January Nonprofit Spotlight: TN Innocence Project

January Nonprofit Spotlight: TN Innocence Project

Hayley Levy, Tennessee Innocence Project, Director of Development | Nashville Class 71

Hayley Levy is a YLC Nashville Class 71 graduate and serves as the first Director of Development for the Tennessee Innocence Project, where her work centers around individual, corporate, and foundation fundraising initiatives. Hayley also focuses on fundraising through special events and oversees community awareness and communications for the organization. YLC recently caught up with Hayley to learn more about her work and how its impacting the Nashville community.

What is the Tennessee Innocence Project and how does its work impact the Nashville community.

If you’ve ever seen a true crime documentary, listened to a podcast, or read an article about someone being exonerated and freed after years in prison, that’s what we do. The Tennessee Innocence Project is a state-wide, non-profit law firm whose mission is to free wrongfully convicted Tennesseans and facilitate systemic changes that prevent wrongful convictions from occurring in the future. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, Tennessee has only achieved 30 exonerations since 1989, including four achieved by the Tennessee Innocence Project; our four exonerees collectively spent 95 years wrongfully imprisoned. Some of our neighbors – such as Georgia (48 exonerations), North Carolina (72 exonerations), and Ohio (98 exonerations) – have had innocence organizations for 15 to 20 years. Tennessee is not administering justice better than any other state. We simply did not have the mechanisms in place to ensure we could fix wrongful convictions until our organization was formed only four years ago. Since opening, the demand for the Tennessee Innocence Project’s services has gone through the roof, with more than 700 inquiries received to date.

How does your YLC training influence the work that you do with the Tennessee Innocence Project and as a leader within the Nashville nonprofit community? 

As a nonprofit professional, I learned so much from YLC. On the practical side, I must admit I learned how to read a profit and loss statement! YLC also encouraged me as a young leader to get involved and give back. The program helped me connect with Project Return, where I interned and then served as a Board Member for two years. The training also prepared me to lead in the Jewish community, where I serve on multiple Boards, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville, Jewish Middle School, and National Council of Jewish Women – Nashville Section. In my current role at the Tennessee Innocence Project, I helped set up our YLC internship program, and we are proud to be welcoming our second intern this fiscal year.

What has been the greatest benefit you’ve received from participating in the YLC training program?

I’ve truly enjoyed the network of people I’ve met and continue to meet through YLC. I’m still friends with other participants from my cohort, and it seems like every other week I’m invited to a YLC event or meet someone else who went through the program.

What advice would you share with other YLC alumni who are looking to plug into the work you’re doing at the TN Innocence Project? 

Please reach out to me if you have questions about nonprofit development or the Tennessee Innocence Project. We would love to have more volunteers, help others learn more about our work, and would certainly appreciate any financial support for our mission. I can be reached via email at hayley@tninnocence.org