Thoughts on recruiting the nonprofit leaders of the future

A wall mural of a flaming bird

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.


My sister and my dog sharing a moment. Read on to understand why this is more than just a cute pet pic.

I have the profound privilege to experience COVID-19 as a source of stress, not crisis. My family is healthy and able to shelter in place. My organization is well-funded enough to support our staff and continue our work. Like most folks, I feel waves of panic and fear. But my primary emotion is gratitude.

There are many, many people who don’t have my privileges right now. I’m talking daily to people who are losing income and housing and security and health. All this suffering makes me wonder: how can I contribute? …

Three team members at OF/BY/FOR ALL walking down the street in Washington, DC.

When you’re starting a new nonprofit organization, you tend to focus on the mission. The programs. How you’ll do good in the world. But there’s another thing that matters to your success: how you work as a team.

We never planned to post the OF/BY/FOR ALL employee handbook publicly, but we included it with a recent job posting, and lots of people remarked on it. So we’ve decided to share it — with acknowledgement that this is very much a work in progress.

You can read the OF/BY/FOR ALL staff handbook right now, here.

Where did this come from? It…

Saturday, Dec 10, 2017, 6am. I’m standing in a parking lot with a heavy backpack and a black shirt, along with 72 other people with heavy backpacks and black shirts. The only difference between me and them is that 70 of them appear to be distant blood relatives of the Hulk. We’re here to do something ridiculous: an endurance event featuring an unknown set of physical challenges. For the next 12 hours, a couple of squad leaders, aka Hulk 1 and Hulk 2, will yell at us to carry heavy shit from here to there — in the mud, up…

Today, I published my last post on the Museum 2.0 blog. This is an edited version of that post, telling the story of why I let go of the online platform that gave me my career.

Feather quill pen, black and white.

A brief overview of Museum 2.0: as far as I know, it’s the longest-running, most-read blog in the museum industry not published by an institution. I started it in 2006, writing 800 posts over 13 years. Over that time period, the blog had 945,000 unique visitors, plus another 8,000–20,000 who received the blog as an email newsletter weekly. …

A non-authoritative guide to getting the job of your dreams

A stick figure confidently kicks their way through a door.

You’ve seen that job description. You know the one. The stunner at the end of the bar dressed head-to-toe in your wildest dreams. The one you think you could do, you know you could do, but you suspect you won’t ever get the chance to do.

So what do you do?

Here are six tips to help you get what you want.

1. Show them what you can do for them.

A stand-out job application is not about you and what you can do. It’s about what you can do for them.

Hiring managers scan your resume wondering whether your skills are a match for their needs. Don’t make…

Nina Simon

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

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