By Tom Adams
During the worst economic times ever faced by the vast majority of nonprofits in the United States, we have witnessed remarkably effective management by the talented and dedicated men and women who serve as executives and board leaders.
Their commitment to survival and growth is one of the key points that comes across in “Daring to Lead,” the new report released by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the Meyer Foundation.
But the survey, based on data from 3,000 leaders, also exposes a challenge facing the nonprofit world: sustained neglect of the building blocks of high performance. We are failing to plan for leadership succession, to invest in executive performance management, to develop leaders, and to attend to the relationships between board and executives.
Attention to these deficits is critical—especially at this time. A big share of nonprofit leaders is reaching retirement age. And younger leaders aren’t getting the nurturing they need to gain all the necessary skills to take over.
Devoid of attention, this combination will rob the nonprofit world of decades of experience and wisdom and leave us unprepared for the future. Despite the continued economic slump, grant makers and nonprofit leaders alike must do all we can to deal with this problem.
Charities have countless ways to deal with these challenges, but first nonprofit leaders must ask themselves this: Is there a direct relationship between effective leadership and organizational impact?
Not everybody in the nonprofit world does.
Nonprofit leaders need to think really hard about whether they believe their effectiveness as leaders affects their organization’s results. Foundation executives need to ask two questions—not just about whether their effectiveness affects the foundation’s results but also about whether their grantees’ leadership affects the foundation’s results.
If you don’t buy the premise, talk with leaders of high-performing businesses, government agencies, or other nonprofits. I believe you’ll find the evidence is unequivocal, but you must decide for yourself.
If you do believe the answer is yes, then it’s time to talk about this issue in frank conversations with managers, staff members, and board memberr.