Key findings from a national study of nonprofit executive leadership conducted by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services in 2006 indicate the following:
- Annually, 9% of executives leave their jobs.
- 75% of executives expect to leave their current job within 5 years. Those staying tend to be in larger organizations.
- 34% of executives are eventually fired or forced out of the job.
- Only 29% of executives have discussed a succession plan with their boards.
Local data from a survey, that was funded by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, of nonprofit executive directors in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee in 2004 indicates that same trends as the national data:
- 66% of nonprofit organizations are likely to experience an executive transition within five years in comparison with 56% over the past 10 years.
- Responding organizations with smaller operating budgets—under $500,000—are more likely to lose their executive directors over the next five years than are large organizations with budgets over $2 million.
- Only 1 – 2 % of those responding indicated that they had some type of succession plan; 35% indicated that the reason they did not have a plan was because they had not thought of it.
This research helped frame and solidify our concerns regarding nonprofit leadership development and retention and served as a wakeup call to technical assistance providers, funders, and boards of directors.
The overall purpose of this project is to increase knowledge regarding the impact of leadership transitions in the nonprofit community and influence systemic change whereby executive directors, boards of directors, and other funders value and support the importance of proactive and effective executive transition management.
The Donors Forum of Wisconsin, the Brico Fund, the Davis Family Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and others invested in the development of a new project designed to increase awareness of the nature of executive transitions within nonprofits in the greater Milwaukee area. As the Project Director, I worked with national organizations as well as local nonprofit organizations to develop and implement the project and its components. ETI project staff reviewed the progress of the project to date, created a two year plan (2007 – 2008) and transitioned itself from the Donors Forum of Wisconsin to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. The goal of this transition was to increase web-based education, expand outreach to nonprofits receiving funding from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and other foundations, and explore a permanent home for training on executive transitions and succession planning for nonprofit organizations.
The ETI worked to increase awareness of the need for succession planning, to develop technical assistance workshops for executives, boards and funders to build capacity and increase the intention of nonprofits to make changes regarding their preparedness for future transitions.
The long term outcome of ETI was to strengthen leadership and organizational capacity within Milwaukee’s nonprofit community to prepare for the upcoming wave of executive director transitions.
ETI collaborated with several individuals, organizations and foundations to provide information and resources on issues related to executive transitions, at low or no cost. This program is unique in the community at this point, but we would like to encourage nonprofit organizations, funders, and consultants to utilize the materials, research, and web-based information to start their own executive transition process.
Mindy Lubar Price
Founder, Executive Transition Initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation
NOTE: Mindy Lubar Price is available for speaking engagements to local and national organizations on a variety of subjects related to leadership pertinent to the nonprofit sector. For more information, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.