The Richmond Forum

Executive Director, Richmond, VA


Mission: To present powerful voices so Richmond can learn. To empower local voices so Richmond can lead.

Vision: By elevating public discourse throughout the Richmond Region, we can make our community a better place for all of its residents and a model for the nation.

The Richmond Forum today is the largest nonprofit speaker series in the country, presenting five programs per season in Richmond's Altria Theater a historic landmark in itself, nestled in the middle of the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. The Forum, featuring nationally and internationally known speakers who are the foremost authorities in their fields, promotes a broader understanding of world and international affairs, current events, arts and culture, business and the economy, science and technology, and faith and values. Each season provides a mix of programs designed to educate and stimulate patrons.

Over 230 distinguished individuals have participated in The Forum since its inception in 1987. From former US presidents to foreign heads of state to leaders from the arts, sciences, and business speakers come to The Forum to address the Richmond community and foster civil discourse about the important issues of the day. In addition, The Forum is increasingly known nationally for producing programs that are innovative, compelling, and often "one and only" events. Forum subscribers more than 4,400 patrons who attend each program are very passionate about the series, and the subscription renewal rate routinely exceeds 90 percent.

Richmond has a long history of engaging with the difficult issues of the time. Richmonders have long understood that the ability to speak with power and confidence while civilly articulating and debating diverse ideas and points of view is critical to a functioning democracy and a successful life.

In that tradition, The Forum and its partners believe the region's students should have access to strong speech and debate programs in their public schools. In 2018, The Richmond Forum launched the Richmond Region Speech and Debate Initiative by awarding grants to regional schools to help elevate existing high school speech and debate teams and start new ones. During the 2019-2020 school year, the initiative continued its rapid growth and is an integral and important part of The Forum's current strategic plan.

The Richmond Forum has evolved into a cultural and educational beacon dedicated to serving the broad and diverse population of Richmond and the surrounding communities.

In this age of COVID-19, The Richmond Forum remains committed to presenting its slate of speakers in the best and safest manner possible. All 2020-2021 season subscriptions will be for online viewing and will include full access to their programs with Chef Jose Andres, former UK Prime Minister Theresa May, love and relationship therapist Esther Perel, social justice attorney Bryan Stevenson, and Street Symphony founder Vijay Gupta. Each program will be streamed live, and subscribers will also have access to a recording of the program for five days following the event. During the live event, patrons will be able to submit questions for speakers and interact with other subscribers. As a nonprofit community forum, and with a limited number of online subscriptions available, sales are limited to Central Virginia residents within a 50-mile radius of the Altria Theater.

The Richmond Forum (www.RichmondForum.org) is governed by a 30-member Board of Directors and has an annual budget of $2.0 million. The Forum is managed by a full-time staff of four and partners with outsourced production crews and approximately 72 volunteers on the day of the program.


Reporting to the Board, the Executive Director will provide leadership, stewardship, and direction for The Richmond Forum, maintain its current commitment to excellence, and translate the organization's strategic goals and objectives into actionable plans and strategies. The Executive Director will provide day-to-day management and have oversight over all programmatic, educational, operational, and production-related functions while ensuring that The Forum's flagship speaker series remains compelling, thought provoking, and entertaining.

Embracing the rich legacy of The Forum its programs, structure, mission, and base of support the Executive Director will strive to enhance its presence and relevance. This person will provide the leadership and vision necessary to explore ways to expand access and the breadth of programming and present a range of speakers who might attract and engage new audiences in ways that reflect the richness and diversity of the greater Richmond community.

The Executive Director will be the principal spokesperson and host for The Forum and will often serve as moderator, as appropriate. The Executive Director will be expected to take a lead role in fundraising, including donor/sponsor cultivation and stewardship activities. This person will have oversight of the production and technical elements of each event to ensure the success of the speaker and a memorable experience for all guests, including those in simulcast spaces.

To achieve these goals, the Executive Director must quickly gain the trust and respect of community members across social and political spectrums, manage The Forum as an inclusive organization, demonstrate his or her commitment to strengthening its outreach, engagement, and programming, and maintain The Forum's role as an important voice within Richmond's civic and cultural communities.


The Executive Director will lead The Forum and emphasize the following institutional priorities as articulated in its recently developed strategic plan:

  • Broaden community access and engage more diverse audiences;

  • Extend the conversation beyond the theater and beyond the evening's program (events that echo);

  • Model and teach civil discourse throughout the community;

  • Affirm the vital role that elevated discourse plays in making the community better for all.

