When the Wikimedia Foundation was first established, the head of the
organization was assigned the title of Executive Director (ED). In the US,
this is the standard title for non-profit leaders, and made sense for the
organization at the time.
This week, at our Board meeting, we made a decision to change to this
convention. We resolved to change Katherine Maher’s title to Chief
Executive Officer (CEO) and Executive Director. She retains the title of
Executive Director, and is also now the CEO of the Foundation. She can use
either, or both, titles to describe her position.
This was an easy decision to make, for a number of reasons.
As our movement has grown in the world, we’ve found that the title of ED is
not as easily understood outside the United States. As a Board with many
non-US people, many of us already used the term CEO to describe Katherine’s
responsibilities. While still an English-language term, it is a very common
term for many global organizations.
The CEO title is increasingly common in US non-profits as well, especially
larger ones. This is increasingly considered best practice, as a way to
communicate that the work of non-profit organizations is as serious,
complex, and worthy of respect as that of for-profit organizations. For
example, Creative Commons, one of our closest allies, uses the title of CEO.
As the Foundation already uses the convention of “chief officer” for the
leaders of its internal departments (Chief Financial Officer, Chief
Technology Officer), it also makes sense. An executive director would be
the most senior director, whereas a chief executive officer is the most
senior of the officers.
The Board’s Human Resources Committee recommended this change and reviewed
the details. As this is an update to Katherine’s title, and not a change in
her duties as an officer, it does not require an update to the Bylaws or a
The Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees is very supportive of this
change, as we believe this title better reflects the scope of Katherine’s
duties over Executive Director alone. This will better support her work
with global partners and leaders around the world, helping to share our
vision and supporting the strategic direction of Wikimedia in new markets.
Katherine’s job is not changing in any other sense.
María Sefidari Huici
Chair of the Board
Wikimedia Foundation <https://wikimediafoundation.org/>