Investing in Emerging Non-profit Leaders

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As most of us already know, there will be a significant exodus of long term non-profit leaders over the next 2-5 years as the Boomers move toward retirement. This is true, not only of our community, but also throughout North America.

So how prepared are we for the next generation of leaders to take the helm? Well, according to recent studies, forums and on-line discussions – not very.
There are a number of themes emerging with regard to the barriers and needs identified by emerging leaders. On barriers, emerging leaders are looking at the role of current non-profit Executive Directors and flagging concerns such as remuneration, lengthy hours, lack of work-life balance and the constant struggle for funding.

Emerging leaders are also highlighting the lack of mentoring, which is critical for advancement and development. A further challenge identified is the lack of a clear career path within their organization. Thus future leaders must build networks and relationships externally in order to build their career.
Studies point to the fact that the business sector fills 60 – 65% of their positions internally, while the non-profit sector fills only about 33% of their positions internally.
With regard to their career needs, future leaders have universally identified mentoring and support as a critical aspect of career development. Mentoring and coaching is widely employed within the business sector, but far less so in our sector.  

Also referenced, is the desire for ongoing caring, candid and open developmental feedback so that they can better advance their careers. Opportunities to grow and learn about the organization as a whole, as well as training and access to other roles are also seen as extremely important.

Younger non-profit staff are often slotted into one field when they come into a non-profit, whether marketing, training or development, and then have difficulty moving beyond that specific field. Thus opportunities for cross-training and exposure to other leadership roles are key in career development.
In addition to the challenges, there are also some bright spots. While younger potential leaders may move between organizations or even out of the sector as they build their career, the sector is seen to provide meaningful work that provides an opportunity for bringing about social change. Two recent US studies, including one that surveyed over 6,000 individuals, reveal that 33% of the survey participants aspired to become an Executive Director.

by Val Green,
Executive Director Volunteer Victoria

Share your thoughts with us!  Stay tuned for future blogs on this topic as we explore Emerging Leaders in the Non Profit sector.

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