Leadership Transition in Nonprofits Presents Challenges

Stan Burrows

By Stan Burrows

In March 2017 Third Sector New England published an important paper for the Boston Foundation entitled Opportunity in Change: Preparing Boston for Leader Transitions and New Models of Nonprofit Leadership. The paper was released at a conference that was videotaped that you can review.

This effort was a part of the Boston Foundation’s ongoing program on Understanding Boston developed through partnerships with government and local institutions. The focus of this effort, the fifth in the series, is on preparing nonprofits for the long awaited and much discussed retirement of the baby boom generation and the passing of the torch in many nonprofits to successors.

Here are some of the highlights of the report and the conference.

Fund Development is the Biggest Challenge facing Nonprofits.
  • “Many nonprofit leaders walk into challenging scenarios from the very start of their tenure, as they are often tasked with strengthening struggling organizations or resolving problems that developed under a previous leader.”
  • “Almost one in five New England leaders in the survey reported that their organizations were financially or organizationally frail now, and almost a quarter required turnarounds.”
  • “54% of New England board members ranked fund development as the most challenging issue facing their organization’s leader.”
  • “About half of Greater Boston selection area leaders (54%) report having three months of cash reserves or less. “
The Baby Boomers are Retiring but there are no Leadership Transitions.
  • “With large numbers of leaders saying that they will be leaving their current jobs in the next five years, the time is now to prepare organizations for these impending transitions and help them focus on how to attract and support new leaders for decades to come.”
  • “Data from the Boston Foundation’s Giving Common, which indicates that only approximately 10% of nonprofits report having a succession plan.”
  • “Consider hiring an interim executive director during a transition. A good interim executive director/CEO will provide the organization with both stability and an objective lens on the organization’s strengths and opportunities for growth until a new leader or leadership structure is selected.”
There is a Lack of Diversity in Leadership Positions and on Boards of Directors.
  • Broadsource’s 2014 national study Leading with Intent, found that 89% of nonprofit CEOs were white, as were 90% of board chairs and 80% of board members.”
  • “Boston Foundation’s data from the Giving Common which reports that staff (72%) and boards (87%) of Greater Boston nonprofits remain mostly white.”
  • “The city of Boston is 54% white.”
Posted in Transition.