Kicking off the search for our next Executive Director

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Today we launch our search for the next Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.
About six weeks ago, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Executive Director Sue Gardner told us she will be stepping down from her role. Happily, she is staying on until we find her successor, and we are now launching that search.
It will be a challenge to find someone who is able to fill Sue’s shoes, but I am glad to say that the Board of Trustees, Sue and the senior staff of the Wikimedia Foundation are aligned in our quest for a successor who will build on Sue’s considerable accomplishments, and steer the Wikimedia Foundation toward even greater success in the future.
The Wikimedia Foundation is the internationally-active San Francisco-based non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. It supports a global community of tens of thousands of volunteers in collecting, developing, and making the sum of all the world’s knowledge freely available. Over half a billion people use Wikipedia and its sister projects every month. We are the fifth most popular website in the world, and the only donor-supported site in the top 100. We’re widely recognized as the most influential and important organization in the free knowledge movement.
Our Executive Director reports to the Board of Trustees and acts in partnership with the global volunteer community, providing the leadership and setting the strategy for the Wikimedia Foundation, while managing its day-to-day operations and activities. The Executive Director is responsible for modernizing the user experience and nurturing, growing and diversifying the community of people who write our projects. He or she also ensures our grantmaking supports innovation across the Wikimedia movement and enables contributor growth in underrepresented demographics and geographies.
Our Executive Director needs to understand and advance the Wikimedia movement’s core values. They need to have proven management skills in technology and product development in order to effectively lead a high-traffic website, and have experience designing and implementing planning processes with a high built-in assumption of fast and iterative change. He or she will need to have exceptional communication skills, and possess both a drive to achieve transformative results and a deep respect for collaborative processes. The Executive Director’s ability to effect change in partnership with Wikimedia’s community will be decisive not just to their success, but to Wikimedia’s lasting impact.
It’s impossible to know where our next Executive Director will come from: there is no career path that makes running the Wikimedia Foundation somebody’s obvious next step. The right person might or might not currently work at a big web site. They might or might not be in the non-profit sector. They could have a background in education, or product development, or media, or community development, or something entirely different. They may live in the United States, or outside it. In this search, we want to cast a wide net for candidates, so that we can find the person with the rare mix of skills, experiences and values needed for this important role.
If you’re reading this post you know how much the work of the Wikimedia Foundation matters. I’m asking you for your help in spreading the news of this unique opportunity. Please share this post widely in your networks.
For more information, to suggest potential candidates or to put yourself forward, please write to
Some details on the recruitment:

  • We have retained the search firm m/Oppenheim Associates to assist in finding and screening candidates. We’ve worked successfully with m/Oppenheim in the past to fill senior roles at the Foundation. They know us well, and we trust they’ll do a great job with this hire.
  • The full position description is available on the Wikimedia Foundation site,  hosted at
  • The hiring process will unfold over the next three to six months; we hope to have a new Executive Director in place by October. That said, we’re going to take the time we need to find the best possible candidate. We are glad to restate that our current Executive Director, Sue Gardner, will stay with us throughout the recruitment process until we have a new Executive Director in place.
  • Following initial screening of the candidates a short-list of applicants will be interviewed by Board members and members of the senior staff, and we will encourage them to get involved with the Wikimedia community (if they aren’t already) to learn more about our movement. (We would also encourage anyone interested in the role to take a look at our guiding principles, or to pick up one of the books documenting and describing the Wikimedia movement.)
  • We’ve set up some pages on meta wiki, the central collaboration wiki, where Wikimedia community members can find more information and also get involved in a public discussion about the role and the recruitment process.

Thanks in advance for helping spread the word about this rare and important opportunity.
Kat Walsh
Chair, Board of Trustees, Wikimedia Foundation

Archive notice: This is an archived post from, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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If you donate to Wikimedia Foundation, your money will fatten a head-hunters company. Great to know. How much does the Wikimedia Foundation pay this company ?
The Wikimedia Foundation is not interested enough in its own affairs that it does not even care to recruit its director itself. How nice.

”Your comment is awaiting moderation.”
Oh yes, some moderation ! No strong ideas, no. And so great the censorship !

You may not realize this, but it takes a lot of time to run a search like this one, and a lot of staff resources; we are doing a very wide-ranging search to find the best candidates, which involves spending several weeks of full-time work just on the piece that involves talking to people. It would be great if we could handle this all in-house, but it would take more time than we have (or we’d need to hire and train new staff to handle it) and we’d need specialist advice anyhow. The firm we’re working with has helped us… Read more »

Still, Kat—this doesn’t answer the question Nicolas asked. Just out of curiosity, how much is WMF paying Oppenheim? I’ll understand if you cannot give us the exact number, so even orders of magnitude would be appreciated.

I just hit the basic by posting r/wikipedia on reddit. Have you guys posted this anywhere in places that Wikipedians typically hang out? Not that a Wikipedian is necessarily the right fit, but I hope that the Board will consider accomplishments, energy, technical aptitude, and attitude over experience. The fact that a corporate search firm was hired is not necessarily bad, but suggestive of a cookie-cutter approach.

Glad to see that such an important hire is being taken seriously. WMF is at a crucial time in its history and needs someone capable, driven, and visionary to lead the project forward.
Hopefully the next step will include a commenting system that allows the community to reduce the prominence of early-responding trolls as well 😉

There are a lot of wikipedians that just resent anything that barely reminds them of the corporate world. How the hell do you want to hire an Executive Director other than with a headhunter company? If a headhunter firm isn’t used to hire such high positions you will end up with an organization riddled with nepotism and useless people that just know each other
That said, I still think that Wikipedia is just getting “too big too fast” in the last few years. Wikipedia could exist and funciton on a much smaller scale.