Washington Director

PEN America
Washington D.C.
May 10, 2021
Jun 14, 2021
Executive, Director
Full Time

PEN America, a nonprofit organization that stands at the intersection of literature and human rights, seeks a dynamic, motivated, and collaborative Washington director to lead PEN America’s advocacy agenda in Washington, D.C. This is a full-time position based in Washington, D.C., reporting to the senior director of Free Expression Programs and participating in PEN America’s leadership team.

The Washington director will bring robust advocacy experience, a formidable work ethic, affinity for fast-paced environments, and a tenacious approach to representing PEN America on a range of critical and urgent free expression issues in Washington. PEN America is headquartered in New York, and our small Washington, D.C. office carries forward the organization’s advocacy agenda by engaging with Congress, executive branch agencies and departments, think tanks, fellow civil society organizations, and the media. The Washington office advocates on a variety of U.S. and international free expression issues, including press freedom; the local news crisis; protest rights; disinformation and tech policy; and cases of individual writers, artists, and intellectuals under threat in countries including Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Myanmar, and Iran, among others.

The director will bring deep knowledge and insights into the Washington policymaking process across the legislative and executive branches and the NGO community, as well as a penchant for engagement, coordination, advocacy, and campaigning to promote and defend free expression. The director will manage one full-time staff member as well as interns. PEN America’s Digital Freedom program director also works out of the Washington office. The director will work closely with staff across PEN America to advance and grow PEN America’s presence and advocacy agenda in Washington. As the head of a PEN America office, the director will contribute to PEN America’s management and join in leadership discussions shaping organization-wide strategy.

The successful candidate will have a strong background in Washington advocacy, experience working in or with the executive branch and Congress; possess excellent diplomatic and communication skills; be highly self-motivated and able to manage multiple advocacy efforts on a range of issues at once; and be a program and organization builder with experience in fundraising and relationship building.


  • Lead PEN America’s Washington, D.C. office and drive forward the organization’s D.C.-focused advocacy agenda, in coordination with the rest of PEN America’s Free Expression Programs team
  • Manage the Washington-based advocacy team, including an advocacy coordinator and multiple interns (with a goal of increasing the team’s size as resources allow)
  • Cultivate and expand working relationships, coalitions, and partnerships where appropriate with members of Congress and their staff, representatives of the executive branch and relevant agencies, the media, nonprofits, think tanks, universities, and other important actors and institutions in Washington, D.C.
  • Work with PEN America’s Membership and National Engagement team to engage constituencies across the country in advocacy
  • Develop, cultivate, and steward relationships with institutional and individual funders, including identifying and securing new funding sources to build PEN America’s Washington presence
  • Connect the organization to D.C. policymaking by actively monitoring developments in Washington on key free expression issues, providing analysis of the political and policy landscape, and coordinating consistently with the broader PEN America staff
  • Draft written products (e.g., policy papers, press releases, op-eds, etc.) relating to a range of free expression issues, as well as Congressional material, including legislation, resolutions, letters, etc.
  • Engage with media, especially Washington-focused outlets
  • Organize virtual and in-person events to spotlight critical issues
  • Participate as a member of PEN America’s leadership team and play a role in the overall management of the organization


  • A minimum of approximately six to eight years of relevant experience, including in public advocacy, free expression, human rights, democracy, civil liberties, press freedom, international affairs, and/or related areas
  • Knowledge of human rights and familiarity with current and pressing issues around free expression in the United States and internationally
  • Familiarity with the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government preferred
  • Demonstrated leadership and program-building success, including a track record for effective fundraising and constituency building
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills necessary to build relationships and facilitate remote engagement with supervisor and colleagues; management experience preferred
  • Exceptional writing skills, including ability to write quickly and persuasively; legislative drafting experience a plus
  • A commitment to and passion for PEN America's Mission

Salary and Benefits: PEN offers competitive compensation and benefits, commensurate with experience.


Please submit a detailed cover letter that directly addresses your qualifications as outlined above, your resume, and the contact information for three references. Please submit the entire application as one PDF to jobs@pen.org. Please use “Washington Director” with your name as the subject of your email (e.g., Washington Director – Jane Doe). Only complete applications will be reviewed, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices, and in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

No phone calls, please.

Similar jobs