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PEN America

The Freedom to Write

aka PEN American Center   |   New York, NY   |  www.pen.org

Mission

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Ruling year info

1992

Chief Executive Officer

Suzanne Nossel

President

Ayad Akhtar

Main address

588 Broadway Suite 303

New York, NY 10012 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

13-3447888

NTEE code info

Humanities Organizations (A70)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Free Expression

PEN America’s Free Expression Programs defend writers and journalists and protect free expression rights in the United States and around the world. This work includes research and reports on topical issues ranging from fraudulent news to censorship in China; advocacy internationally and in the United States in defense of press freedom and on other free expression challenges; and campaigns on policy issues and on behalf of individual writers and journalists under threat.

Population(s) Served

PEN World Voices Festival: A week-long series of events in New York City each spring, is the largest international literary festival in the United States, and the only one with a human rights focus. The Festival was founded by Salman Rushdie in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, with the aim of broadening channels of dialogue between the United States and the world—a mission that continues to have great relevance today.

PEN America Literary Awards: The Literary Awards annually honor outstanding voices in literature across diverse genres, including fiction, poetry, drama, science and sports writing, essays, biography, and children’s literature. PEN America confers more than 20 awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes each year, presenting nearly $350,000 to writers and translators.

PEN America Literary Gala: The Galas in New York and LitFest in Los Angeles are celebrations of free expression and the literary arts. Each year, these events offer impassioned tributes, important calls to action, and moments of levity to audiences of authors, screenwriters, producers, executives, philanthropists, actors, and other devotees of the written word who share a commitment to the robust defense of freedom of expression in the United States and around the world. Recent honorees have included Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and the student activists against gun violence. Celebrated writers serve as Literary Hosts for the events.

Public Programming: Throughout the year, PEN America offers a range of public programs in New York, Los Angeles, and across the country on topics at the intersection of literature and free expression. These programs offer opportunities for audience members to engage with some of today’s most exciting literary voices and free expression advocates, with a focus on amplifying lesser heard voices.

Population(s) Served

For more than four decades, PEN America’s Prison Writing Program has amplified the writing of thousands of imprisoned writers by providing free resources, skilled mentors, and audiences for their writing. We are proud to share our deepening commitment to confronting our era of mass incarceration with the launch of the PEN America Writing For Justice Fellowship.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people

The Emerging Voices Fellowship provides a five-month immersive mentorship program for early-career writers from communities that are traditionally underrepresented in the publishing world. The program is committed to cultivating the careers of Black writers, and serves writers who identify as Indigenous, persons of color, LGBTQIA+, immigrants, writers with disabilities, and those living outside of urban centers. Through curated one-on-one mentorship and introductions to editors, agents, and publishers, in addition to workshops on editing, marketing, and creating a platform, the five-month fellowship nurtures creative community, provides a professional skill-set, and demystifies the path to publication—with the ultimate goal of diversifying the publishing and media industries.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of research or policy analysis products developed, e.g., reports, briefs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Free Expression

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of first-time donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

PEN American Center seeks to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to make it possible for everyone to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others.

PEN American Center runs a full range of programs, such as Free Expression, the PEN World Voices Festival, and Literary Awards. The combined strength of these programs expand the freedom to write and celebrate the vital and universal power of literature.

PEN American Center has over 90 years of experience working to support free expression and literature. As the largest of the 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that comprise International PEN, the PEN American Center is building on a tradition that began in the years following World War I and continues to be carried forward by thousands of American writers.

Our strength is our membership, a nationwide community of 4,000 members, including novelists, journalists, editors, and other literary professionals who work together with PEN to carry out its mission. We are also joined by a large network of advocate members who come from all parts of the literary community - booksellers, librarians, students, passionate readers - and who provide a vital base of volunteers and support for PEN's programs.

As long as freedom of expression remains at risk, PEN's work will never be finished. However, we have achieved significant progress in several areas:

PEN Freedom to Write Award
The PEN Freedom to Write Award is a powerful tool in PEN America's year-round efforts to end the persecution of writers and defend free expression. Established in 1987, the awards are designed to honor individual writers who have fought courageously in the face of adversity for their right to freedom of expression. Of the 42 award winners who were in prison, 37 have been released.

PEN World Voices Festival
One of the world's largest literary festivals, and the only one of its kind with a human rights focus, the annual PEN World Voices Festival catalyzes conversations among writers, artists, thought-leaders, and the broader public on a variety of timely cultural and social topics.

PEN Literary Awards
The PEN Literary Awards is the most comprehensive awards program in the country, offering nearly $150,000 each year to fiction writers, poets, translators, children's authors, biographers, nonfiction writers and playwrights. Each prize is conferred by a panel of PEN members who bring to the task a familiarity with the solitary task of creating great literature.

Financials

PEN America
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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PEN America

Board of directors
as of 09/28/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ayad Akhtar

Roxanne Donovan

Jennifer Egan

Masha Gessen

Tom Healy

Zachary Karabell

Tracy Higgins

Sevil Miyhandar

Paul Muldoon

Greg Pardlo

Michael Pietsch

Markus Dohle

Yvonne Marsh

Ayad Akhtar

Lauren Embrey

Elizabeth Hemmerdinger

Sean Kelly

Dinaw Mengestu

Marie Arana

Peter Barbey

Jennifer Finney Boylan

John Chao

Susan Choi

Bridget Colman

Patricia Fili-Krushel

James Hannaham

Min Jin Lee

Franklin Leonard

Margaret Munzer Loeb

Ken Miller

Wesley Morris

Lynn Nottage

Marvin S. Putnam

Alix Ritchie

Anya Salama

Richard Sarnoff

Andrew Solomon

Luis Alberto Urrea

Tara Westover

Jamie Wolf

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 9/28/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Decline to state

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

No data

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

Transgender Identity

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data