Eligibility & Requirements


Candidates should:

  • Be a nonprofit executive director with a proven track record of outstanding leadership
  • Have served in their current executive director role for at least five years (at the time of application submission)
  • Have worked for at least 10 years in the nonprofit sector (though not necessarily at the same organization) without significant leave, and intend to remain in the sector for the foreseeable future
  • Be employed full-time at their organization
  • Be a full-time resident of the Bay Area
  • Be recognized by peers as an exceptional leader

The candidate’s employing organization should:

  • Be a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization (government agencies and schools are not eligible)
  • Be headquartered in San Francisco, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County specifically
  • Be recognized by its community for the quality of its programs
  • Have at least five full-time, paid employees including the executive director candidate
  • Recognize the candidate’s sabbatical as an opportunity to develop the organization’s leadership capacity
  • Offer its endorsement of the request for leave, and submit a plan for organizational management during the candidate’s sabbatical
  • Be able to sustain regular operations during the executive director’s absence
  • Demonstrate need for financial assistance to underwrite the executive director’s leave

Evaluation Criteria

The selection committee will evaluate each application with the following considerations:

Candidate leadership

  • Has the candidate demonstrated outstanding leadership within and beyond the four walls of their organization?

Capacity-building potential and organizational readiness

  • Do the candidate and organization view the executive director’s sabbatical as an opportunity to bolster leadership capacity throughout the organization? Is the organization well-positioned to take advantage of this opportunity?
  • Is there strong senior staff in place to take over interim leadership during the executive director’s sabbatical, and are there enough of them to absorb the load?
  • Is the organization stable? (i.e., in a healthy financial position; no immediate debt, transition or other issue that would destabilize the organization)
  • Is the board supportive of the sabbatical?

Candidate readiness 

  • Is this a good moment, both personally and professionally, for the executive director to step away and recharge?
  • Is there a sense of urgency about why this year is the right year, (e.g., capital campaign recently completed, child going off to college) and a sabbatical would not be as useful in the future?
  • Does the candidate have a good general plan for the sabbatical that is not work related?
  • Does the candidate really seem capable of disengaging from work?

Program Requirements

The primary requirement for the O2 Sabbatical Award is that awardees take a true break from work. This is a time for well-deserved relaxation and renewal, so we encourage awardees to travel for pleasure, spend time with loved ones, or explore a personal interest. This is not intended to be a time for engaging in professional pursuits.

We require that awardees cease all contact with their organizations (except under extreme circumstances) and disengage from all professional activities during the sabbatical. As a result, they and their organizations can receive the full intended benefits of this protracted break.

Sabbaticals must be at least three consecutive months in length. Awardees are required to begin their sabbatical within twelve months of the award notification date.

Sabbatical awardees will be asked to submit a brief report within two months of completing their sabbatical. Awardees are also expected to participate in an O2 Initiatives-organized peer network with fellow program alumni.

For questions about eligibility or program requirements, please visit our FAQ page. For additional questions, contact Emily Cohen Raskin, Executive Director.