(aka Avoiding the Nonprofit
• Too many words, too little room for pictures!
Stats & Facts - Bridgespan
• As of January, 28% of U.S. nonprofit organizations
planned to make senior management hires.
– Largely the result of retirement, boomers
– New roles due to ↑ growth, complexity based on growth
in prior years.
• Vacancies past 18 months:
– 25% career progression (compared to for-profit 60-65%)
– 41% in-sector hiring
– 21% via bridging talent in from the corporate sector
• Developing leaders within the sector remains crucial.
Rays of Hope – Ready to Lead
• 1/3 junior staffers aspire to be an executive
• Of those, 40% believe they are ready either
now or within five years
– highly educated and committed
– gaining on-the-job skills/experiences now
– Desirable place to work and to seek future
employment by people interested in social change
• Witness to long hours and compromised personal lives
• Nonprofit salaries/actual or perceived insufficient life-long earning
– 69% of junior staff feel underpaid
– 64% worry about retirement savings
• Lack of mentorship and support from incumbent executives =
– only 4% of junior staffers explicitly being groomed
– Women at a lower rate than men
• Flat organizational structure means “manage,” not “lead”
• The prevailing executive director job description is unappealing to
many next generation leaders
“No-Brainer” : Staff Evaluations
• Routine staff evaluations with quarterly personal
and professional goals and objectives
– Develop external connections and networks/ Board
can help here
– Develop targeted skills (presenting, financial analysis,
strategic planning, board/committee management)
– Develop management/supervision skills (even if just
• BONUS: 360° evals for different lens.
• BONUS: Provide a small fund for each person’s
Board & Committee Meetings
• ED’s direct reports – “semi-mandatory”
attendance at full Board meetings.
• Truly invite as co-leaders, not just
• BONUS: Rather than having ED report be a
roll-up, hold staff directly responsible for
reporting in their own areas.
• BONUS: Staff-level committee coordination
(w/o Exec attendance at each committee)
“No-Brainer” : Cross Training
• Financial: Has budgeting and budget v. actual
• Fundraising: Responsible for some level/role
• Public Speaking: Can give a basic public
presentation about the org and does so
periodically (yes, even folks like HR, Finance)
• Outcomes Measurement: Goals, objectives,
benchmarks, outcomes responsibility.
• BONUS: Let them develop each of these
themselves, not just participate.
“Harder”: Paradigm Shift at the Top
• “Executive directors—particularly those with long tenure and deeply
ingrained management practices—risk perpetuating power structures that
alienate emerging leadership talent in their organizations.”
• Top two critiques of current executive directors by the next generation
– “poor supervisor” and “cannot effectively communicate with staff.”
– Frustration over top-down decision making, overly hierarchical
structures, poor communication, lack of transparency around decision
making, a culture of sacrifice, and resistance to change.
“Executives who adapt their organizational cultures for less traditional
hierarchy, while holding everyone accountable for meaningful mission impact,
are in the best position to attract and retain the next generation of
Source: Ready to Lead
“Harder” : Mentoring
• Build mentoring role into ED job description, so
that it is explicit that they are coach and guide,
not just supervisor. Hire with that expectation.
• Have a Board-level recognition of mentoring
needs, and give Board members opportunity to
provide external mentoring. Defined 1:1, lunches,
Brown bags. Shared governance can be
• Mentoring may not come naturally to existing
EDs…skill development for them, too!
“Harder”: Temporary Succession
• Vacation/Sabbaticals for ED/CEO: Empower
leaders with potential to make decisions, with
Board support if needed. Take exec completely
off the hook for routine business.
• Illness/Emergency Succession Planning: Every
org needs to have one. Often the first “toe-
dip” into what can be a difficult discussion.
The Emergency Plan
• Contingent on disability, death, or departure.
– Temp = <3 months (could be planned or not)
– Unplanned = unexpected, planned =
• Named acting exec with 2 backups, Bd. to reconfirm
prior to enacting. Bd. could decide to split duties.
• Consider temp hire to help supplement position held
prior to acting director.
• Salary increase for acting director.
• Includes detailed info on locations of key records, bank
accounts, authorized signers, key vendors (insurance,
“Harder” : Compensation & Benefits
• Re-consider gaps in salaries between ED and
next-gen leadership team. Are you giving director
titles but paying manager salaries?
• Consider enhanced vacation time as an intangible
benefit or provide PTO for education.
• Build a true professional development line item in
• BONUS: Provide a retirement vehicle AND
contribute minimally to it.
“Hardest”: Long-term Succession Plan
• “We all leave our jobs eventually.”
• Part of routine executive annual evaluation
discussion or annual strategic planning
• Until transition is imminent, make leadership
development an explicit performance goal for
the ED/CEO and monitor it. (360° eval?
1. Have a 12-month plan for the potential departure of an Executive
2. Who will be involved in the search of the new Executive? What role
will the board, staff, volunteers, search committee?
3. Consider hiring a nonprofit executive search specialist to support
the process. Plan, Prepare, Post, Pre-Screen, Present, Propose
4. Specifically outline the role of the Executive during the search
process. Don’t discount this person’s capacity/willingness to assist.
5. Define when the Executive will officially step down.
7. Announce/welcome/introduce incoming leader to the community.
• Stay connected to other nonprofits through
affinity groups and cross-Board service.
• Use your own personal networks to recruit
and hire for next-gen positions, not just
• Connect with folks like me.
• Don’t post job descriptions to recruit, but
instead create ideal candidate profiles.
Bridging Talent from For-Profit
• Recruit young leaders to serve with you on the
Board. Not just next-gen Board members but
those that might be potential staff leaders
• Identify cross-sector skill sets and focus
outreach heavily in those areas (financial
management, general leadership,
How to Reach Me
• Laura Deaton, Full Glass Consulting
• Phone, Fax and Mobile: 888-784-3433
• Twitter: http://twitter.com/deatweets (personal),
• On the Web: http://www.FullGlassConsulting.com
• On LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/lauradeaton
• On Facebook:
• Email: email@example.com