Executive Director, Los Angeles

Job Type

Full Time




Los Angeles
United States


You are eager to join Defy as our Executive Director in Los Angeles, working to develop and execute strategies that achieve aggressive fundraising goals and facilitate ambitious growth. You are an experienced, resourceful, and strategic startup leader, with proven skills to cultivate local individual, foundation, and corporate support as an effective pipeline to sustained growth. You are capable of leading the continued evolution of Defy’s life transforming work on the West coast. You are dynamic, entrepreneurial, and relational, and are most satisfied when your work has deep, meaningful impact.

We look for the following when evaluating new teammates:

  • Culture fit: we have a spirited/ambitious/fun culture that is passionate about redeeming lives and restoring communities. We strive to display heart, empathy, and resolve in our daily interactions with one another.
  • Organizational prowess: You are a strong project manager, capable of driving multiple work streams and stakeholders toward deadlines and juggling priorities in a dynamic environment. 

You will be entrusted with your own share of massive responsibility.

You will have the support of teammates who look out for you and want you to succeed.

You will make a difference in the lives of America’s biggest underdogs.

Although Defy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we take pride in our application of corporate best practices and operate as a lean, results-oriented startup. This high-impact opportunity is perfectly suited for a professional looking to transition out of the corporate world. Many of our most successful employees come from for-profit backgrounds.


  • Source and develop relationships with high-net-worth individuals, foundations, and corporations capable of providing major gifts ($10,000 - $249,999) or principal gifts ($250,000+) to fund the Los Angeles area program budget
  • Engage CEOs, VCs, entrepreneurs, and business professionals in Defy’s mission as business plan competition judges, speakers, volunteers, and donors
  • Raise Defy’s profile through marketing, speaking engagements, and one-on-one networking with key stakeholders, media outlets and the general public to engage prospective volunteers, entrepreneurs-in-training (EITs), employers, and donors
  • Lead program related events both in prisons and in the community with inspirational leadership that motivates EITs, volunteers and donors
  • Develop and expand a business development strategy throughout Los Angeles, to establish a network of support that will drive local program development and success
  • Partner with the CEO, President and the leadership team to define and execute strategic vision and long-term program development that aligns with the values and mission of Defy
  • Oversee and expand the Los Angeles area’s program activities while meeting operational benchmarks, timelines, and ensuring availability of resources needed to achieve consistent quality results
  • Contribute to the budget development process by planning and projecting staffing and resource needs, and manage Defy’s annual budget for the Los Angeles area
  • Develop and expand a business development strategy throughout Los Angeles to establish a network of support that will drive local program development and success
  • With the recruiting team, identify and cultivate partnerships with providers of transitional services to source EITs for Defy’s Los Angeles area program
  • Cultivate relationships with employers who will provide career opportunities to EITs
  • With the help of the CEO, manage and expand the Los Angeles Board
  • Help build and lead the Los Angeles team


  • Proven track record of fundraising/sales and initiating, cultivating, and managing relationships with key constituencies, including familiarity with corporations, foundations, and community-based organizations; strong business sense required
  • Outstanding communication skills, with the ability to build, cultivate and leverage personal and professional networks and relationships, develop and deliver successful presentations, and collaborate and negotiate effectively
  • Superb organizational skills, with the proven ability to create and implement efficient operational systems, plan strategically, allocate work, set and manage objectives, analyze and mitigate risk, and create and manage projects
  • Proven success in recruiting, managing, and developing a strong team; capacity to enforce accountability, develop and empower leaders from the bottom up, cultivate entrepreneurship, and learn the strengths and weaknesses of the team so as to put people in a position to succeed
  • Excellent judgment and strong decision-making ability; able to act and react as necessary, even if limited information is available; not afraid to take charge of a situation; can overcome resistance to leadership and take unpopular stands when necessary
  • Passion, humility, integrity, positive attitude, emotional intelligence, mission-driven, and self-directed
  • Adaptable and reliable in conflict or crisis
  • Bachelor's degree from a four-year college or university required; master's degree or commensurate experience preferred

About Defy Ventures

Defy’s is driven to level the playing field and to bring redemptive opportunities to America’s biggest underdogs. Our hatred of injustice fuels our impatience. We have a plan to scale to 21 new Chapters in the next six years, and to serve 10,000 incarcerated men, women, and youth in the next three years.

America is touted as the land of opportunity and second chances—a land of liberty and justice for all. But this isn’t the case for the 100 million Americans with criminal histories, who remain permanently stigmatized. Today, 30% of 23-year-olds have records.

Defy Ventures is a national entrepreneurship, employment, and character development training program that recognizes the potential in many former drug dealers and gang leaders to become successful, legal entrepreneurs. We “transform the hustle” of our formerly incarcerated Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs) by offering intensive leadership development, Shark Tank-style business pitch competitions, executive mentoring, financial investment, and startup incubation. We build a life-giving, authentic community between EITs and our executive volunteers as they bond in their humanity through their collaboration along the entrepreneurial journey.

Leveraging technology, we’ve created a “blended learning” model that holds the promise of scaling globally to revitalize the most underserved communities. We combine video-based training with in-person mentoring and events. Our online instructors include underdog-loving influencers like Randy Komisar (Kleiner Perkins), Tim Draper (Founder, Draper Fisher Jurvetson), Duncan Niederauer (CEO, NYSE), five Harvard Business School professors, two Stanford Business School professors, and Seth Godin (marketing guru).

Since its founding in 2010, Defy has served 2,000+ EITs across 18 states and 20 correctional facilities, and engaged 4,300+ executive volunteers. Defy has incubated 166 of its graduates’ companies, which in turn have created more than 350 employment opportunities for people in their communities. Grads report a 95% employment rate, and Defy’s recidivism rate to date is less than 5%. (Nationally, 76.6% of people are rearrested within five years of release.)

Defy has earned the trust of funders like Kapor Center for Social Impact, Silicon Valley Bank, Peery Foundation, Porticus Foundation, Sorenson Impact Foundation, Techstars Foundation, Google, eBay, TD Bank, Capital One, Bloomberg, LinkedIn, Yelp, and American Express. Defy has been showcased in national media including The New YorkerThe New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalForbes.comThe Harvard Business Reviewand Tech Crunch.

Defy’s Founder and CEO, Catherine Hoke, is an Ashoka Fellow, and was named by Fast Company as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business. Defy is her second chance; here is a 4-minute video of Defy’s founding story, produced by Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B team: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5fn3VIpDBs


Quick references:

Professional Level

None specified

Minimum Education Required

4-year degree

How To Apply