Historical organization goes from relic to rejuvenation
By Erica Crenshaw In Financial Leadership Posted November 19, 2013 0 Comments

The NAACP: from relic to rejuvenation

It’s hard not to marvel at the transformation that has taken place within the NAACP over the last five years under the direction of Benjamin Todd Jealous, a 40-year-old Columbia University graduate who has grassroots advocacy experience, knowledge of the news media and an impressive track record for collaborating with other worthwhile causes.

At 35 years old in 2008, Ben Jealous was the youngest president hired to date and a controversial choice for the 104-year-old civil rights group. He was thought of as an outsider and someone who didn’t understand the NAACP’s nuances. Many of the 60 plus board members were cut from the civil rights movement’s cloth, so to say the past was overshadowing their focus on the future was an understatement and was the root of numerous challenges Jealous had to overcome. Hurdles like unengaged and dwindling funders, lack of community initiatives and a disconnection with upcoming generations were just a few that awaited Jealous.

Van Jones, a civil rights activist and president of Rebuild the Dream said, “For me and people of my generation—people in their 30s or 40s—you couldn’t mention the term ‘NAACP’ 10 years ago without people laughing. It had become an irrelevant relic. Ben changed all that.”

Since 2008,

  • Jealous deliberately expanded foundation relationships and catapulted the organization from one grant of $100,000 to 14 grants, including one foundation grant of $3 million.
  • The organization went from 16,000 donors giving more than once per year to 132,000 repeat supporters this year.
  • The NAACP grew its online connections to reach 1.3 million through email, 420,000 NAACP text members, more than 200,000 Facebook fans and 59,000 Twitter followers.
  • Jealous revitalized the organization with his strong leadership, fresh perspective, broadened scope and commitment to involving the next generations.

Under Jealous’ leadership, the organization:

  • diversified its revenue stream.
  • broadened its alliances.
  • invested in technology.
  • enlisted a younger constituency.

Jealous went on to hire younger staff members, which rejuvenated the organization and breathed life back into the cause. Jealous broadened the NAACP’s alliances to include causes such as fighting racial profiling, promoting same-sex unions, curbing climate change and opposing the death penalty. He increased individual, corporate and foundation support due to a focus on these expanded issues and the new supporters they attracted.

Jealous also recognized the need to invest in the future through technology. According to the Pew Research Center, 93 percent of blacks have cell phones and 64 percent have smart phones, a higher percentage than in the rest of the American population. The NAACP went mobile. It invested in an advanced database, launched the NAACP Connect campaign on social networks and updated its site to be mobile- device-friendly. This commitment to technology and online communication helped it recruit more than 375,000 new voters among many other accomplishments. Jealous asserts the NAACP was instrumental in supporting President Obama’s 2012 campaign.

Ben Jealous, now 40, announced his resignation last month and the desire to let “new blood” assume his position. The NAACP owes Jealous an incredible debt of gratitude for being a forward-thinking leader and breathing life back into an organization that was quickly becoming extinct. The NAACP now faces a bright future thanks to his vision. You can’t help but think of Margaret Mead’s quote when you consider all that Jealous and his team accomplished, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world….”

By Erica McGeachy Crenshaw, CEO of Execute Now!

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