Executive Director- Hugo House
Washington, Washington, United States
Founded in 1997 by the writers Linda Breneman, Frances McCue, and Andrea Lewis, Hugo House is a Seattle-based nonprofit organization and home for everyone who values reading and writing. Named after and inspired by the Seattle-born poet and creative writing teacher Richard Hugo, Hugo House celebrates its mission to open the literary world and make the art of writing accessible to anyone interested in reading or writing through creative writing programs. Since its inception, more than 150,000 writers and readers have taken part in Hugo House’s programs, classes, workshops, and residencies. Notable writers who have presented work and taught classes at Hugo House include Min Jin Lee, Roxane Gay, Sheila Heti, Jericho Brown, Anthony Doerr, Ada Limón, Rick Bass, Lauren Goff, Viet Tanh Nguyen, Ruth Ozeki, and Mary Ruefle.
Hugo House originally occupied a 16,000 square feet Victorian House on Capitol Hill, which was once home to the New City Theatre. In 2018, the organization moved into a new space on Capitol Hill that it owns, and for which it carries no associated debt. This space was designed and built specifically to Hugo House’s specifications.
Hugo House presents a wide range of literary programs, for people of all ages and of all levels of experience, to experience the joy of the written word. There are in-person and online courses covering a wide range of writing styles and experiences, taught by published writers. Students come from a variety of backgrounds and classes are offered for adults and children. The primary educational programming consists of four seasonal catalogs of classes and workshops for adults including free classes, free writing-circles, and free consultations with writers-in-residence: some 300 offerings serve 3,000 writers and readers annually.
Several programs are specifically designed to offer opportunities for young people, including Youth Workshops, are offered throughout the academic year; the Scribes Summer Camp, which provides longer workshop sessions during the summer; and the Young Writers Cohort, where participants focus on poetry or prose alongside a group of fellow young writers and an instructor.
Hugo House is a recognized thought-leader for other similarly structured literary arts organizations around the United States. Its signature Word Works brings acclaimed and talented writers from around the country to share their knowledge of the writing craft. Every year, Hugo House’s Literary Series commissions new prose, poetry, and songs based on a thematic concept. The popular Ask a _______ invites writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, and literary agents to discuss their worlds and engage in Q&A sessions with the Hugo House community.
Hugo House is currently engaged in a 5-year strategic plan which began in 2020. As part of this, Hugo House has four goals: to become a transformative space where writers can come together to grow in their art; to engage new groups of people, creating opportunity to connect more deeply with the power of the written word; to be welcoming to all writers and readers, advancing racial equity and ensuring diversity and inclusion; and to build a lasting future for Hugo House, securing the resources necessary to accomplish its vision and thrive.
Hugo House is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and is working towards racial equity at all levels of the organization. Hugo House has formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee, comprising community members, staff, and board members. This committee advises on how the institution can better serve communities of color and promote racial equity through programming, board, staff, faculty composition, and community outreach. The DEI committee is in the process of hiring a racial equity consultant for long-term engagement. Hugo House recognizes that achieving transformative change is a long, often uncomfortable, process that requires careful thought and dedicated attention. Acknowledging its role in structural and systemic racism, Hugo House is grateful for a thoughtful community that holds it accountable with courage and commitment. Over half of Hugo House’s current staff are BIPOC, as is one third of its board.
Hugo House is governed by a 11-member Board of Trustees, led by Shahina Piyarali. The staff is comprised of 14 part-time and full-time employees. Rob Arnold has served as Interim Executive Director since March 2021. For the fiscal year ending 2020, annual revenues were $2.1 million, with approximately $800,000 from contributions and grants and $1.3 million in program service revenue.
Situated on the traditional land of the Duwamish and Coast Salish People, Seattle is a port city on Puget Sound and part of the Pacific Rim. The land around the city is home to multiple indigenous tribes—and named after Chief Seattle (1780-1866) of the Duwamish and Suquamish. Founded in 1852, the city and adjacent region lie north of Mount Rainier and rest between the Olympic and Cascade Mountain range. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area is home to approximately four million people. According to the 2020 census, Seattle had a population of 737,015 people.
Seattle has been designated a City of Literature by UNESCO and is known for its love for libraries and independent bookstores. Seattle’s traditional businesses, centered on fishing and logging, were eclipsed first by Boeing and the aerospace industry, and then by Microsoft and the advent of digital technology. Today, many technology-related companies, notably Amazon, are major employers. Seattle has a highly educated population and many institutions of higher learning, including the University of Washington, Seattle University, and Bellevue College. The economy and the allure of the Pacific Northwest has created a young, educated, diverse, and progressive workforce.
Hugo House is one of the city’s many vibrant arts and culture organizations, including Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, and more than 80 theater companies. The cities’ dozens of museums include the Seattle Art Museum, which includes the Asian Art Museum and Olympic Sculpture Park, Wing Luke Museum, Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, Northwest African American Museum, and the Holocaust Center for Humanity. Seattle’s legendary music scene is showcased in venues grand to intimate, from McCaw Hall and Paramount Theatre to The Crocodile and Neumos.
