Nonprofits face a leadership crisis, and need to move quickly to address it.
A study two years ago found three in four nonprofit executive directors were likely to leave their jobs in three to five years, while another study at the time said the nonprofit sector needed to attract 640,000 new leaders over the next 10 years.
And now a new study says a new generation wants to lead nonprofits but could be turned off by low pay, lack of mentorship and the prospect that fundraising would consume too much of their time.
The charitable marketplace needs to do better.
People are nonprofits’ most valuable asset, and nonprofits and their supporters must do a better job investing in the development of their human capital, particularly the people who will lead and manage their organizations.
So nonprofit boards need to pay much more attention to creating the working conditions and culture that will attract the leaders and managers their organizations need to survive and thrive.
First, though, nonprofit boards must retool themselves.
Often weak, disengaged and clueless, boards pose what is arguably the biggest challenge nonprofits face.
So nonprofits must recruit new board members who will take an active role in making sure the board sets the strategic direction for the organization, and provides the oversight and leadership it needs to be effective in delivering services, raising money, communicating its message, advocating for change and making sure it has the staff leadership and management it needs.
Funders also can play a critical role in helping nonprofits address the leadership challenges they face.
Moving beyond their traditional preference for funding programs, funders must be willing to invest in helping nonprofits strengthen their operations.
Nonprofits need competitive pay and benefits, inspired and committed staff, competitive back-office systems, ongoing staff and leadership development, and smart strategies to secure revenue for the long-term.
Nonprofits face a seismic shift in leadership: An older generation, underpaid and burned out, is preparing to depart, and a younger generation, smart and inspired, waits in the wings.
But unless nonprofits and their boards and funders clean up their act and address the internal challenges they face, the leadership crisis only will deepen.