Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Transition Team/2013/FAQ
When does the WMF expect to hire for the ED position?
We want to run a full and thorough search. We don't expect to have a new person in place before September, and it could easily be a few months later.
What is the salary range for the position?
Sue Gardner's salary is 200K. But, that is not a hard ceiling. We do not want salary to be an impediment in our hiring the best possible person for the role. We expect candidates to understand that we're a non-profit organization inside a volunteer-driven movement: nobody should expect to get rich working at the WMF. But, we pay salaries that we think are fair and reasonable, and we've conducted pretty extensive studies analyzing how our compensation compares with practices at both non-profit and for-profit organizations that have characteristics similar to ours.
Does the ED need to work out of the San Francisco office, or could they be somewhere else?
The ED will need to work from the San Francisco office. If they live somewhere outside the Bay Area today, they would need to be willing and able to relocate.
Are you looking for a specific leadership type?
Wikimedia's challenges are complex. Organizationally, solving these challenges will require an approach that embraces change, and that is highly focused on creating an environment where staff and volunteers are empowered to come up with improvements and to iterate on them quickly. In this environment failure cannot be seen as embarrassing or shameful but simply as a welcome opportunity to learn and improve.
Top-down, command-and-control approaches are not appropriate in this environment. "Being bold" is in Wikipedia's DNA and should be similarly embraced by its Executive Director, not just for his or her own actions, but for the kind of organizational culture that he or she helps create.
The Wikimedia Foundation is also committed to a high degree of accountability and transparency. This means sharing our work and the evidence of its impact broadly, setting a high standard of individual performance, and being ready to shut down programs that don't work. We're committed to working in partnership with a global network of volunteers who contribute to our projects and to Wikimedia's mission to make free knowledge available to every person on the planet.
That's the context our ED needs to fit into. And so, we are looking for someone with a lot of personal integrity, who is collaborative, intellectually curious and open-minded, who has a strong personal desire to be accountable and highly transparent with all stakeholders, who has a quality of egolessness along with some deftness and diplomatic abilities.
Is the WMF only considering people from a non-profit background?
No. We are only interested in hiring someone who is mission-driven -- that is, someone whose primary work objective is the desire to make the world a better place. And the successful candidate will need to embrace the mission, vision and values of the Wikimedia movement. But there are lots of people who are mission-driven who aren't working in the non-profit sector, and we are definitely open to them as candidates.
Is the WMF willing to consider candidates who are not U.S. citizens?
Yes, definitely. The Wikimedia Foundation aspires to establish and maintain a staff with experience working and living outside the United States, the ability to speak and write languages other than English, and the ability to work productively with people with a wide diversity of demographic and cultural characteristics, including ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, values and attitudes. We would be happy to hire for this role the most qualified candidate, regardless of national citizenship. If the successful candidate does not currently have the legal ability to work in the United States, we will support them in attaining it.
Is the WMF open to reconsidering its business model?
No. The WMF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and that won't change. We are very proud of our revenue strategy, which focuses on making the majority of our revenue from many small donations from readers around the world. We expect our strategy will evolve and change over the years, but we aspire to always have it aligned with the programmatic work of the organization, ensuring the entire organization is focused on readers and reader needs.
How much of this job is about fundraising?
Very little of the ED's job is focused on fundraising, which is very unusual for a non-profit organization. All revenue generation is handled by Lisa Seitz Gruwell, the Chief Revenue Officer. That's great because it frees up the ED to focus on the core work of the organization. A few times a year the ED needs to make an appearance at a donor event or a presentation to a grantmaking organization, and of course the ED is ultimately responsible for the success of the organization's fundraising activities, but for the most part the ED does not have to actively fundraise.
How much scope is there for change -- does the WMF want to stay essentially the same, or is it interested in growing substantially, or otherwise changing in a significant way?
We are very happy with the Wikimedia Foundation and the path it is on, and we don't expect it to fundamentally change. This is not a turnaround job. That said, of course we expect a new ED to develop their own ideas about how best the WMF can achieve its mission. They will lead the organization, and they will be responsible for optimizing its practices in pursuit of the mission.
What are the benefits offered?
The Wikimedia Foundation offers fully covered (i.e. WMF covers monthly premiums) health insurance of three different types (so people have choice about which works best for them). We offer disability, life insurance, and 401(k) retirement plan with matched contributions of 4% of annual salary. We also offer flexible and generous vacation, sick-leave, and maternity/paternity policies. We have a pre-tax savings plan for health care, child care, elder care, public transportation and parking expenses. We also offer an $1800 annual Health and Wellness Program for gym memberships, massages, etc.
Bonuses/stock options/non-salary compensation?
We do not offer bonuses, stock options, or non-salary compensation.
How much travel is involved?
The current ED takes about four international trips a year, and roughly the same number of domestic trips. She is travelling about 10-15% of the time. It would probably be roughly the same for the next ED. The ED will make his or her own decisions about how much travel to do, but it's probably not possible to do the job without spending a total of about one month per year away from home, and it probably wouldn't be very effective for the ED to spend too much time on the road.
Work-life balance: expected to work long hours/evenings/weekends/holidays?
Like any CEO position, this is a demanding job. Sometimes there will be emergency situations (technical problems, media crises, legal situations) that will require immediate attention. There is a certain minimum amount of travel required for the role -- probably about one month total each year. The work is international which means sometimes adapting to the needs of people in other time zones. The movement is largely volunteer-driven which means that for many participants, it's easiest to contribute in evening and weekend time. For many people involved, the Wikimedia movement is a calling rather than a job, and so there is often a blurring between what's work and what's social.
Private life/media sensitivity: will private life be affected/will my name be in the news?
Like any CEO position, the ED of the Wikimedia Foundation will be subject to a certain amount of media and public attention. In addition, the Wikimedia movement is made up of a large number of international volunteers, some of whom are curious about leadership at the Wikimedia Foundation, and all of whom have high expectations for transparency and accountability among Wikimedia leadership. They will expect the ED to be highly transparent with them.
Wikimedia is not an uncontroversial organization. It provides information about any imaginable subject, including topics that are of interest to extremists of all types which may be unsatisfied with Wikipedia's efforts to provide information written from a neutral point of view. Wikimedia's community is highly emotionally invested in the project, and users who leave the project or have been blocked from editing may be as emotionally invested in criticizing it. It takes stances on issues that polarize, including defending speech and being critical of censorship. As a face and name for the organization, the ED of the Wikimedia Foundation will no doubt sometimes be a target of efforts, legitimate or not, to criticize the organization, and will need to face intense scrutiny.
How important is managerial experience?
We're looking for a candidate who has experience guiding an organization through multiple stages of growth and development, ideally at staffing/budget scale comparable to the Wikimedia Foundation, and in the context of an organization which achieves impact at global scale. That doesn't mean the person needs to be currently in that type of role, but they do need to have held such a position at some point in their career, and they need to have experience managing managers. An ideal candidate would probably have held a variety of leadership roles, including in large companies as well as smaller or midsize ones.