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Executive Director, National Children's Museum

POSITION:                           Executive Director

ORGANIZATION:                National Children’s Museum

REPORTS TO:                    Board of Directors

LOCATION:                         Washington, DC                 

START DATE:                     As soon as possible



The National Children’s Museum has been inspiring and educating children between the ages of 2 -14 and their families since 1974.   Founded as the Capital Children’s Museum, the museum was renamed in 2003 when it was designated by the US Congress as the National Children’s Museum. The museum then closed in 2004 at its H Street, NE location, and began searching for a suitable centrally located new home in downtown Washington, DC. The museum leadership focused on building a nationally-recognized cultural and educational institution designed especially for children. NCM served over 300,000 kids and families from December 2012 to January 2015 both at its temporary museum facilities located at National Harbor in Maryland and its “Museum without Walls” Programs.  It has also been the featured participant in White House Easter Egg Roll for eight consecutive years. 

In late 2014, NCM decided to return to DC and during the transition, it has operated as a “Museum on the Move”, serving the region through community and school outreach programs, traveling exhibits and partnerships with other organizations.  After many months of searching, NCM is in the final stages of negotiation to lease in the heart of the downtown business district.

NCM is currently led by a deeply committed and engaged Board of Directors comprised of business and civic leaders from the DC area, who have been working diligently on all aspects of bringing the National Children’s Museum back to DC.  They have successfully secured $1 million in initial seed funding from the District of Columbia to support the preliminary architectural and exhibit design requirements. The Board is actively interviewing general contractors, exhibit design consultants, and fundraising consultants. 

The museum is on a very exciting and aggressive schedule with plans to open to the public before the end of 2017 or in early 2018. The primary focus at the Museum will be to develop programs around STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). The initial exhibit plan includes five major areas where children will learn how to care about themselves, their neighborhood, their world, and explore the universe through exhibits that expand their formal education and reinforce the national educational goals.

Exhibits will be designed in consultation with experts in the application of 21st-century interactive technologies adapted for young learners.  The goal is to inspire children at a young age through hands on play and imagination, which practical experience has shown to be the best way to develop and retain knowledge.  The resulting experiential learning will provide compelling reasons for parents to bring their children back again and again.

In the exhibit concept, each area is designed to inspire creativity among children 2-14 through the active exploration of the world in which they live:

  • Up in the Air: Exploration of Space - A kid focused partnership with a major aerospace corporation.
  • If You Build It, they Will Come – A construction zone where kids learn about engineering while having fun building cityscapes.
  • Medicine and Me – A hands on learning experience focused on medicine, diagnostics, and healthcare
  • Act One –An Early Learner’s Gallery for toddlers
  • Cultural Immersive/traveling exhibit area – NCM has an opportunity to work in partnership with the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival and with other Children’s Museums around the country to feature world class exhibits.



Although there are 370 children’s museums around the country, none are located in Washington, DC. By returning to the District, the NCM Board believes the museum can better serve a larger number of children and families across the metropolitan area as well as tourists who have been the museum’s traditional visitors.  The desire is to create a compelling and inclusive experience.

While there are broad exhibit topic areas identified, there is significant work that is required to ensure that the exhibits are designed in a manner that will inspire innovation in an experiential learning enviroment. Embracing technology and ensuring that it is used as a tool for innovation is a top priority.

The initial funding allows for the groundwork to begin on the planning of the new museum.  However, there will be a need to raise additional significant support from donors to ensure that the experience is first rate and can be maintained over the years. It is anticipated that NCM will commence at $24 million capital campaign, which will include a $7 million endowment.

As fundraising develops, identifying and hiring key staff to support the start up efforts and ultimately be a part of the team long-term will be necessary.  Once the museum is fully operational, it is anticipated that the ongoing operating budget will be approximately $5M.  The operating budget will be met through a combination of earned revenue, philanthropic support as well as public funding.

With a site identified and initial funding secured, there is now an opportunity to recruit an entreprenurial and dynamic executive director to work with the Board, exhibit designers, and other contractors to take the museum from concept to reality. 



The Executive Director is charged with carrying out the vision and mission under the direction of the Board of Directors.  Together with the Board, the Executive Director will be responsible for overseeing the start-up of the museum and ensuring the health and vitality of the organization long-term.  This will include setting its strategic direction, running a fiscally sound operation, and creating an educationally rich enviornment that insprires, enlightens, and engages children and their families.

Major Duties and Responsibilities


  • Oversee all aspects of the museum’s development including working with a range of contractors such as project managers, exhibit designers, architects, builders, and government officials,
  • Ensure all exhibits and experiences are created in line with the NCM vision.
  • Drive a strategic planning process and lead the implementation of the plan.
  • Develop, maintain, and support a strong Board of Directors: support board involvement with strategic direction for fundraising and organizational development.
  • Actively engage and energize NCM volunteers, board members, partnering organizations, and funders.
  • Regularly evaluate NCM’s initiatives, to measure successes that can be effectively communicated to the board, funders, and other constituents.

Fundraising & Communications:

  • Work closely with the Board to raise the funding necessary to complete the build out of the new museum space, and then to support to the ongoing operations of the fully running museum including creating an endowment.
  • Ensure that the organization communicates effectively with its donors,  has an active web presence, and active social media participation.
  • Create and sustain relationships with major donors and funders.
  • Be the face of the organization with partners, funders, the media and governmental entities.
  • Build and maintain relationships with other non-profit, for-profit and public sector leaders.
  • Establish and maintain brand standards.


  • Implement and monitor the operational plan keeping under review the structure of the organization and making proposals for appropriate changes.
  • Be responsible for the final decision making in the selection, hiring, firing and on-going development of the museum’s staff.
  • Ensure that, in accordance with the strategic direction agreed with the board of directors, an annual budget and business strategy are prepared and implemented.
  • Oversee and understand the financial condition of NCM.
  • Manage the museum efficiently and effectively on a day-to-day basis.
  • Delegate management tasks and monitor their implementation.
  • Make professional, managerial and organizational decisions based on informed judgements.
  • Think creatively to anticipate and solve problems.
  • Engage in the systematic and rigorous self-evaluation of the museum and work closely with the board of directors to ensure that effective self-evaluation informs the organization’s improvement priorities.
  • Understand and manage risk.



The National Children’s Museum is seeking a skilled museum professional with a track record of leadership, business management, innovation and sound financial control at a senior level.  The ideal candidate will have a personal history of taking a project from concept to completion. A demonstrable knowledge and interest in the development of young people is essential.  S/he will have a deep commitment to the NCM mission and ability to create experiences that address STEAM.

Experience of growing an organization via operational and philanthropic income generation is needed.  A track record of building effective relationships with external partners, particularly individual donors, business and government at the highest level will be a significant advantage. Evidence of managing and motivating a complex organization as well as success in managing board level relations are essential.  A successful fundraising track record is necessary.

The qualified candidate will have a comprehensive understanding of business risks and its management and control. An ability to understand financial statements in order to adequately plan, monitor and evaluate NCM finances is required.  Comfort in maintaining a management style that is collaborative to ensure that decision making is conducted in a transparent process with active participation of the NCM Board.

The candidate must have the ability to work with a diverse range of stakeholders and be able to articulate the museum’s work to opinion formers and the media as required.  The ability to give clear, effective, sensitive and consistent leadership with good attention to detail is a must.  The candidate must possess excellent communication, negotiation, and advocacy skills with the ability and presence to represent the museum in public.  Strong personal credibility and an ability to build effective relationships at all levels is essential.  Integrity, resilience, passion, self-direction and drive, optimist and a well developed sense of realism is required. An action-oriented, entrepreneurial, adaptable, and innovative approach is essential.

With strong business skills and entrepreneurial flair, the desirable candidate would have the ability to develop further in the role.  A passionate and engaging public speaker with the vision and intellect to grasp the strategic challenges and opportunities facing an organizational re-launch is highly desired.

An undergraduate degree from a four-year college or university, or equivalent, is required, as is the willingness to keep knowledge up to date and develop in areas relating to this role.  A Postgraduate degree in Museum/Nonprofit Management Education or another relevant subject matter is preferred.


For more information, please see our website at or the National Children’s Museum website at




Noetic Search
150 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 2800
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 863-8577

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