“The Legal Defense Fund is America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Using the power of law, narrative, research, and people, we defend and advance the full dignity and citizenship of Black people in America.”
NAACP LDF Mission Statement
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), the nation’s leading legal organization dedicated to advancing civil rights, seeks a creative thinker and highly organized individual to serve as its Director of Special Events. The director reports into the Deputy Director of Development for Institutional Giving; supervises an events manager and development associate; and serves as a positive and contributing member of the development team. The position becomes available at a pivotal time in the organization’s—and the nation’s—history as Janai Nelson, President and Director-Counsel, leads LDF’s efforts to secure voting rights, address economic equity, reduce incarceration rates, and ensure high-quality education for Black Americans.
The Director will oversee three primary areas of responsibility: planning and execution of the National Equal Justice Award’s Dinner, which is LDF’s signature annual fundraising event; organization of at least six key cultivation and stewardship events, such as webinars, in-person gatherings, and panel discussions; and management of other special events that inform and educate individuals on the critical work and efforts undertaken to advance the mission of LDF.
The ideal candidate must be a seasoned events planner with a track record of success planning, coordinating, and executing small- and large-scale inspiring events in support of an organization; the ability to organize and effectively utilize staff members and volunteers in program events and other activities; and the desire to operate as a team player who is eager to work collaboratively with development colleagues and key staff members and stakeholders within LDF.
LDF was launched in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall at a time when the nation’s aspirations for equality and due process of law were stifled by widespread, state-sponsored, racial inequality. The organization grew out of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where Marshall had served as chief legal counsel. LDF has been entirely independent—with its own board of directors—since 1957. Since its founding, LDF’s mission has always been transformative: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society.
As LDF quickly evolved into the legal arm of the civil rights movement, Marshall served as the legal architect and key strategist in the effort to end racial discrimination. Victories achieved by Marshall and LDF established the foundations for the civil rights that all Americans enjoy.
In the first two decades of its existence, LDF undertook a coordinated legal assault against officially enforced public school desegregation. The campaign culminated in Brown v Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1954 that has been described as “the most important governmental act of any kind since the Emancipation Proclamation.” The Court’s unanimous decision overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine of legally sanctioned discrimination, widely known as Jim Crow.
LDF took on other cases to ensure the Brown decision was upheld and that high-quality and equitable educational opportunities were available for all students. Its efforts extended to higher education when it served as lead counsel on Grutter v. Bollinger, which sanctioned race-conscious university admissions policies to realize the educational benefits of a diverse student body.
Voting rates also constituted a significant focus of LDF efforts over the decades. Early in the organization’s history, Thurgood Marshall successfully persuaded the Supreme Court, in its Smith v. Allwright decision, that Texas’s refusal to allow African-American citizens to vote in the Democratic primary election violated the 15th Amendment. It also served as a strong and powerful force in efforts to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Over the years, LDF has taken on class-action suits against employers, unions and governments to ensure equal employment opportunities and has won many important challenges to housing discrimination. It has fought to provide adequate legal representation, challenged jury discrimination, opposed capital punishment, and argued against harsh sentencing that disproportionately impacts African-American citizens.
LDF has a global influence as well. The organization has been instrumental in the formation of similar organizations that promote racial equality and campaign for human rights around the world.
The political landscape and retrenchment in key areas of civil rights poses unprecedented threats to the hard-won gains of the last half century. From new assaults on voting rights, to a renewed push to undermine equal access to quality education, to the reversal of criminal justice and policing reform, LDF faces significant challenges in every area of its work.
To realize its mission and the aspirations of its founders, the organization focuses its efforts in four key areas: criminal justice, economic justice, education, and political participation.
LDF uses litigation, advocacy, and public education to eliminate racial bias in the criminal justice system. Cases brought forward by LDF focus on capital punishment, fair sentencing, police accountability, the war on drugs, juvenile life without parole sentences, abuse of police discretion, and jury discrimination.
Since its founding, LDF has fought for the rights of Black Americans to work, live, and thrive without racially imposed barriers. The organization fights for fairness and equal opportunity in all aspects of the economy through litigation, advocacy, and public education.
Cases and initiatives taken on by LDF focus on access to justice, transportation justice, criminal records, employment discrimination, fair housing and lending, health care, minority business discrimination, environment justice, housing discrimination, and marriage equality.
