Foundation Board appoints Katherine Maher as Executive Director

Photo by Victor Grigas, CC BY-SA 4.0.

It is our great pleasure to share that during the Board meeting at Wikimania 2016 in Esino Lario, we unanimously voted to appoint Katherine Maher as Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. This is effective as of our resolution dated Thursday, 23 June.

Katherine served as interim Executive Director for the past three months, during which time she consistently and repeatedly demonstrated the kind of leadership our organization needs. She is deeply committed to our movement’s values, and brings expertise in civic technology and international development that will be an asset to the Wikimedia Foundation and the movement.

We came to this conclusion after an intensive discovery process led by the ED search committee. Our decision was also informed by direct feedback from staff and community, and our own experience working closely with Katherine.

In March, we assembled an Executive Director search committee consisting of four Board members1 who were chosen to represent different perspectives and capacities.2 Additionally, the Board asked the Foundation’s Chief Advancement Officer Lisa Gruwell to represent the executive team, and Foundation staff member Katie Horn was selected by her peers as someone who could represent staff perspectives. The committee was charged with keeping the process on track and on time, engaging important stakeholders, and facilitating transparency in communications. Their first tasks were to identify a search firm, and define the position description. You can review the committee’s updates on Meta.

The committee recruited Viewcrest Advisors,3 to identify our leadership needs and design a hiring process. Kathleen Yazbak of Viewcrest worked with the committee to conduct interviews with every Foundation department, the executive, the Board, and nearly 20 additional one-on-one interviews with staff. Kathleen attended the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin, collecting feedback from community members and affiliates. The committee launched a community survey in June, receiving more than 1,600 responses about the qualities needed in the next ED; they also asked for feedback on Meta. Taking all of this into account, the transition team developed a profile and requirements for the next Executive Director that reflect our values and our communities.

Throughout this process, the Board and the transition team received very clear and often unsolicited feedback from both staff and community members that Katherine embodies the values of our movement and the traits needed in our next ED. This feedback was only reinforced by the latest Foundation engagement survey results, which showed a strong shift toward renewed trust in leadership. After taking this all into account, and considering what the organization needs at this moment of transition, we moved to appoint Katherine now.

In just three months as interim ED, Katherine worked with the organization and community to make huge strides in management, execution, and transparency. She brought much-needed clarity to our strategic direction, and mobilized the organization to clearly communicate that direction through this year’s annual plan.

After her appointment, she worked with the leadership team to swiftly identify the organization’s priorities during the transition period and execute against them, setting ambitious but reachable targets. Under Katherine’s leadership, the Foundation submitted its annual plan to the Funds Dissemination Committee, leaving ample time for community feedback and discussion.

Katherine is an excellent fit for our movement. She is longtime advocate for global open communities, culture, and technology. She was the Foundation’s Chief Communications Officer from April 2014 until she was appointed interim ED in March. Throughout her career she has focused on freedom of expression, access to information, and digital rights; supporting the efforts of people around the world to deepen participation, advance transparency, and strengthen their communities through her work with UNICEF, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and the World Bank.  If you don’t already know Katherine, you can learn more about her on Meta.

“Katherine exhibits all of the most important attributes we found will be required for this role,” said Alice Wiegand, board member and Chair of the search committee. “Her inclusive, collaborative leadership style connects people and gives space for many perspectives at the table. She has a track-record of transparent and effective communications, and is passionately committed to our values and community. We are thrilled to welcome her as Executive Director.”

“Our mission is vast, diverse, and inclusive, where everyone can find a home and purpose,” Katherine said. “We grow in strength with each contribution, every volunteer. We stand for freedom, transparency, independence, and openness. We are driven by an insatiable curiosity for the world around us, and a fundamental belief in the power of collaboration and cooperation. I want to thank the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, the staff of the Foundation, and the Wikimedia community. I’m honored by this opportunity to serve this remarkable organization and movement, and I look forward to building our future together.”

With this appointment, we feel strongly that the Foundation has the leadership and clarity to move forward. We wish Katherine the very best in this role, and the Board looks forward to continuing to work with her.

We would also like to thank the many community members and Foundation staff who actively shared thoughtful, highly valuable feedback. Without that, we would not have been able to come to this decision.

Please join us in congratulating Katherine!


  1. Alice Wiegand (Committee Chair), Dariusz Jemielniak, Guy Kawasaki, Kelly Battles.
  2. For example, community and governance experience, appointed and community-selected seats, and US and non-US perspectives.
  3. The committee reviewed seven different firms and unanimously picked Viewcrest.

Patricio Lorente, 
Former Wikimedia Foundation Board Chair
Christophe Henner, Wikimedia Foundation Board Chair


Read further in the pursuit of knowledge

Why we must all support policy that keeps the internet open and accessible

This week, the Wikimedia Foundation was invited to provide opening remarks for the third annual Global Conference of the Internet Jurisdiction and Policy Network in Berlin, Germany. This conference represents a place for civil society, platforms, elected representatives, policymakers, and other stakeholders to come together and discuss how we can manage tensions between competing national….

Read more

Wikipedia is a mirror of the world’s gender biases

This post ran in the Los Angeles Times on 18 October 2018. When Donna Strickland won the Nobel Prize this month, she became only the third woman in history to receive the award in physics. An optical physicist at the University of Waterloo, Strickland is brilliant, accomplished and inspiring. To use Wikipedia parlance, she is very….

Read more

Help us unlock the world’s knowledge.

As a nonprofit, Wikipedia and our related free knowledge projects are powered primarily through donations.

Donate now

Contact us

Questions about the Wikimedia Foundation or our projects? Get in touch with our team.

Photo credits