NASAA Notes: April 2008


April issue
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April 8, 2008

Did You Know?

What the Nonprofit Sector Can do to Attract Committed and Talented Future Leaders

According to a national study a skilled, committed and diverse pool of individuals are preparing to be the nonprofit executive directors of the future. Ready to Lead? Next Generation Leaders Speak Out, produced in partnership by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Meyer Foundation and, is the largest survey to date of emerging nonprofit leaders. The study’s poll collected data from 6,000 individuals through CompassPoint and and was open to individuals without prior nonprofit executive director experience.

An interesting dichotomy exists at the heart of Ready to Lead? Next Generation Leaders Speak Out. There is promise in that 32% of the individuals polled aspire to be nonprofit executives, but frustration in that the ever growing demand for qualified candidates, compounded with competition from other sectors, expects to outstrip the anticipated supply. The study addresses the complexity of this issue by examining the motivating factors and barriers emerging leaders face when considering nonprofit careers. Motivating factors that show promise for a vibrant next generation of nonprofit leaders include:

Recommendations for Attracting and Developing Future Leaders:

  1. Support professional development and leadership training programs.
  2. Don’t be part of the problem. Re-examine grantmaking practices that may be contributing to underinvestment in human capital.
  3. Help next generation leaders build their external networks.
  4. Have conversations with grantees about succession planning and be prepared to help with potential solutions.
  • Desire to impact social change
  • Identification of the sector as a place to undertake meaningful and satisfying work
  • High percentage of people of color who wish to become executive directors
  • Feeling of readiness by respondents to assume leadership
  • Individuals actively obtaining the skills and experience to lead nonprofit organizations

Significant barriers to securing the next generation of leaders include:

  • Long hours and compromised personal lives
  • Perception of insufficient lifelong earning potential
  • Structural limitations that obscure avenues of advancement
  • Lack of mentorship from incumbent executives
  • Unappealing nature of the current nonprofit executive director job description

Based on the analysis of the data and the authors’ experiences as funders and intermediaries, the study concludes by making recommendations to executive directors, next generation leaders, boards of directors, training and leadership capacity builders and funders. The suggestions about how best to handle the leadership handoff, which can be viewed in their entirety in the report, are intended to spark dialogue in organizations and provide inspiration for change among individuals in all stages of the leadership pipeline.

View the Report: Ready to Lead? Next Generation Leaders Speak Out (PDF)

Additional Resources:
Andrew Taylor – Who’s Next: Cultivating Future Arts Agency Leaders
National Arts Strategies – Future Leadership
Chronicle of Philanthropy – Live Discussion: Philanthropy’s Leadership
Commongood Careers – The Voice of Nonprofit Talent in 2008
Compass Point & The Meyer Foundation: Daring to Lead 2006: A National Study of Nonprofit Leadership

In this Issue

Legislative Update

Executive Director's Column

Did You Know?

Frequently Asked Questions




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