The Council on Foundations will soon host its Annual Conference in Denver on April 24-27. One of this year’s sessions is “Protecting Your Investments: Leadership Development for Sustainability.” In this blog entry, we would like to share more about the issue of nonprofit leadership development with you.
Nonprofit and NGO organizations have had an immense economic and cultural impact on the world. In the United States alone, nonprofit organizations employ one in 18 workers, and their visionary leaders have launched many of the country’s most remarkable accomplishments in civil rights, social justice, animal welfare, environmental stewardship, and the arts.
Yet, there is an urgent need to recruit, develop, and retain talented new leaders. A recent 2,000-person survey found that three out of four U.S. nonprofit executive directors are planning to leave their jobs in the next five years. Another study revealed that the sector needs to hire half a million senior managers in the next decade. And the leadership challenge is similar across the globe.
With three-fourths of senior management forecast to exit the nonprofit/NGO sector in the next decade, a leadership tsunami is looming and we must prevent a crisis. It is absolutely imperative for the philanthropic and nonprofit/NGO sector to actively cultivate talented leadership in order to undergird its capacity, prove its value, and affect positive change. This session is meant to increase participants’ awareness, activities, and ambitions associated with recruiting, developing, and retaining a talented and diverse workforce. It’s also designed to address the potential for youth, young adults, and mid-career transitioners to successfully enter the sector.
Unfortunately, nonprofits and NGOs are ill equipped to cultivate new leadership. The vast majority of American youth aren’t aware of jobs in the field, and career guidance counselors rarely mention work in this sector—only 2 percent of current nonprofit workers say they were encouraged to explore these careers. And 70 percent of nonprofits have no succession plans, no intentional recruitment strategies, and few professional development opportunities.
The goal of this Council session is to link the passion for making a difference with key strategies—a “statepassion” approach, if you will. While the session will acknowledge significant challenges, the core messages will remain grounded in optimism and opportunity. It is our hope that the session will inspire participants to combine their passion with a sense of urgency and pragmatic recommendations to elevate the leadership potential worldwide.
Jeff Pryor is the executive director of the Anschutz Family Foundation. Alexandra Mitchell is the president and principal consultant of Pathfinder Solutions, Inc.