NAACP CEO To Step Down

September 9, 2013       Paul Clolery and Patrick Sullivan      

(update of earlier story)

NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous will leave the civil rights organization at the end of the year, concluding a re-energizing, five-year run. Jealous is credited with quelling tension between the board and staff, as well as putting forth an aggressive federal and state agenda.

Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors, accepted his formal letter of notice last week. “We thank President Jealous for his time leading the Association,” said Brock via a statement. “Under his leadership, the NAACP has built a highly competent staff that will carry our mission forward and meet the civil rights challenges of the 21st century. Our board, staff and volunteer leaders throughout the country deeply appreciate his sacrifice, and will continue to implement our game-changing goals for the next half century that include the restoration of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, implementing Trayvon’s Law, bolstering civic engagement efforts and ensuring our community is enrolled in the Affordable Care Act exchanges.”

During a half-hour press call on Monday, Brock said that the NAACP is preparing a search committee its next president and CEO. Jealous will remain active with the organization until the end of the year, she said. “Ben’s voice will not be silent,” said Brock. “We’ll still hear from him. He’s a fighter and he’ll take the fight and voice of NAACP anywhere it needs to be. As we have said to him over the last week, we thank Ben for all he has done for NAACP.”

Jealous signed a new contract last fall for a maximum of three years, “but had a built-in out clause for this type of contingency,” he said. “The idea was to create a contract to empower me to stay for three years or to make the transition early. When I step down, there will be about half the contract left.” According to NAACP’s federal Form 990 for fiscal year 2011 (the latest available), Jealous earned a base salary of $284,861 that year with total compensation of $295,207.

Jealous, 40, cited wanting to spend more time with his wife and two children as the reason for his departure. “Leadership involves knowing when to step up and when to step down. I made two promises: one to the leadership, to step up and lead and take the NAACP to the next level,” said Jealous during the press call. “Having kept that first promise, I saw no reason not to keep my second promise, to my daughter on her third birthday who asked, when do I get my daddy back? I explained the importance of the work I’d taken on and why I needed five years. I needed to keep my promise to my daughter and informed the chairman, board and staff of my decision.”

Jealous’s plans include forming a political action committee (PAC) with Steve Phillips and Andy Wong, co-founders of PowerPAC. Jealous hopes that the new PAC will “last (election) cycle-to-cycle,” have a strong grassroots element and help elect black, Latino and progressive candidates. Jealous, Phillips and Wong raised $10 million for then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2007 through Vote Hope, a PAC they formed for the 2008 election cycle. Jealous also mentioned wanting to “focus on training the next generation of leaders in this country,” though he was not specific on that point.

“The NAACP has always been the largest civil rights organization in the streets, and today it is also the largest civil rights organization online, on mobile and at the ballot box too,” said Jealous via a statement. “I am proud to leave the Association financially sound, sustainable, focused, and more powerful than ever. Beginning next year, I look forward to pursuing opportunities in academia to train the next generation of leaders and, of course, spending a lot more time with my young family.”

In recent years the NAACP has won state and local battles to abolish the death penalty, shrink prison systems, outlaw racial profiling, expand voting rights protections, reform gun laws, close dangerous power plants, expand early childhood education, and secure health care coverage for the uninsured.

The organization was on shaky financial footing with an eroding donor bases when Jealous took over. Revenue has grown from $25.6 million in 2008 to $46 million in 2012, and its pool of individual donors has reportedly skyrocketed from 16,000 to roughly 132,000.

Jealous launched a digital media department and a mobile subscriber program that now has more than 423,000 contacts, according to the organization. NAACP also developed and expanded social media engagement including 233,000 Facebook supporters and targeted social media platform for Youth & College and ACT-SO called NAACPConnect. As a result, the email subscribers list grew to to 1.3 million, according to the organization.

The NAACP was a battlefield of infighting before he arrived. The board and Jealous’s predecessor Bruce Gordon were in a constant battle regarding the organization’s operations and mission.

The organization also went green under Jealous. The organization’s Environmental and Climate Justice Department established the GREEN Initiative at the NAACP headquarters (Get Ready for Energy Efficiency Now). The initiative implemented plans for cost- and energy-savings including recycling, carpooling, and an educational film series. In March 2012, the NAACP signed an agreement with Clean Currents to provide electricity for headquarter through wind energy procured through renewable energy certificates.

According to the organization, a mark of Jealous’s tenure was a focus on state-level activism. He took to the road for everything from supporting an NAACP chapter in Maine’s prison one of the only predominantly white affiliates of the organization in the country, to rallying with Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley to end the death penalty in Maryland and protesting “stop and frisk” policies in New York City