BoardWalk Consulting Recruits CEO to Top Human Rights Leadership Post

March 27, 2017 – The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has just selected civil rights litigator and advocate Vanita Gupta to assume its senior leadership post. Crystal Stephens, a director at executive search firm BoardWalk Consulting, led the assignment.

Ms. Gupta will hold the titles of president and CEO of both The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and its sister organization, The Leadership Conference Education Fund. She most recently served in President Obama’s administration as head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.

She will succeed Wade Henderson, who has served as the organization’s president and CEO since 1996. “When Wade announced his decision, we set out to find an exceptional individual, someone with a passion for advocacy, a record of achievement, a strategic vision, and the skills to lead our organizations, our dynamic coalition and this nation to a more just and inclusive future,” said Judith Lichtman, chair of the Leadership Conference board. “Vanita is that individual.”


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William Robinson, chair of The Leadership Conference Education Fund board, said Ms. Gupta represents the “next generation” of civil rights leaders. “As the first woman and first child of immigrants to serve as the leader of this organization, Vanita Gupta’s selection marks a turning point in civil rights history,” Mr. Robinson said. “The civil and human rights coalition is in very good hands.”

Vital Nerve Center

President Obama appointed Ms. Gupta as principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in 2014, where she served until his term ended in January. As the nation’s chief civil rights prosecutor during one of the division’s highest profile and most productive eras, Ms. Gupta oversaw a wide range of criminal and civil enforcement efforts to ensure equal justice and protect equal opportunity for all.

During her time there, she focused the division on a number of key initiatives, including: advancing constitutional policing and criminal justice reform; prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking; promoting disability rights and protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals; and ensuring voting rights for all. She prioritized combatting discrimination in education, housing, employment, lending, and religious exercise. During her tenure, Ms. Gupta oversaw federal investigations of the Ferguson, MO, Baltimore, and Chicago police departments; the lawsuit against North Carolina’s discriminatory H.B. 2; and the successful appeals of Texas and North Carolina voter ID cases.

“At a time when our nation’s ideals and progress are being threatened in such fundamental ways, The Leadership Conference is a vital nerve center of the broad swath of civil and human rights organizations that are fighting for justice, fairness, and equality around the country,” Ms. Gupta said. “Civil and human rights work has never been easy, and these unprecedented times demand a clarity of vision, strategy, and solidarity that the Leadership Conference coalition is uniquely positioned to champion.”

Known for decades as the lobbying arm of the civil rights movement, The Leadership Conference has coordinated the advocacy on behalf of every major civil rights law since it was founded in 1950.

Powerful Formula for Success

BoardWalk Consulting, a national search firm that specializes in recruiting CEOs and senior leaders for non-profits and foundations, has led over 200 searches for over 110 clients in 27 states since its inception.

Ms. Stephens recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss this important search against the backdrop of what’s trending in the hunt for national non-profit sector leaders.

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Crystal, tell us about the mandate the Leadership Conference put in front of you?

The Leadership Conference wanted a strategic, respected leader of  leaders with a passion for advocacy, a record of achievement in promoting and defending civil and human rights, and the skills to lead a broad, dynamic coalition, and the nation, to a more just and inclusive future.

Why did you promote Vanita’s candidacy and why did they agree to make her the offer?

Vanita has a long list of accomplishments in promoting and defending civil and human rights and has a history of broad, bi-partisan support. Most recently, as principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, she focused on constitutional policing and criminal justice reform; prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking; promoting disability rights and protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals; and ensuring voting rights for all. She has strong partnership and support from groups as broad ranging as the Fraternal Order of Police to the ACLU. You can’t get much better than that.

“There is growing interest in recruiting leaders who have both corporate and non-profit experience. Non-profits are looking for leaders who understand how to articulate a value proposition in a manner which effectively engages multiple audiences, and have demonstrated skills in dealing with diverse staff, constituents, clients and partners . . . The discipline of corporate management, combined with demonstrated non-profit experience and passion for the mission, has become a powerful formula for success.”

What’s happening right now in non-profit recruiting?

This year already has been busy with several new and repeat clients coming in seeking new leadership. The strong economy and the stressed political environment seem to have combined to energize both donors and non-profits. As a result, they require best-in-class talent.

Any specific trends you’re seeing?

There is growing interest in recruiting leaders who have both corporate and non-profit experience. Non-profits are looking for leaders who understand how to articulate a value proposition in a manner which effectively engages multiple audiences, and have demonstrated skills in dealing with diverse staff, constituents, clients and partners. There is also an increased emphasis on collaboration, and public / private partnerships. Funders are looking for non-profit leaders who can demonstrate results and an effective return on investment. The discipline of corporate management, combined with demonstrated non-profit experience and passion for the mission, has become a powerful formula for success.

Can you share some other searches that BoardWalk Consulting has recently completed for non-profits?

We have completed several searches for Year Up, placing executive directors in locations across the country, including New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Miami and Chicago. Other searches include CEOs for Gateway Center, Partners For Home, Goodwill of North Georgia (in progress), Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, and Case Commons, as well as searches for an executive director at Jane Goodall Institute, board director searches for James Graham Brown Foundation and Lutheran Services of Georgia, a chief development officer for Oxfam America and a chief impact officer for Colorado Health Foundation. Like I said, it’s been busy.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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