ACLU California Action: Executive Director Opportunity


ACLU California seeks applicants for a full-time Executive Director to be based in Sacramento, California.  ACLU California Action is a newly established nonprofit tax exempt 501c4 organization created by the leadership of the three ACLU affiliates of California (ACLU of Northern California, ACLU of Southern California and ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties).  ACLU CA Action will have its own Executive Director and Board of Directors.  For a number of years, these affiliates have collaborated on statewide policies and advocacy work with a focus on the Capitol through the Center on Advocacy and Policy.  ACLU CA Action will build on that legacy and house the Center on Advocacy and Policy and have a bold presence in Sacramento to ensure the development and successful passage of an ambitious and comprehensive state legislative and policy agenda for the ACLU each year and over the long term.  Also, ACLU CA Action will work to enhance political power and influence for the ACLU and our movements statewide. ACLU of California Action upholds freedom, advances equity, and justice, and ameliorates historic and systemic discrimination in all of its work. ACLU CA Action will work with the three affiliates to move forward statewide policy more effectively and forcefully as collaborative partners.

Position Overview

The Executive Director is a new senior level position for this organization.  The primary duties of the Executive Director are:  1) Manage and lead ACLU CA Action and staff; 2) Work collaboratively with the three ACLU affiliates, supporting statewide strategic alignment and impact; 3) Enhance the ACLU’s impact on state policy by providing strategic guidance and leadership to key policy priorities of ACLU in California; and 4) Maintain a deep sense of the electoral and political landscape and work in partnership with the affiliate staff to better position the ACLU in California to influence policy makers, state/local agencies, and voters.  In addition to leading ACLU CA Action, the Executive Director serves as a senior member of key statewide strategy and executive teams, which provide overall guidance to the statewide collaboration of the three ACLU California affiliates.  ACLU CA Action will initially have a $2.5 million budget and a staff of 12.

Primary Responsibilities

The key duties for fulfilling this job’s purpose include:

Management:  The Executive Director is the primary person responsible for the effective leadership and management of ACLU CA Action, including:

  • Develop a strong team: hire and/or supervise hiring of staff; ensure team is cohesive on its own and well-integrated with the ACLU affiliates statewide;
  • Ensure overall effective management of the organization; ensure that organizational policies, values and principles are followed;
  • Work with and report to the ACLU CA Action Board of Directors, ensure the organization maintains best practices of nonprofit governance structure and operations;
  • Supervise the Legislative Director, Communications function, Senior Manager of Program Collaboration, Operations and Finance Director, and other staff;
  • Ensure compliance with all federal and state laws and regulations, as well as ACLU policies, relevant to the organization, as well as adherence to high ethical standards;
  • Participate in standing meetings of the California Collaboration Leadership Team, Statewide Program Leadership Workgroup, and Executive Leadership Team, to ensure that ACLU CA Action is aligned with the overall priorities and integrated strategies of the ACLU affiliates in California.

Planning and Collaboration: Ensure thoughtful planning at every stage including:

  • Provide oversight of the annual legislative and state-level policy planning process working with the Legislative Director and the Statewide Leadership Workgroup, to engage with department/project directors, campaign teams, and affiliate executive teams;
  • Identify major annual and long-term goals and resource needs;
  • Foster inclusive planning processes for statewide legislative and policy work, ensure real collaboration, and facilitate effective communications across the teams, issues, strategies, and geographies that compose the ACLU in California;
  • Monitor opportunities for state-level policy and legislative impact emerging from local and regional work of the ACLU affiliates;
  • Identify external resources, partners, and experts who can inform and support our planning and work across the board, for example on demographic, political and other factors affecting the state;
  • Gather the necessary information to document and evaluate outcomes, impacts and lessons;
  • Identify system improvements and capacity needs and other infrastructure that can strengthen statewide collaboration and impact, and work with staff to implement those systems.

Policy Impact and Legislative Agenda: Work closely with the Legislative Director, enhance the ACLU’s impact on state policy by providing strategic guidance and leadership to key policy priorities of ACLU in California, including:

  • Ensure the development and successful passage of an ambitious and comprehensive state legislative and policy agenda for the ACLU each year and over the long-term, in consultation with the ACLU CA Action staff and the staff of the three ACLU affiliates;
  • Engage lawmakers, opinion leaders, and key organizational partners to support major ACLU priorities;
  • Advocate for government spending (or government budget items) that allocates resources in a manner that upholds ACLU values;
  • Provide leadership on statewide ballot measure work of the ACLU, and strategic engagement in that arena that leverages ACLU’s legal and communications expertise, and engages our membership, Boards of Directors, donors and supporters;
  • Provide oversight of budgets for major campaigns, primarily ballot measures and top tier legislative campaigns and work with key constituencies to develop robust campaign plans.

