Eligibility & Selection Criteria

The O2 Sabbatical Award has an open application process. We appreciate the time and effort required to apply for the award, and we strongly recommend reviewing the eligibility requirements, program requirements, and selection criteria below before beginning your application.

If you have specific questions about your eligibility and fit for the program we encourage you to contact O2 Program Officer, Allison Domicone  (email [email protected]). We’ll be happy to talk through it with you. You can also find additional information on our FAQ page.

O2 Initiatives is committed to advancing race equity and strives to create a network of sabbatical awardees that is representative of the rich identities and communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. We strongly encourage executive directors who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to apply.

Eligibility Requirements

Candidates must:

  • Be a nonprofit executive director with a proven track record of outstanding leadership within and beyond the walls of their organization
  • Have served in their current executive director role for at least four 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) and intend to remain in the sector for the foreseeable future. We respectfully ask those who are actively planning to retire or move out of the nonprofit sector not to apply for the O2 Sabbatical Award.
  • Be employed full-time at their organization
  • Be a full-time resident in the Bay Area

The candidate’s employing organization must:

  • Be a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Fiscally sponsored organizations are eligible to apply. Government agencies and schools are not eligible.
  • Be headquartered in San Francisco, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County
  • Have at least five full-time, paid employees, including the executive director
  • Demonstrate a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion in their programs and internal operations (e.g., leadership and staff are representative of the communities they serve and programs are informed by the community)
  • Recognize the candidate’s sabbatical as an opportunity to create more distributed and sustainable leadership
  • Provide board endorsement for the executive director’s 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 a need for financial assistance to underwrite the executive director’s leave

Program Requirements

  • Sabbaticals must be at least three consecutive months in length and begin within twelve months of the award notification. We recommend that organizations spend at least four to six months planning for the sabbatical.
  • Sabbatical awardees must take a true break from work. Sabbaticals are a well-deserved time for rest and renewal; 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.
  • Awardees are required to cease contact with their organizations (except under extreme circumstances) and disengage from all professional activities during the sabbatical. This can be daunting, but sabbatical alumni (O2 and our peer programs) consistently agree that it is critical to achieve the full impact for executive directors and their organizations.
  • An existing senior staff member, or a team of senior staff members, must assume leadership in the executive director’s absence. The organization may not hire an individual outside the staff to serve as the interim executive director.
  • Sabbatical awardees will be asked to submit a brief report within two months of completing their sabbatical.
  • To continue to build our vibrant O2 Peer Network, we request that all awardees participate in alumni opportunities.

Selection Criteria

If candidate, organizational, and program requirements are met, the selection committee will evaluate each application based on the following criteria:

Candidate leadership

  • How has the candidate demonstrated outstanding leadership within and beyond the four walls of their organization?
  • How will the candidate contribute to an active and diverse O2 Peer Network?

Capacity-building potential and organizational readiness

  • How do the candidate and organization view the executive director’s sabbatical as an opportunity to bolster leadership capacity throughout the organization? How is the organization well-positioned to take advantage of this opportunity?
  • Does the organization have a clear plan for interim leadership and organizational continuity during the executive director’s sabbatical?
  • How supportive is the Board of the sabbatical opportunity?

Candidate readiness 

  • How does the candidate demonstrate that this is a compelling time, both personally and professionally, to fully step away and recharge?

“What the sabbatical opened up for me is the ability to approach and experience work differently. This is extraordinarily helpful as we continue our growth as an organization, which requires a very different focus from me as a leader.”