Executive Director, Right Question Institute

Job Locations US-MA-Cambridge
Posted Date 4 months ago(12/16/2020 8:38 PM)
Job ID
# of Openings
Civil Rights, Social Action, and Advocacy
Executive Search
Location : Name
Right Question Institute


The Right Question Institute (RQI) seeks a collaborative and strategic Executive Director to lead the RQI team in executing its mission to make democracy work better by teaching a strategy that allows anyone, no matter their educational, income, or literacy level, to learn to ask better questions and participate more effectively in decisions that affect them. The new leader will collaborate closely with RQI’s program leaders, founding co-directors, and board to set the strategic direction of the organization and to ensure its financial and organizational sustainability.


About RQI

The Right Question Institute occupies a unique place in the landscape of nonprofit organizations. Over the past 30 years, RQI staff have created and continue to refine a transformative educational strategy that makes it possible for all people to learn to ask better questions and participate more effectively in key decisions that affect them.


The Right Question Institute provides simple, dynamic, and powerful methods for improving teaching and learning, increasing voter engagement, fostering self-advocacy skills in a range of settings including the legal system, and strengthening patient participation in their own health care. RQI’s methods are used across a wide range of fields by thousands of schools, nonprofit programs and services. RQI has received strong funding support from small and large foundations, consulting earned income, book royalties, and generous private donors.


RQI’s innovative methods are delivered through educational institutions, service organizations, public agencies, community-based organizations, and health care providers all over the country and across the world. RQI’s materials, trainings, web-based resources, and consulting services provide a remarkably cost-effective way for organizations to strengthen the ability of people they work with to make their voices heard and advocate effectively for themselves, their families and their communities.


RQI envisions a vibrant democracy in which all citizens– even those farthest from power– can effectively advocate for themselves, their families, and their communities. Individual citizens confidently participating in their common and ordinary encounters with public agencies and services will produce examples of what RQI calls “Microdemocracy,” a new starting point for democratic action and the cornerstone of a strong foundation for a more just society.


Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, RQI has an annual budget of $1.4M. RQI employs a core staff of nine and is supported by a cross-sector, nine-person board of directors, college and post-graduate interns, consultants, and other professionals in the field. RQI values its intentional and thoughtful organizational culture, which is characterized by collaboration, inclusivity, openness, mutual respect, and a shared commitment to innovative, iterative thinking centered on learning and continuous improvement. RQI strives to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.


The Opportunity

The hiring of a newly-created Executive Director role represents an important moment in RQI’s history. RQI is a strong organization that has a proven track record and significant recognition for its work. Staff members are experienced, highly competent self-starters who share a passion for RQI’s mission and genuinely enjoy working together. The board of directors is also deeply passionate about RQI and invests significant time and financial resources to support the mission and programs.


Having built and sustained the organization for three decades, co-founders Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana are eager to step back from organizational management so that they can fully focus on advancing the thought leadership and public argument for RQI’s groundbreaking ideas and practical methods for creating a more just and equitable democracy. RQI believes that in order to create a healthier democracy we need to ensure that all people can make their voices heard and have a say in decisions that affect them. The work begins with more students learning to think for themselves in the classroom and continues with strengthening the ability of all people, no matter their level of education or income, to advocate for themselves and hold decision-makers accountable. Dan and Luz are excited for the upcoming transition, and they look forward to welcoming a new leader who will bring the skills and capabilities that RQI needs to ensure long term sustainability.


This is a unique opportunity for an energetic, collaborative, and strategic leader to play an important role in advancing the shared vision for RQI and the impact it can have in communities around the world. Through a focus on strategic planning, fundraising, business development, and organizational growth, the incoming Executive Director will add their complementary skill set to RQI’s existing strengths and assets to help the entire organization set and achieve its shared goals.


Role of the Executive Director

The Executive Director (ED) will bring a balanced approach to leadership, combining an understanding of, and connection to, RQI’s core work with key strengths in organizational growth, strategy, and development. The ED will be inspired and motivated by RQI’s mission and able to speak in a compelling way about the work and impact, while also bringing strategic focus and business acumen to the organization. The ideal candidate is a collaborative and team-oriented leader who values process and relationship building and seeks input at all levels in planning and decision-making.


Reporting to the board of directors, the Executive Director will be responsible and accountable for overall management of the organization. They will oversee operations and drive strategy, framing, and focus, while preserving and nurturing RQI’s culture of personal growth and mutual support. Using a collaborative, inclusive, and responsive approach to staff supervision, the ED will work with RQI’s senior staff team to jointly establish goals and provide resources and needed support to achieve results. Similarly, the ED will work in partnership with the co-founders to successfully navigate their transition from broad organizational leadership to new roles focused on theory development and program delivery and to ensure the success of the ED in the role as RQI’s organizational leader.


