. Strong candidates will bring experience with poverty law and knowledge of both California-based and federal programs impacting low-income people and prior professional experience with legal services or community-based organizations. They also will be experienced in formulating and discussing public policy and be knowledgeable about state and federal civil rights laws. Exceptional engagement skills with communities, public entities, funders, corporations, and individual donors and partners are essential.

  • Demonstrated ability to shape and refine an organizational vision and drive it to execution through highly collaborative leadership. They must be able to discern opportunities to raise an organization’s profile, exercise thought leadership, find new avenues for impact and influence, and build lasting support.
  • Successful record of engaging new funders and partners to broaden and diversify a base of support; demonstrated ability to inspire and engender trusting, long-term relationships.
  • Lived experiences that motivate and inform their personal and professional journey; meaningful connection and ability to reflect the experiences, backgrounds, and cultures of those impacted by poverty and discrimination; and ability to use their personal understanding of and connection to the issues to serve impacted communities.
  • Exemplary public communication and media engagement skills and experience participating in national and regional convenings as a panelist or keynote speaker to effectively represent Western Center’s mission and expertise.
  • Demonstrated experience building and leading teams in dynamic environments, mentoring and helping team members navigate evolving goals and urgencies with agility, teamwork, shared accountability, and trust in one another.
  • Experience stewarding an organization’s key assets through growth and change, with an eye toward fostering financial sustainability, talent development, communications and branding, and support systems.
  • Ability to connect and communicate with a variety of stakeholders (e.g., staff, board, partners, funders, community members); in all interactions, listen well, reflect an understanding of others’ perspectives and needs, and clearly articulate shared understandings, decisions, and actions.
  • Flexibility, adaptability, and resilience; possessing a high tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity and exhibiting an entrepreneurial spirit that embraces continuous learning, adaptation, patience, and innovation in service of social justice.
  • A J.D. is strongly preferred.
  • Multilingual candidates also are preferred.

The target salary range for this position is $220,000 to $240,000 and comes with a generous benefits package, including leave policies, vacation, and paid December holiday office closure. 

The Executive Director is expected to reside in (or be willing to relocate to) the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area.

TO APPLY
Please find more information about the Western Center on Law & Poverty here: wclp.org.

This search is being conducted by Allison Kupfer Poteet, Rachel Burgoyne, and Robert Diggs of the national search firm NPAG. Candidates may submit their cover letter outlining their interest, qualifications and skills that have prepared them to lead an organization committed to racial and economic justice for all low-income Californians, along with their resume, via NPAG’s website. NPAG welcomes expressions of interest, prior to applying for the position, and/or nominations submitted via this form.

Western Center is committed to maintaining a diverse staff and creating an inclusive and respectful workplace and strongly encourages applications from persons of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, persons with disabilities, and persons from other underrepresented groups whose background may contribute to effectively representing low-income people and underserved communities.