Thoughts on recruiting the nonprofit leaders of the future

A wall mural of a flaming bird
A wall mural of a flaming bird

“Dear Nina, We’re contacting you about a special opportunity.”

What is it?, I wonder. A line of artist-designed protest masks? A global coalition to reimagine the cultural sector? An unrestricted grant?

Nope. It’s a recruitment email for a nonprofit executive director search. Another one.

I used to engage with these emails. I’d write long responses sharing bios of brilliant Black women and women of color. But after a couple years in which these potential candidates were either ignored or dismissed as “not ready,” I gave up. I started hitting delete.

I’m still getting them every week. And in the past month, I can’t bring myself to look away. It’s not that the emails have changed — it’s that they haven’t. No mention of COVID-19. No mention of anti-racist uprisings. No mention of a cultural sector on the brink. It’s a rare form of doom-scrolling to read these sunny, formulaic emails seeking candidates for an “exciting opportunity to build on our organization’s history and redefine its…


Nina Simon

Spacemaker/CEO of OF/BY/FOR ALL. Best-selling author of The Participatory Museum (2010) and The Art of Relevance (2016). www.ninaksimon.com

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