The Executive Director will work collaboratively with staff and board to set strategic direction and lead the organization as it implements plans, advances its mission, and launches to a new level of impact. The Executive Director will have responsibility for the following areas:


Strategic Planning and Organizational Leadership/Development

  • Lead a collaborative process to set strategy and priorities
  • Define, manage, and lead projects and specific steps to implement the strategic plan
  • Responsible for supervision of staff
  • Work with staff to set goals and ensure they have the resources they need to succeed
  • Support staff development, provide feedback and coaching, and evaluate staff performance
  • Maintain a healthy, inclusive, positive culture that supports and strengthens the programmatic work of RQI and facilitates trust and open feedback

Fundraising and Business Development

  • Partner with staff and board to secure RQI’s annual budget of $1.4M by developing and executing a plan that includes earned income, corporate, foundation, individual, government, and event funding streams
  • Identify, develop, and select prospective partnerships for expansion and support of programmatic efforts
  • Work closely with the Director of Operations and the Senior Communications Associate on the planning and implementation of fundraising efforts, including their work with volunteers.

Program Management

  • Work with program managers to maintain the implementation of highly effective programs, including planning, marketing, and evaluation

Administration and Operations

  • Work with the team to develop and deploy systems and infrastructure to support consistent program delivery, efficient administrative operations, and legal/regulatory compliance
  • Supervise, collaborate and coordinate with the Director of Operations to strengthen internal and external efforts to ensure success of program, fundraising, communications and related matters
  • Provide input and support to the Director of Operations as they manage day-to-day operations, intra-organizational communications and collaboration, budget and project planning, including facilities and IT
  • Coordinate with Director of Operations and external partner (Insource) to support Human Resources function; lead activities related to the recruitment, onboarding, and development of new staff

Financial Management

  • Oversee day-to-day financial activity and transactions with the Director of Operations and external partner (Insource)
  • Develop an annual plan and budget, ensuring consistency and accuracy of regular reporting
  • Responsible for audit, financial projections, and planning

Communications and External Visibility

  • Serve as an external spokesperson for RQI with key partners to increase visibility and develop essential relationships
  • Work with co-founders to raise the profile of programmatic staff
  • Supervise the communications program led by the Senior Communications Associate, including online platforms, website, and network and donor communications

Board Relations/Board Development

  • Partner with board chair to provide regular reports and progress updates
  • Work with board to ensure strong fiscal heath, effective governance, and support of organizational mission and goals


  • Passion and motivation for RQI’s mission; alignment with RQI values
  • Team builder and team leader with experience and skills in staff management/development and in leading collaborative decision making; experience leading a nonprofit organization desired
  • Experience leading strategic thinking, planning, and implementation with proven skill in breaking down organizational objectives into practical plans with milestones and outcomes
  • Proven development and business acumen; experience managing budgets ($1M+) with an understanding of sound nonprofit business and financial practices
  • Eagerness for fundraising and business development, with strong networking skills
  • Excellent writing and communication skills, with comfort serving as public spokesperson
  • Experience working effectively and collaboratively at all levels and with a wide range of people and organizations to build relationships and trust, including staff, board, and stakeholders
  • Experience in a relevant field such as civil rights/social action/advocacy, community improvement and capacity, or education is preferred
  • Demonstrates a track record and deep commitment to social and racial justice; values and cultivates diversity, equity, and inclusion

In addition to the above qualifications, key attributes include:

  • Collaborative
  • Strategic
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Organized
  • Flexible
  • Consistent
  • Empathetic
  • Integrity and Trust
  • Patient
  • Sense of Humor


Application Guidelines

This executive search is being conducted by TSNE MissionWorks with consultants Jodi Dowling and Katie Barnett. Electronic submissions are preferred. All submissions will be acknowledged and are confidential within the search committee.


Candidates should include a resume and a cover letter that describes how their qualifications and experience match the needs and mission of RQI, along with salary expectations and how they learned of the position. Applications will be accepted until the position has been filled. The approximate salary range for this position is $115,000 - 135,000. RQI also offers a generous benefits package that includes medical, dental and vision insurance, long term disability, paid time off, and a retirement savings plan.


RQI actively seeks a diverse pool of candidates and welcomes people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, abilities, gender identities, religions, ages, and sexual orientations to apply.

RQI will not discriminate in its employment practices due to an applicant’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin or ancestry, age, sexual orientation, gender identification, genetic information, veteran or disability status or any other factor prohibited by law.


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