Seattle’s maritime climate creates endless opportunities for outdoor recreation on land and water, including skiing, hiking, boating, camping, and biking. Sports fans cheer on several professional teams including the NFL Seattle Seahawks, MLB Seattle Mariners, WNBA Storm, NWSL OL Reign, Sounders FC, and NHL Seattle Kraken, along with several college teams.
Sources: seattletimes.com; statista.com; visitseattle.org; officesnapshots.com; census.gov; seattle.gov/arts.
The Executive Director will be the public spokesperson for the organization, maintaining and cultivating relationships with community partners. They will create an organizational culture of optimism and possibility that inspires great writing. With a deep commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and access, the Executive Director will steward Hugo House in becoming an anti-racist institution that serves people of all ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, abilities, and interests, and where people from all backgrounds feel welcome and a true sense of belonging.
Reporting directly to the Hugo House Board of Directors, the Executive Director will build upon the organization’s legacy by creating a new and bold vision for the future in fulfillment of its mission. They will have overall responsibility for Hugo House’s programs and operations, provide leadership in financial management, fundraising, and board governance, and oversee the day-to-day operations and staffing.
Role and Responsibilities
Strategic Visioning and Financial Oversight
Develop a shared strategic vision in alignment with Hugo House’s mission, through collaborating with staff and Board leadership.
Champion Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives both internally and externally, ensuring that these values are embedded within all parts of the organization, while supporting the work of the DEI Committee.
Demonstrate solid fiscal and business acumen by developing multi-year financial goals, annual budgets, and cash-flow projections, maintaining the highest levels of financial compliance and accountability.
Oversee the creation of monthly financial statements which accurately reflect the financial condition of the organization, as well as financial accounts which are in keeping with approved reserve and investment policies.
Ensure annual financial audits are completed, that Hugo House complies with all laws and regulations, and that all financial documents are submitted to the board in a timely fashion.
Program Implementation, Fundraising, and External Relations
Deliver exciting programming and exemplary educational and community engagement programs that carry out Hugo House’s mission, while ensuring there is data-driven and rigorous program evaluation.
Cultivate and maintain relationships with major donors, foundations, government agencies and corporate sponsors, to sustain and grow the organization.
Enhance Hugo House’s image through comprehensive marketing, branding, and community engagement strategies.
Serve as the primary spokesperson on behalf of Hugo House, developing relationships and engaging with a variety of constituents and amplifying the organization’s reputation and presence within the community and sector.
Build and maintain relationships with a wide range of organizations with aligned goals, as well as governing bodies and coalitions, locally and nationally.
Organizational Management and Board Partnership
Facilitate conversations with board and staff, ensuring there is alignment between both groups.
Hire, mentor, and support staff, offering professional development opportunities while maintaining a cohesive team environment and a culture of accountability, integrity, respect, trust, transparency, and inclusivity.
Cultivate a strong and transparent working relationship with the board of directors, providing members with the information and resources needed to govern and support the organization.
Grow and diversify the board of directors to include new voices with fresh perspectives.
Collaborate and lead on DEI initiatives, ensuring that these values are embedded within the organization.
Traits and Characteristics
The Executive Director will be a strong visionary with an entrepreneurial spirit, well-researched, skilled in change management, able to make swift decisions, and able to support and motivate a small, hardworking team. With a collaborative and approachable leadership style, they will listen to different perspectives, valuing the voice and opinions of the community, staff, and board members. The Executive Director will model consensus-driven behavior, and create an open and transparent working environment, while demonstrating a deep commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and access. They will exude kindness, openness, and humor, seeing the world from a curious and joyous vantage point, and sharing that spirit with all who gather or show interest in Hugo House. With a deep love of literature, the Executive Director will have a broad appreciation for the written word in all its forms, in order to identify with the mission of the organization.
Other key competencies include:
Diplomacy and Personal Accountability – The ability to handle difficult or sensitive issues effectively and tactfully, while being answerable for personal actions.
Resiliency and Flexibility – The capacity to recover from adversity quickly, while modifying, responding, and adapting to change with minimal resistance.
Time and Priority Management – The dexterity to prioritize and complete tasks in order to deliver outcomes within allotted time frames.
Leadership and Teamwork – The capability to organize and influence people to believe in a vision while creating a sense of purpose and direction and cooperating with others to meet objectives.
No specific educational requirements or set number of years’ experience are required. Experience in nonprofit management as well as collaborating with a Board of Directors is preferred. A deep appreciation of writing and reading infused with knowledge about literature and its creation, is expected to succeed in this role. Connections to the literary community are beneficial. Outstanding candidates will have exceptional writing abilities and verbal presentation skills. They should demonstrate a track record in managing budgets and have experience with donor cultivation, as well as proven success in building and strengthening strategic partnerships and fostering a diverse and equitable environment. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.
Compensation and Benefits
Hugo House provides a competitive and equitable compensation package with a salary range of $125,000 to $150,000, with benefits that include paid vacation, sick leave, personal leave, and holidays; healthcare, vision, and dental care with premiums 100% covered by Hugo House; discounted Hugo House classes; professional development opportunities; and a 403(b)-retirement plan with up to 6% of salary matched.