The coming nonprofit leadership void

The coming nonprofit leadership void

In December 2016, the Slingshot Group published a whitepaper called Who’s Leading Next?  The paper addresses the fact that in the nonprofit world that many top level leadership positions are held by the Boomer generation.

On the other hand, there are 10,000 Boomers turning age 65 daily until the year 2028.  As a result, the coming years should produce a profound leadership change in the nonprofit world like never before.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • The survey noted that 26% of the organizations surveyed have 2 or more open positions on their senior leadership team.

  • Another 24% anticipate 3 to 5 senior leaders exiting within 3 years.

  • 31% anticipate succession for the senior leader will happen within the next 3 years.

Notably, the survey found that the position most difficult to fill was the CEO role (38%).  The Chief Development Officer and key VP roles weighed in at 20% difficulty.  The survey respondents noted that there are broad issues facing new candidates, including cultural pressures between board members and the constituents, progressive social values weighed against older donor conservative values, donor relationships, success measurements, etc.

Perhaps best stated, one respondent simply said, “Can this person handle it all?”

The first step to address the void is awareness.  I’ve worked with enough nonprofits and churches to know that many have not addressed or thought about leadership change.  The succession issue is real and should be put on the radar of the majority of nonprofits in this country.

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