Building Long-term Political Power and Influence: Maintain a deep sense of the electoral and political landscape and work to better position the ACLU in California to influence policy makers, state agencies and voters including:

  • Collaborate with the Statewide Program Leadership Workgroup and affiliate staff to understand partnerships, shared goals and strategies across coalitions of statewide organizations in the civil rights, labor, faith, business and other sectors to advance values and priorities related to constitutional rights and develop strategies to strengthen these relationships;
  • Develop and maintain intentional partnerships and build power with organizations strongly aligned with the mission of the ACLU, particularly with those organizations working in impacted communities, those led by diverse leadership, and those advocating for social justice; this work will be done in coordination with the Statewide Program Leadership Workgroup and affiliate staff;
  • Provide oversight of a statewide policy and legislative communications strategy leveraging traditional and new media and targeting legislators and other statewide elected officials to advance policy change;
  • Educate ACLU members and supporters on how well their legislators and other statewide elected officials performed on civil liberties issues, for example through an annual legislative scoreboard;
  • Develop with Legislative Director and SPLW effective and strategic accountability campaigns for legislators and/or other statewide elected officials and ways to help constituents hold their representatives accountable to community interests over special interests.


  • At least ten years substantial experience in political, legislative, organizing, advocacy or law-related work, preferably in California;
  • Demonstrated management experience, including supervising full-time advocates, policy or campaign staff showing the ability to inspire and motivate teams to work with a clear direction and purpose;
  • Demonstrated experience applying principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion in previous work, both in work and outside groups and individuals and internally in organizational management and administration;
  • Commitment to advancing the ACLU’s values, mission and goals with understanding of the range of civil liberties issues and their implications;
  • Demonstrated commitment to and ability to engage in discussion about racial equity, whether in groups or with individuals;
  • Excellent interpersonal ski8lls; effective communications, listening, writing and conflict resolution skills are critical;
  • Ability to work effectively and collaboratively with diverse staff including remote colleagues and coalitions, work across the political spectrum, value and respect differences of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and socio-economic circumstance;
  • Temperament and aptitude to work with colleagues in a collaboration of ACLU affiliates with more than 260 staff statewide, understanding the importance of shared responsibility, consensus decision-making when necessary, and the importance of valuing others’ contributions even when not directly in their sphere of influence;
  • Exceptional analytical, research, writing and oral advocacy skills, as well as ability to articulate legal concepts and complex issues and communicate them effectively to a variety of audiences;
  • Experience working with elected and appointed officials, and other people with influence, demonstrative good judgment and delivering results to advance a public interest mission;
  • Finely honed political and campaign skills, and strong grasp of the policy-making process in California;
  • Ability to recognize and balance a range of civil liberties interests and concerns, often competing ones, and to represent the nuanced and specific positions unique to the ACLU in the legislative process;
  • Ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse elected officials, staff, coalitions and community groups across the political spectrum;
  • Commitment to the highest ethical standards of lobbying and professionalism;
  • Ability to work long hours during peaks of the legislative session and frequent travel to meetings and events throughout the state as needed;
  • Exceptional initiative, vision and ability to develop and implement short and long-term integrated advocacy strategies;
  • Ability to keep organized in a fast-paced environment, manage several projects simultaneously and adjust strategy to frequently changing demands;
  • Systems-orientation, focused on creating sustainable tools and practices that can benefit the management of the entire legislative agenda;
  • A sophisticated understanding of how to be effective in the public policy arena, experience formulating effective advocacy strategies, which may include research, legal analysis, lobbying, organizing, coalition building, communications and litigation;
  • Knowledge of current political alignments and opportunities for collaboration with a broad range of other organizations.

Compensation and Benefits

The salary range for the Executive Director position is $160,000 — $200,000 depending on applicant’s experience.  Excellent benefits include four weeks paid vacation in addition to 14 office holidays, medical, vision, and dental insurance for staff members, their dependents and spouse or domestic partner; life and long-term disability insurance; and, 401(k) plan with employer match.  The U.S. Department of Education has determined that employment in this position does not qualify for the Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

To Apply

Please submit resume and cover letter to Phyllis Quan, ACLU CA Action Search Consultant, at with subject title “ACLU CA Action Executive Director Position.”  Deadline for applications is November 30, 2020.

ACLU CA Action advances equity and inclusion in the workplace by providing equal employment opportunity to support a work environment free from discrimination on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, military and veteran status, arrest or conviction record, and any other basis prohibited by law.  The organization also provides reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. This equal employment opportunity policy applies to all aspects of employment, including recruitment, selection, advancement, training, problem resolution, and separation from employment.  Through this policy, ACLU CA Action strives to establish and maintain an equitable and accessible work environment that is supportive and free from discrimination.