Since LDF litigated Brown v. Board of Education, the organization has continued in its efforts within and outside of the court system to advance educational equity and ensure that all students have access to a safe, inclusive, and high-quality education.
Cases and projects undertaken by LDF have focused on desegregation, educational equity, school to prison pipeline, and school integration.
Since its founding, LDF has been a pioneer in the struggle to secure and protect voting rights of Black Americans and has been involved in nearly all precedent-setting litigation related to minority voting rights. Through legal, legislative, public education, and advocacy strategies it has promoted full, equal, and active participation of Black Americans in the nation’s democracy.
Cases and initiatives undertaken by LDF and in the area of political participation have focused on barriers to voting, census, felon disenfranchisement, prison-based Gerrymandering, redistricting, voter protection, voter preparation, and the Voting Rights Act.
FUTURE DIRECTION OF LDF
Over the last two years, the country witnessed a violent insurrection at the nation’s capital, misrepresentation of historical facts, the passage of voter suppression laws that target and disenfranchise voters of color, and redistricting efforts conducted without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. Concurrent to these events, battles continue to advance LDF’s four pillars of: Political Participation, Criminal Justice, Economic Justice, and Education Equity. To confront these challenges and realize the organization’s mission to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society, LDF will utilize an array of tools and employ a multi-faceted approach to legal advocacy—including litigation, policy, organizing, communications, research, thought leadership, and public advocacy. Through these efforts, the organization also seeks to maximize the impact of affirmative, strategic, and community-centered advocacy that secures the full citizenship and equality of Black Americans and builds a multi-ethnic, multi-racial democracy.
THURGOOD MARSHALL INSTITUTE
Launched in 2015, the Thurgood Marshall Institute (TMI) is a multidisciplinary center within LDF. Its work complements LDF’s traditional litigation strengths and brings critical capabilities to the fight for racial justice, including research and targeted campaigns.
TMI houses LDF’s archives, which chronicle the legal history of the Civil Rights Movement, and maintains a National Police Funding Database, which utilizes data to promote fair and accountable policing practices.
TMI Labs hosts forums and seminars to address civil rights challenges. TMI Labs-sponsored events have focused on the role of taxation in perpetuating racial inequalities; voting rights during the pandemic; artificial intelligence and civil rights; water inequalities in Black communities; and affirmative action.
LDF scholarship programs have provided financial assistance to those who have been denied access to education for generations. Their efforts have helped ensure that the battles to end segregation in education would not be undermined by financial need. These programs also helped transform the promise of racial equality into social, economic, and political reality by supporting talented undergraduate and law students.
Herbert Lehman Scholarship
This fund, established in 1964, is named for the former New York governor and United States senator and makes annual awards to qualified, outstanding undergraduate students. The scholarship fund helps financial need students stay in school and successfully complete their bachelor’s degree.
Earl Warren Scholarship
The fund is named for the 14th chief justice of the United States Supreme Court and former governor of California whose stewardship of the court helped end school segregation and transform America’s legal landscape. The fund supports rising law students whose commitment to racial justice reveals outstanding potential for training as civil rights and public interest attorneys.
Marshall-Motley Scholars Program
Named in honor of the legendary civil rights attorney and LDF founder, Thurgood Marshall, and iconic civil rights litigator, Constance Baker Motley, the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program (MMSP) is a groundbreaking commitment to endow the South with the next generation of civil rights lawyers trained to provide legal advocacy of unparalleled excellence.
Over the next five years, MMSP will invest in the establishment of a corps of 50 civil rights attorneys equipped to advocate on behalf of Black communities in the South seeking racial justice and equity. Scholars who demonstrate a commitment to this mission will be afforded: a full law school scholarship for tuition, room and board, and incidentals; summer internships with national and regional civil rights organizations with offices in the South; two-year postgraduate fellowships at civil rights law organizations in the South; and access to special trainings by LDF and the National Academy of Sciences.
Janai S. Nelson
President and Director-Counsel
Janai Nelson was appointed president and director-counsel of LDF in March 2022. She began her career with LDF as an extern while a student at UCLA School of Law in 1995. She then secured a prestigious Fried-Frank LDF Fellowship in 1998 before being hired as an assistant counsel for the organization. Nelson left LDF when she was awarded a Fulbright Scholar to conduct research in Ghana, West Africa.
Nelson spent nearly ten years at St. John’s University School of Law where she held several posts including full professor, associate dean for faculty scholarship, and associate director of the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development.
