Actions speak louder than words: How nonprofits can get serious about next generation leaders and leadership development #EPIP10

“I cant think of any field or vocation that is less intentional in its leadership development than the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. “ ~ Jeff W. Pryor Anshutz Family Foundation

Research shows that the number one predictor of sustainability is leadership. Yet 78% of nonprofits and foundations have no leadership development or succession plan. However, Jeff W. Pryor Anshutz Family Foundation, noted that problem with this extends beyond finding someone to be the next ED of an org; it is often goes hand-in-hand with a lack of attention paid to recruiting talent at all levels of the organization.

Current state of nonprofit leadership and talent recruitment/retainment:

1. Leaders leaving 70-80% in next 10 years
2. Young people leaving due to lack of resources, infrastructure, and innovation in sector.
3. Must develop robust leadership pathway to nonprofit. Most people fall into the nonprofit sector, not a deliberate path.
4. More intentional about recruiting, developing, and retaining talent.

However, the lack of interest/support of the nonprofit sector comes from various places. Firstly is that as a society we simply don’t talk about public service as a viable or exciting career path. Alexandra Mitchell, Pathfinder Solutions Inc shared the following from a survey of high school and college students:

  • ¼ cant name any nonprofits
  • Less than 50% can name three
  • 33,000 college students, 65% intend to volunteer only 15% do volunteer
  • 93% of high school and college grads never had a counselor talk to them about nonprofit work. Some actually are discouraged because of questions about viability of sector.

Secondly, within the sector how we treat nonprofit employees embodies our own ambivalence towards our work.

  • 48% of nonprofit employees started out with passion for the cause, not interest in the sector.
  • View of marketing, professional development, and talent recruitment as overhead

How can we on a social level and on an organizational level make the sector more appealing to the next generation? Steven Bauer of Nonprofit Workforce Coalition shared some great ideas:

Children: Create a culture of giving at home and school through engaging activities and curriculum; celebrate children who have made a difference, build nonprofit capacity to involve families.

Teens: Develop paid and unpaid internships, introduce students to nonprofit jobs, allow young people to develop projects, acknowledge diversity and teens who make a difference.

Young adults/college students: Develop nonprofit course work, focus on social justice, promote and offer counseling for nonprofit careers, offer loan repayment, allow for applied research opportunities, address next-gen leadership style

Entry level employees: Nonprofit can recruit at job fairs, develop networking opportunities, create peer networks, flatten hierarchies, address generational style variances.

Mid career staff: build intentional career leader strategies, promote coaching and mentoring opportunities, incorporate creative compensation strategies, focus on true organizational learning, engage in succession planning.

Seasoned staff: Develop leadership succession, create transition and phase out strategies like part time work, consider internal and external replacement options, offer retirement benefits.

Foundations also have a unique role in that their behaviors tend to spill over to the nonprofit sector Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy stated that not only can foundations fund more leadership development opportunities and succession planning but also foundations themselves can let go their culture of “anti-professionalism.” Instead, foundations can have open transformative dialogue about leadership.

When it comes to leadership, though, nothing is ever as cut and dry as simply finding someone to fill a departing leader’s shoes. The audience had some great questions about leadership:

What other models of leading exist?
Do we need to redefine leadership?
How can get people to focus on the sector as a whole instead of their cause or organization?

Can’t come to the conference?  Check out the livestream or follow the conversation on twitter.  Make sure to visit Rosetta Thurman and  Trista Harris for their insights.