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Avoiding The Nonprofit Leadership Gap
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Avoiding The Nonprofit Leadership Gap



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  • 1. Cultivating Next-Generation Leadership (aka Avoiding the Nonprofit Leadership Gap) Laura Deaton
  • 2. • Too many words, too little room for pictures! Flickr: Florian
  • 3. 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.
  • 4. Rays of Hope – Ready to Lead • 1/3 junior staffers aspire to be an executive director someday • Of those, 40% believe they are ready either now or within five years • Pipeline: – 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
  • 5. Concerns • Witness to long hours and compromised personal lives • Nonprofit salaries/actual or perceived insufficient life-long earning potential – 69% of junior staff feel underpaid – 64% worry about retirement savings • Lack of mentorship and support from incumbent executives = serious frustrations – 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
  • 6. “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 interns/volunteers) • BONUS: 360° evals for different lens. • BONUS: Provide a small fund for each person’s staff development.
  • 7. “No-Brainer” : Board & Committee Meetings • ED’s direct reports – “semi-mandatory” attendance at full Board meetings. • Truly invite as co-leaders, not just attendees/recorders. • 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)
  • 8. “No-Brainer” : Cross Training • Financial: Has budgeting and budget v. actual responsibility • Fundraising: Responsible for some level/role within fundraising • 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.
  • 9. “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 leadership.” Source: Ready to Lead
  • 10. “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 leveraged. • Mentoring may not come naturally to existing EDs…skill development for them, too!
  • 11. “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.
  • 12. The Emergency Plan • Contingent on disability, death, or departure. – Temp = <3 months (could be planned or not) – Unplanned = unexpected, planned = vacation/sabbatical/family leave • 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, etc).
  • 13. “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 your budget. • BONUS: Provide a retirement vehicle AND contribute minimally to it.
  • 14. “Hardest”: Long-term Succession Plan • “We all leave our jobs eventually.” • Part of routine executive annual evaluation discussion or annual strategic planning process. • Until transition is imminent, make leadership development an explicit performance goal for the ED/CEO and monitor it. (360° eval? Benchmarks?)
  • 15. Planned Succession 1. Have a 12-month plan for the potential departure of an Executive Director 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. 6. Honor/celebrate/commemorate. 7. Announce/welcome/introduce incoming leader to the community.
  • 16. In-Sector Hiring • 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 ED/CEO. • Connect with folks like me.  • Don’t post job descriptions to recruit, but instead create ideal candidate profiles.
  • 17. 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 themselves. • Identify cross-sector skill sets and focus outreach heavily in those areas (financial management, general leadership, partnerships/biz dev).
  • 18. References Studies and Stats Emergency Succession Planning Templates & Resources Leadership Recruitment
  • 19. How to Reach Me • Laura Deaton, Full Glass Consulting • Phone, Fax and Mobile: 888-784-3433 • Twitter: (personal), (professional) • On the Web: • • On LinkedIn: • On Facebook: • Email: