Questions About Eligibility
I work for an organization that is not headquartered in San Francisco, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County. Can I apply for the O2 Sabbatical Award?
No. The O2 Sabbatical Award is limited to applicants whose organizations are headquartered in San Francisco, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County.
My organization is located in San Francisco, Alameda County, and/or Contra Costa County, but we serve communities outside our county. Can I apply for the O2 Sabbatical Award?
Yes. As long as your organization is headquartered in San Francisco, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County, you are eligible to apply.
My organization is located in San Francisco, Alameda County and/or Contra Costa County, but I live outside of these three counties. Am I eligible?
To be eligible, you must be a full-time resident of the nine-county Bay Area region. The Bay Area’s nine counties include Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.
I work for a very small nonprofit organization. Am I eligible?
We do not require that organizations fall within a particular budget size to be eligible for the O2 Sabbatical Award. Leaders of small nonprofit organizations are eligible, as long as there is strong senior management in place and at least five (preferably more) full-time, paid staff including the executive director. Applicants must demonstrate that their organization can carry on its work at a consistent level during the executive director’s absence.
I work for a very large nonprofit organization. Am I eligible?
Although we do not require that organizations fall within a particular budget size to be eligible for the O2 Sabbatical Award, the program requires that organizations receiving the sabbatical grant demonstrate financial need to underwrite the leave. Organizations with very large budgets are at a disadvantage in the selection process.
I am the director of a nonprofit school. Can I apply?
No. The program is not open to applicants working at schools or in government.
I am a senior staff member of my organization, but I’m not the executive director. Can I apply?
No. The O2 Sabbatical Award is designed solely for organizations’ executive leaders.
I will be retiring in the foreseeable future. Am I eligible?
The program is targeted to attract nonprofit leaders who will dedicate themselves to nonprofit work for years to come. As such, we respectfully ask those who are planning to retire or move out of the nonprofit sector not to apply for the O2 Sabbatical Award.
I have had a successful run as the executive director of my organization, and I am thinking of what my next career move might be. Can I apply?
The O2 Sabbatical Award is designed to provide leaders with a much-needed break so that they can return to their organizations with renewed energy. We realize, of course, that there are natural transitions in an individual’s career path and in the life of a nonprofit organization. However, we ask that people who are actively contemplating job transitions not apply for the award.
The eligibility requirements state that candidates must have worked for at least 10 years in the nonprofit sector without significant leave. I took a maternity/parental leave when my children were born. Am I eligible?
Yes. Candidates who have taken time off for maternity or parental leave are eligible to apply for the O2 Sabbatical Award.
Questions About Program Structure, Guidelines and Requirements
When will you begin accepting applications for your next award cycle?
Our next call for applications will be in June 2022. Please join our mailing list for program updates.
How many awards are granted?
O2 Initiatives grants an average of six awards per selection cycle.
What are the components of the grant award?
Grants will be made to the awardees’ organizations and include the following components:
Sabbatical Funding: $40,000
Each award includes $40,000 toward the cost of the sabbatical. Funds are intended to help replace the executive director’s salary and benefits for three months, and to cover costs associated with their sabbatical experience (such as the awardee’s travel).
Stipend for Interim Leadership: $3,000
The award also includes $3,000 to be used as a stipend for the interim leader (or leadership team) in recognition of the additional responsibilities they will assume in the executive director’s absence.
Organizational Coaching: up to 15 hours
O2 Initiatives offers up to 15 hours of coaching in partnership with CompassPoint Nonprofit Services to help organizations prepare for the sabbatical, assist interim teams during the executive director’s leave, and provide support with re-entry and learning once the sabbatical is completed.
Staff Professional Development Fund: up to $7,500
In addition, awardees will be invited to request up to $7,500 to support professional development within their organizations.
An initial $5,000 will be made available to awardees upon submission of a plan for the use of these funds. In the year following the sabbatical, an additional $2,500 will be made available in the structure of a 1:1 challenge match. O2 Initiatives will match every dollar the board raises or contributes up to $2,500.
What is the purpose of the Staff Professional Development Fund component of the grant award? How could we use those funds?
As explained above, awardees will be invited to request up to $7,500 to support professional development within their organizations. The purpose of this funding is to enable staff to take advantage of skill-enhancing activities that your organization could not otherwise afford to underwrite. Examples of possible applications of the fund include seminar and workshop fees, professional travel, visits to peer organizations, or tuition for continuing education.
Awardees are also welcome to use the fund for team learning activities, which may be especially meaningful after the sabbatical. While the O2 Sabbatical Award includes 15 hours of coaching (to be used before, during, and after the sabbatical), some organizations have found it beneficial to continue working with their coach beyond the 15 hours to further leverage post-sabbatical learning. O2 Initiatives hopes that awardees will take the opportunity to capitalize on the learning that emerges from the sabbatical, either in partnership with their coach or through other activities.
When can I take my sabbatical?
Awardees must begin their sabbaticals within 12 months of award notification. For example, the most recent cohort of awardees received notification of their awards in February 2019, and they must begin their sabbaticals by February 1, 2020.
We strongly recommend that awardees allocate at least 4-6 months of planning time before beginning sabbatical. Using our most recent cohort again as an example, this would mean beginning sabbatical no sooner than June 2019.
My organization can’t spare me for a full three months. Can I apply for a shorter sabbatical? Or can I break my sabbatical into two shorter segments?
No. The purpose of the O2 Sabbatical Award is to provide leaders with a true break from their work, which is why we require the sabbatical to be at least three consecutive months in length. While we appreciate the challenges this may present for the organization, we believe that a strong nonprofit can adequately prepare for – and manage through – the leader’s absence.
In fact, the sabbatical provides other members of the senior management team the unparalleled opportunity to take on new responsibilities and learn new skills in the executive director’s absence. This capacity-building component is an intentional goal of the O2 Sabbatical Award, and we will provide all awardees and their organizations with coaching and support before, during, and after the sabbatical.
Do I really need to cease all contact with my organization while I’m away on sabbatical?
YES—except, of course, under very extreme circumstances. The core premises of the sabbatical are (1) to give executive directors the freedom they need to truly spend time away from their jobs, and (2) to empower senior management to lead in the executive director’s absence. We know that ceasing all contact may be difficult, but experience and research show that it is critical to achieving the sabbatical’s intended benefits for the executive director and the organization.
What about my other professional commitments, like the boards and committees I sit on? Will I need to cease those activities during my sabbatical, as well?
YES. Since a core premise of the sabbatical is to give executive directors a true break from work, we expect awardees to cease all professional activities during their sabbatical.
Our organization would like to hire an outside consultant to take over my duties as Interim Director during my sabbatical. Is that acceptable?
No. A core component of the O2 Sabbatical Award program is that an existing senior staff member, or a team of senior staff members, assume leadership in the executive director’s absence.
How should awardees use their sabbatical time?
Awardees should use their sabbatical time in any way that best helps them recharge and reenergize. We encourage awardees to travel someplace they’ve always dreamed of visiting, spend time with family and loved ones, revisit old hobbies, or explore new interests.
I would like to use my sabbatical for professional development. Can I do that?
No. While we recognize that nonprofit leaders rarely have the time to participate in professional development programs, the O2 Sabbatical Award is intended to support a true break from work. For that reason, we do not allow awardees to use the sabbatical for professional development.
What are the reporting requirements for awardees?
Awardees are asked to submit a brief, informal report within two months of completing their sabbatical.