Nelson returned to LDF in 2014 as associate director-counsel. In addition to serving as lead counsel on several cases, she also helped launch the Thurgood Marshall Institute.
Nelson earned a BA from New York University and a JD from UCLA School of Law. Nelson’s scholarship focuses on domestic and comparative election law, race, and democratic theory. Her work has been published in numerous law journals and popular publications.
Chief Development Officer
Claude Johnson joined LDF as chief development officer (CDO) in October 2021. He began his career as an arts management professional working for Rod Rodgers Dance Company and the Negro Ensemble Company. Early in his development career, Johnson served as an associate director of development at UCLA’s College of Fine Arts and assistant dean of development for the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. In 2005, he launched and oversaw Northwestern University’s New York City office. In 2010, Johnson was appointed associate vice president for development and charged with oversight of the university’s development and engagement efforts for the Northeast Corridor. He later served as vice president for development and communications at WNET and chief advancement officer of Friends of the High Line before assuming his current role at LDF.
Johnson also has provided strategic planning, program assessment, and community engagement expertise to a range of clients including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Walker Arts Center.
Johnson received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. He currently serves on the board of directors for Pret a Manger’s Pret Foundation and Brooklyn’s 651 ARTS.
Deputy Director of Development for Institutional Giving
Laura Fino joined LDF as director of foundation relations in 2016 and was promoted to senior director of institutional giving in 2019. She assumed her current position in February 2021. Prior to joining the organization, Fino served as senior director of individual giving at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. From 2004 to 2015, she held the role at assistant vice president at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset where she oversaw corporate and foundation relations. Earlier in her career, Fino held grants and corporate sponsorship positions at the American Federation of Arts and the Solomon Guggenheim Museum.
Fino holds a BA in history and art history from the College of the Holy Cross and a JD from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL EVENTS
Special events are an important component of an effective development program and serve to inspire and educate an organization’s key constituencies. The Director of Special Events will formulate and implement strategies to raise the profile of LDF, primarily in New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, DC, and along the West Coast; convey the organization’s priorities, values, and brand; attract new supporters/partners; and provide opportunities for meaningful cultivation, engagement, and stewardship of new and existing supporters. The Director must work collaboratively with organizational leadership, the Chief Development Officer, development leadership, and colleagues in individual giving, institutional giving, and development operations.
National Equal Justice Awards Dinner (NEJAD)
In consultation with the Chief Development Officer, President and Director-Counsel, and Deputy Director of Development for Institutional Giving, plan, develop, and implement LDF’s annual signature fundraising event, the National Equal Justice Awards Dinner (NEJAD). Related responsibilities include:
Cultivation & Stewardship Events
In consultation with Chief Development Officer, President and Director-Counsel, and Deputy Director of Development for Institutional Giving, plan, develop, and implement at least six in-person or virtual cultivation/stewardship events (e.g., in-person receptions, webinars, panel discussions, etc.) throughout the year and around the country for institutional and individual donors. Related responsibilities include:
The Director of Special Events will manage the special events team for all events-related tasks (e.g., invoicing/expense reports, research, materials, meetings, updating/maintaining Raiser’s Edge records, donor/stakeholder interactions, etc.). Related responsibilities include:
Note: LDF currently operates on a hybrid work model. Some travel is required for the Director of Special Events position.
This is not an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties, skills, efforts or requirements or working conditions associated with the job. While this is intended to be an accurate reflection of the current job, management reserves the right to revise the job or to require that other or different tasks be performed as assigned. This description does not constitute a contract of employment and LDF may exercise its employment-at-will rights at any time.
The salary range of the position is $115,000 to $130,000. LDF offers a rich platform of benefits including medical (Empire), dental (Cigna), vision (NVA), flexible spending accounts (Flex Facts), transit/commuter plan, life insurance, AD&D, voluntary life & AD&D (UNUM), AFLAC, Employee Assistance Plan, and Health Advocate. As well as the many healthcare benefits, LDF offers a 403b plan with employer match, and a robust vacation, sick, and personal time program to ensure employees have a healthy work-life balance.
Please note that LDF requires all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. Accordingly, successful candidates must be fully vaccinated and submit proof of vaccination prior to the commencement of employment unless they qualify for a reasonable accommodation for bona fide medical or religious reasons.
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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer. We are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to you without regard to race, creed, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status, age, veteran status, medical condition or disability, genetic information, gender identity, or any other protected status under federal, state, or local law.