James L. Bennett

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Jim Bennett is the Chief Development Officer for Lambda Legal, the nation’s largest legal organization dedicated to securing the full civil rights of the LGBT community and those with HIV. Bennett oversees the full range of Lambda Legal’s fundraising and development efforts nationwide.  In addition to managing a development staff of 26, Bennett oversees the growth of major gifts, foundation grants, planned giving and integrated marketing for the organization.

Previously, Bennett was Lambda Legal’s Midwest Regional Director, where he led the fight in Indiana against the ‘religious refusal’ law helping to organize and lead a robust coalition of businesses, community groups, and citizens forcing the Governor to repeal part of the law.

In 2013, Bennett chaired ‘Illinois Unites for Marriage’, the statewide coalition that led the successful effort to win the freedom to marry in Illinois. Bennett was a lead strategist in Lambda Legal's Illinois and Iowa marriage campaigns creating and implementing broad, layered grassroots programs educating thousands and building sustained support for equal marriage rights in America's heartland.
Bennett has more than 25 years of experience in advocacy, strategic planning, and development.

Prior to Lambda Legal, Bennett was the Marketing and Development Director for the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law where he led and managed the organization's brand identity project and built a comprehensive giving program. From 1989 to 1999, he led development, marketing and programmatic (disaster, health) departments and initiatives at the American Red Cross Central Illinois Chapter and the American Red Cross national headquarters.

Bennett serves on the board of RefugeeOne and is a member of Broadway United Methodist Church. Bennett has advocated locally and nationwide for full inclusion of the LGBT community in the Methodist denomination.

Bennett holds an M.B.A. from the University of Illinois and a B.S. from Illinois State University. Bennett also graduated from the Second City Conservatory and writes and performs sketch comedy.  In 2013, Bennett was the Moth Storytelling ‘Grandslam champion’ for  ‘Church of Hamballs’, a story about his experience in Iowa after Lambda Legal’s marriage victory.

Recognition of his work includes the recipient of the 2016 Vanguard Award from the Chicago Bar Association and LAGBAC, induction into the Steve and Sandi Adams Legacy Hall of Fame at Illinois State University in 2015, and induction in the City of Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2013.