Additionally, the Executive Director will give priority to and have responsibility for the following:

  • Research and develop ideas for high-caliber, timely, relevant, marketable, and innovative programs for each season; in consultation with the Program Committee, assemble season lineups that are diverse in subject matter, perspective, and speakers;

  • Understand the business of The Forum its budget, resources, partnerships, and other sources of support; establish a baseline for success across all programs, and ensure that policies and practices are current and in adherence with best practices;

  • Engage and gain the support of the Board; find ways to bring forth their best ideas and efforts; manage expectations and keep Board members well informed and up to date on The Forum's institutional and fiscal standing; strengthen and ensure that Board committees maintain a collaborative role in decision making and strategy;

  • Quickly solidify The Forum's base of support; identify and cultivate new donors; nurture the philanthropic interests of those donors and sponsors with a greater capacity for giving who could enthusiastically support the organization at higher levels; ensure that subscribers are recognized and valued for their support; clearly demonstrate The Forum's appreciation of sponsors;

  • Enhance speech and debate as a core component of The Forum's programmatic offerings; work closely with educators, coaches, and volunteers to expand its reach and quality;

  • Manage and supervise The Forum's staff a small yet impactful group of multitaskers committed to excellence; provide appropriate direction and oversight of all activities; ensure that well-defined goals, clear responsibilities, and levels of accountability are in place;

  • Assume ultimate responsibility for the organization's brand, reputation, success, and financial security; continue to raise awareness of the organization and its programs through external relations, publications, and the press and social media.


The Executive Director will be a creative and detail-oriented leader who strongly believes in the mission of The Richmond Forum. Additionally, he or she will be or have:

  • Proven leadership, managerial, organizational, problem-solving, and strategic planning capabilities, ideally in a highly collaborative and hands-on role in a public or nonprofit setting; significant private-sector experience may also be considered; experience aligning strategic plans with organizational capacity and fiscal resources; financial acumen with the ability to oversee the budget of a nonprofit institution;

  • Vision and the ability to grow an organization in size, impact, and visibility; able to manage multiple priorities and audience engagement strategies ranging from the broad and strategic to the narrow and tactical; the ability to understand the subtleties of motivating both staff and volunteer leadership;

  • Experience working with directors and director committees or serving on a not-for-profit board is a plus; experience working within a similar cultural institution known for quality and excellence, while not required, is also desirable;

  • An effective communicator and spokesperson with the presence, media skills, and credibility to serve as the public face of The Forum, including on stage;

  • A persuasive fundraiser with the ability to develop and execute development strategies and connect with and maintain strong relationships with current and untapped philanthropic resources;

  • Demonstrated fluency with technology; the ability and comfort in navigating and leveraging digital content in promoting an institution, reaching diverse audiences, and enhancing The Forum's social media presence and member engagement platforms;

  • Previous production experience (broadcast, video, or stage) with an understanding of video, lighting, editing, audio, staging, directorial skills, etc. would also be a plus, or, at the very least, an affinity for those outsourced elements of presenting live, large-scale public events or presentations; able to work directly with speakers and their teams onsite to ensure a high-quality experience, with the ability to provide feedback and direction to speakers as needed.


The ideal candidate will exemplify a high degree of integrity, trust, versatility, and social and emotional intelligence. He or she will also be or have the following:

  • A lover of great ideas with a broad range of topical interests personally; a disruptive thinker someone who can see around the corner, spot compelling trends and interests, cultivate thoughts, and nurture discourse;

  • A well-balanced local perspective or a willingness to develop one;

  • A proven commitment to the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access to the success of The Forum;

  • An entrepreneurial and far-sighted leader who leads with enthusiasm able to inspire and instill in others confidence, energy, good feeling, and collaboration; able to make tough decisions when necessary;someone who is viewed and respected as an advocate for The Forum and its potential;

  • A strong work ethic; able to manage multiple priorities and engagement strategies ranging from the broad and strategic to the narrow and tactical without loss of focus;

  • Humble yet decisive; apolitical and diplomatic; a person who can negotiate and navigate change graciously; proactive and fair maintaining on all fronts a sense of continuity, good humor, thoughtfulness, and common purpose.

Please send application expression of interest letter and CV or nomination(s) to Mark Tarnacki and Addie Jones at TheRichmondForum@PhillipsOppenheim.com.