And the Survey Says ... Nonprofits Not Developing Next Generation of Leaders

The new Daring to Lead study found that nonprofit executive directors report very high levels of job satisfaction. An impressive 91% reported that they are very happy with their jobs or have more good days than bad. That is the great news.

Unfortunately, the results weren’t all positive. It turns out that we (large organizations and small) aren’t successfully training the next generation of leaders. Only 36% of EDs say there is someone currently on staff that could take over the organization if needed.

This is alarming. If you think of the critical nature of nonprofit services, it is crucial that we not only have an emergency succession plan in place, but also a leadership development plan that is grooming the next management team.

But with the current stress on budgets and increased competition for limited resources, who has time?

Fact is, there are simple strategies we could begin employing today. For example, I used to work for a small human service agency in the Chicago suburbs. Our executive director required the management team to create a succession plan for each department. Department heads identified (by name) three people who might have the interest and capacity to fill our spots in case we left. He was a visionary – and when he passed away unexpectedly the board was able to quickly step in and start the process of finding his replacement (thanks to his well thought out plan).

We can all agree that our organizations (and missions) are greater than any one individual – and there must be a plan in place to ensure that our clients and programs are protected in the case of an emergency. If a few hours of planning could make that happen, isn’t it worth the effort?

For those who are still not convinced, here’s another great reason: It will set your organization apart and help you compete for funding. Time and time again, foundation officers state that succession planning is absolutely critical for nonprofits. Many foundations have even offered to pay for training or consulting services in this area. One program officer at a large local foundation recently told me, “I would love it if my grantees asked me for money to do succession planning. I would be happy to say yes. Of course, they never do.”

Are you convinced? Here are a few great succession planning resources:



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    The responsibilities of Boards in the past years have become more transparent and with troubling financial times the Board is being put to work. Forecasting and planning for the future has become more important than ever. It is significant that leadership development be taken into this planning.

  • I agree. It is so important that the board supports this effort. Thanks for the comment.

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