A recent study by Third Sector New England revealed that the challenge in recruiting nonprofit management may not lie in the supply of emerging leaders but rather may have more to do with the attractiveness of the executive level job.
Many organizations are unprepared for the transition of one leader leaving and another stepping in. A shift in leadership not only requires an understanding of what is effective and most impactful for the organization but also requires a higher level of engagement between leaders and boards. Succession planning – the process of identifying and developing internal candidates with the potential to fill executive positions – is perhaps the most important job of nonprofit boards. Without a strong succession planning program, organizations are not prepared to fill openings created by departures thus requiring them to start anew with someone from outside the organization.
Some of the major issues most new leaders often encounter upon being hired include: balancing budgets, fickle funding, a lack of succession planning, inadequate models for governance, weak fundraising, long hours and low pay. These, of course, are not new challenges for the sector but the more time that passes, the more drastic measures will be required to catch-up with these ever-looming issues.
The majority of leaders identified fund development as their most challenging issue. They want (and need) more support from the board and while boards want to be more supportive in their organizations fundraising efforts, they are unsure of how to most effectively do so. Resource constraint in the nonprofit sector seems to be a chronic problem with public funding (federal, state, local) continually dwindling. Nonprofits need to demonstrate the value of what they do to ensure more involvement from both lenders and their communities. With improved communication between leaders and boards and a shared vision and understanding of how to overcome these issues, organizations can be more sustainable.
The expectations placed on nonprofits remain high and like any for-profit organization, nonprofits need more than one competent leader to thrive. Organizations can’t separate leadership and expect to have positive results – nonprofits must embrace the need for change in how they work to accomplish goals and face up to the realities of what it takes to lead a thriving organization.
Want to learn how to construct a back-up plan so that unpredicted staff departures won’t derail your organization? Register for the August 18th webinar, “Emergency Succession Planning for Nonprofits,” here!