2024 Board Candidate: Karen Sandler

Hi everyone, a few people have asked me to run for the board, so here I go!

Name: Karen Sandler
Email: karen@gnome.org
Organization affiliations: Software Freedom Conservancy, Columbia Law School (Lecturer-In-Law), also on the board of the Spritely Institute and a non-uploading Debian Developer

Here’s the tl;dr of my application:

* I am a former ED of GNOME Foundation and an ongoing contributor, so I know a lot of what goes into running the org, and I know many of the community members very well
* I've got over a decade of experience running free software nonprofits
* I've had significant experience applying for and managing grants
* I have a lot of experience with governance issues
* I love GNOME and care deeply about software freedom!

I’m proud to be a contributor to GNOME since around 2007, I think, starting with pro bono legal help to the project, then expanding to marketing and other strategic work.

I was Executive Director of the GF from 2011 to 2014, when I became Executive Director of Software Freedom Conservancy, which I previously helped found in 2006 (I remained a volunteer for SFC while working for GF, and a volunteer or GF while working for SFC). I served as a Director of GF for a while but even after that I continued to contribute as a volunteer until the present day. Most of my contributions have been legal and strategic, but I also have helped with marketing and I served on all of the ED search committees since my departure. I also had the honor of being the “voice of GNOME” in the release videos for a while. (One of my favorite things was someone criticizing one of the videos, saying that GNOME should have picked a voice that sounded less polished and an obvious voice actor, like it was an Apple ad! This was after my stint as ED and lots of other advocacy and it just made me laugh.) I feel a bit silly mentioning it, but I do have a technical background, having been a coder and earning an engineering degree before I went to law school, since I know that matters to some people. I’ve run audits and have financial legal experience as well.

I love GNOME, and am an avid (and vocal!) user. I want to be up front that I am very busy. So I can make time for the board meetings on top of my current legal and strategic contributions, but not for a lot more hands on work. I do have significant experience running non-profits now, and significant experience applying for and managing grant funding (in my work with SFC, we’ve had millions of dollars in grant funding). I also co-run Outreachy and have experience with diversity initiatives. I have a good amount of experience with Codes of Conduct, too.

I feel strongly that GF should stay close to GNOME’s interests, that we should stay true to our public good mission and free software principles, and that we should do so with as much transparency as possible.

And, in case you don’t know anything about me, I’m super passionate about software freedom due in part to the fact that I have an implanted medical device with proprietary software in it that has opened my eyes to how critical it is that we as a public have control over our critical software. Using that metaphor has been particularly useful to advocate for free software, and I have given many talks about it. I see software freedom, and copyleft in particular, to be a Right to Repair issue.

Looking forward to this process!


This candidacy is lacking a +1 from an existing Foundation member, @karen, would you mind making sure someone will acknowledge it within 24h please?

I don’t know if it is valid for me to endorse Karen since I am also running for the board, but I am so happy to see Karen running!

1 Like

I think it is not. Hilariously, I was about to +1 you when I realized I couldn’t!


Happy to vouch and +1 Karen’s candidacy. She is a tireless advocate for software freedom and “walks the talk” of using free software in her everyday life.

She also brings a wealth of knowledge about US and nonprofit law that is not currently represented on the Board, and would be very much helpful, especially as the Foundation considers more extensive strategic fiscal sponsorship and financial support of community developers.

She would be an invaluable asset to the Board, especially at this critical phase of our community’s growth.


Strong endorsement of Karen’s candidacy!

1 Like

Hi Karen, and thanks for running for the board!

Your past involvement in the Foundation, your ED role at SFC (another 501c3) and your general expertise on everything legal makes me very enthusiastic about your candidacy! I’m sure you would make a fantastic board member, and probably one I would have loved to work with back when I was on the board :slight_smile:

I understand why you mention it, and I’m sad our community makes you feel like you have to. Your added value here is particularly not on technical topics, because we can all agree that we have enough of that expertise.


Foundation board members are not required to be conversant with GNOME technology or have hands-on coding. I’m a terrible coder. Directors should have a range of strong soft skills - they are in charge of running an organization not a codebase and will be called upon to deal with legal, financial, and social issues.

Also, YAY KAREN!!! :smiley: +1k from me. :smiley:

1 Like