Some 158 connections make up my Linkedin network. If you’re on Linkedin, your connections probably come from all walks of life, do all sorts of jobs,reached various of levels of success, or work solo. My connections are a split of long-time friends, and friends I’ve made through work. I’ve worked for non-profits with missions connected to arts, education and media. I worked with one of my connections during my years at WGBH, Boston’s flagship public broadcasting station. In those years, he was the station’s V.P.; now he’s President and CEO of Oregon Public Broadcasting. Recently he posted his intention to attend the National Arts Strategies’ (NAS) Chief Executive Program, “The New Nature of Money.” The program “will challenge participants to be as creative about their business models as they are about their programs. The capital market for nonprofits is rapidly and dramatically changing. This event will explore what a thriving financial model looks like tomorrow for a mission-driven organization and will help participants rethink their own financing strategies.”
An upcoming NAS workshop, taking place this fall at Harvard, is titled “The New Nature of Relevance.” How is value defined today? “The event,” says NAS,”will give participants access to the latest, most useful thinking about societal dynamics, getting beyond the noise of the 24-hour news cycle to gain insight through meaningful research and models. Participants will look at critical currents in U.S. social structure and context, and explore effective frameworks for designing organizations and programs to thrive in this new context.”
If you receive the Community Foundation’s Listserve emails, you know a former Jackson non-profit high-level staffer researched Teton County’s potential for successfully replenishing leadership positions in our 209 non-profits. At its core, her research says Teton County is likely to face a crisis, in the form of a shortage of dynamic, qualified non-profit leaders. Before I list her suggestions for pro-active steps to avoid complete dissolution of our pool of potential leaders, I offer my own hypothesis that Teton County’s population is simply not large or diverse enough to contain a sufficient number of qualified candidates to fill 209 positions. Reasons that current staffers are ambivalent (and not all are ambivalent—a percentage have interest in advancing to that postition) about becoming E.D.’s are reflected in the study’s suggested solutions, below.
What percentage of staffers are interested in becoming E.D.’s? The study says (I’ll round off numbers) 38% expressed strong interest; 35% said “maybe,” and 27% said they had no interest in leading. These numbers do not represent all 209 Teton Co. non-profits—they represent the number of survey respondents.
Teton County is simultaneously cocoon-like and transient. There’s a non-profit ‘musical chairs’ in play; E.D.’s and staff leave one non-profit to join another non-profit any number of times. It’s also my guess that board members, rarely community based, but donor based, are less attuned to the day-to-day operations of the non-profits they serve, and many never worked at the non-profit they represent.
Our researcher’s Teton Co. study suggests ways non-profits might head off a potential leadership dead end—and remember: If a plan has no specific, achievable implementation steps, then it’s just a plan and nothing more.
- Create – and follow – a leadership succession plan. Plans should include preparing for future transitions, and emergency plans in the event of a quick E.D. departure.
- Follow the FOR-PROFIT sector’s lead by grooming leaders from within.
- Split up the E.D. job description among a leadership team.
- Ensure competitive retirement benefits and compensation.
- Refine and/or reduce the number of organized goals and strategies to ensure demands are reasonable and MEASURABLE.
- Be creative about H.R. policies. Consider offering comp time, flex hours, job-shares (YES!!!!) or other benefits that promote work-life balance. (I add that such splits also enables employees to focus on their particular strengths.)
- Clarify board and staff roles.
- Establish on-the-job trainings & in-house, hands-on mentoring.
- Create community-wide leadership development, mentoring and support programs for non-profit employees.
- Encourage participative management styles–appeals to younger generations.
- Provide more fund raising training.
- Increase board engagement in fundraising to lessen pressure on E.D.
- Encourage community to consider the high-level of competition for staff and money among local non-profits; what can be done to lessen competition?
- Training in community-building and networking skills for current and future leaders.