In any given year, more than a third of our ED/CEO searches are the result of nonprofit leader retirements. We see the exit of sector talent, while we also get to meet the many talented individuals stepping into new leadership roles. Overwhelmingly, these new leaders are coming from roles in other local nonprofits; sometimes from other ED/CEO roles and often as key senior staff. Unfortunately, the small staff size of most nonprofits is seldom conducive to grooming many internal candidates.
Looking back over the past two years and a couple dozen local searches, we found that about one-third of the new leaders hired by the search committees we have supported hired candidates who have been ED/CEOs in other nonprofits. A third of the new leaders were previously in fundraising or other outward facing roles, and the last third transitioned from program, administration, or government roles. This has been a continued evolution from a time when most leaders came up through the program side of the operation and the leader often was one of the most expert program professionals in the organization.
In the past two and half years, we have only had one organization hire from the corporate sector. Though some business leaders may aspire to move to nonprofit leadership, we find that to be an exception in our work and in discussions with other search firms. By their nature, search committees are often conservative and strive for a candidate with a background running or working in an organization similar to theirs. In our experience, corporate leaders are most likely to be hired by organizations where they have served as volunteers or supporters.
The past year has shaken our sector as it has others. Leaders are reflecting and seeking answers about how they can best serve their organizations while also balancing family and personal health considerations. If you are a board leader, offer more encouragement to your staff team and let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.
Please let us know if you have a retirement or leadership change pending or want to discuss how we can assist you in being prepared for an unexpected leadership transition.
Bryan Orander, President