Ensuring a Thriving Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for Justice and Peace

FUSE Corps - Birmingham, AL

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) formalized a plan to drive a $25 million fundraising campaign so it can be better positioned to take a leading role in the national conversations on social justice and racial equity. To support this effort, the Birmingham Office of Social Justice and Racial Equity and BCRI will partner with a FUSE Executive Fellow for one year to advance BCRI’s mission by solidifying a scalable business model, crafting and implementing a strategic planning process, and identifying and implementing sustainable fundraising strategies.

This fellowship project begins on April 26, 2021, and ends on April 22, 2022. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of April 26 2021. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on May 3, 2021.


As the epicenter for the Civil Rights movement, Birmingham has long been on the front lines of the fight for inclusion and equity. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI), located in the heart of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, was established in 1992 as a cultural and educational research center to promote a comprehensive understanding for the significance of the civil rights developments in Birmingham. Through its mission, it seeks to enlighten each generation about civil and human rights by examining the past effects of inequality in our history and working together in the present to build a better future. BCRI currently reaches more than 150,000 individuals each year through its educational programs, exhibitions, events, training, and resources focused on a variety of issues, including criminal justice, public safety, and activism.

BCRI is at a pivotal moment in its history. As our national conversations on race and social justice highlight the need for more education, training and advocacy, BCRI is uniquely positioned to serve as a national and global hub for people to more deeply understand the history of the Civil Rights movement and access the training and resources needed to challenge systems of oppression. Historically, BCRI has largely relied on city funding for the operational and programming support to fulfil its mission. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing financial crisis, BCRI temporarily closed and reduced staff capacity. The impact of the pandemic also accelerated aspects of the organization’s digital transformation strategy as they’ve explored alternative means of engaging the community to revive interest and awareness. While challenging, this has also produced new opportunities—for example, BCRI formed a partnership with Apple to leverage virtual reality to increase access to its programs and exhibits. In this moment of reckoning around racial injustice, BCRI’s services and engagement are essential to continue the drive towards peace and justice. In service of this opportunity, BCRI’s Board of Directors developed a formalized plan to launch a $25 million fundraising campaign over the next five years that will expand its services.

The City of Birmingham recognizes that BCRI is poised to take on a more significant leading role in our national conversations on social justice and racial equity. To support this effort, the Office of Social Justice and Racial Equity and BCRI will partner with FUSE Corps to host an Executive Fellow for one year who will work to advance the organization’s mission and reinforce Birmingham’s international position as the epicenter of civil rights discourse. Working in close coordination with the Board of Directors and stakeholders throughout the community and city, the Fellow will take a leadership role in developing and solidifying a scalable business model, crafting and implementing a strategic planning process, and identifying and implementing sustainable fundraising strategies. Through these efforts, the Fellow will enable the organization to increase its awareness and relevance, ensuring a just and equitable Birmingham.


The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the executive fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE fellow and the host agency.

Starting February 1, 2021, it is proposed that the FUSE Executive Fellow will work to quickly build deep relationships with a wide range of critical stakeholders, including BCRI’s Board and staff, the Civil Rights District, City departments, community-based organizations, and community leaders. Through this initial listening tour with key stakeholders, the Executive Fellow will conduct a landscape assessment to map resources, evaluate operative procedures, and analyze gaps that need to be filled by new policies, programming, or partnerships. The Executive Fellow will also determine barriers related to sustainability.  

The Executive Fellow will utilize this landscape assessment and gap analysis to develop a scalable business model and a strategic planning process that will guide the organization’s growth. The business model will include a clear, shared vision for the future of BCRI, a process and timeline to increase staffing, a plan to leverage technology and partnerships, and a strategy for the fundraising campaign. In the plan, the Executive Fellow will place focus on evaluating and expanding existing funder partnerships and establishing new collaborations with funders and organizations to provide services. The Executive Fellow will determine what resources are needed to sustain the organization, financially, through partnerships, and in policy changes. Throughout this process, the Executive Fellow will consistently engage with stakeholders to get buy-in and a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities related to the implementation of the business model. 

In the next phase, the Executive Fellow will create a thorough and holistic implementation framework for the business model. The framework will outline short and long-term goals, timelines, and priority areas. The Executive Fellow will also formulate a strategic process that clearly defines roles and responsibilities for internal and external stakeholders. The framework will also include metrics and systems for tracking progress. The Executive Fellow will also support existing initiatives and programs and lead the organization during the pandemic. This initiative will enable BCRI to grow and employ services centered on social justice and peace, improving the quality of life and safety of all residents.

By February 2022, the Executive Fellow will have played a critical role in ensuring the growth of BCRI. This will include the following: 

  • Conduct a thorough review of the current landscape Conduct a deep landscape analysis and identify potential new strategies and policies; assess gaps in programs and process; map current resources (financial, staffing, technology, partnerships); consult with stakeholders to understand the barriers to the organization’s growth.
  • Surface new program ideas, policies, and partnership opportunities Cultivate relationships with external stakeholders from civic and philanthropic organizations, businesses, and community leaders; effectively incorporate internal and external stakeholders in developing the strategy to ensure buy-in for enacting its programs and partnerships.
  • Formulate a scalable business model and develop the model’s framework – Identify and clarify vision and short-term and long-term goals, priority areas, and potential barriers; clearly define roles and responsibilities for internal and external stakeholders; evaluate and expand existing funder partnerships; determine what resources are needed to sustain the organization and evaluate feasibility.
  • Engage stakeholders to establish deep relationships and buy-in – Demonstrate cross-cultural agility and successfully engage with all relevant stakeholders, particularly the Civil Rights District, community members, and potential funders; work to get buy-in from all stakeholders to ensure that the organization is supported and successful; solicit feedback from major stakeholders on business model.
  • Create a roadmap and support long-term implementation – Form an implementation framework complete with short and long-term goals, timelines (plotting up to five years), and anticipated resource commitments of stakeholders; set metrics and build systems for tracking progress; identify and implement priority action items that can be accomplished within the year.
  • Lead BCRI team on programmatic and operational initiatives.
  • Champion 5-year Development Plan to sustain the BCRI.


  • Denise Gilmore, Senior Director, Office of Social Justice and Racial Equity
  • Ed Fields, Senior Advisor & Chief Strategist, Office of the Mayor
  • Isaac Cooper, Board Chairman, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute/Board of Directors FUSE Committee


  • At least 15 years of professional experience – preferably in nonprofit, cultural, community-based organizations – with demonstrated success in development and strategic planning
  • Passionate about BCRI’s mission and able to promote and communicate the mission and values of the organization to external and internal stakeholders with requisite sensitivity and nuance
  • Self-motivated and goal-oriented leader who can also be an independent worker
  • Excellent community engagement skills, particularly strong background in relationship and coalition building between stakeholders
  • Innovative fundraising strategist to craft and implement new methods to build partnerships and enhance fundraising activities
  • Cross-cultural agility, ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Demonstrated experience as a team leader, particularly as a collaborative team or project leader
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations
  • Ability to sustain progress within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity


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