Choosing Leaders for Nonprofit Organizations
Nonprofits present a complex leadership challenge. They share with for-profits the need to market effectively a good or service, to motivate employees and to institute sound governance practices. Their greater complexity derives from the fact that often what they are selling is intangible, its purchase is often by a variety of third parties (e.g., grantmaking foundations, governments, corporate and individual donors) and multitudes of volunteers are often involved in the fulfillment of the nonprofit organization’s promise to its consumers.
A good nonprofit leader begins early to offer staff development opportunities. Good idea. However, the reality is that many nonprofits have small staffs, so in order to advance one often has to switch jobs. What a huge loss of institutional memory occurs when this happens!
The greatest challenge to nonprofit organizations occurs when the leader needs to be replaced. All too often, an internal candidate is not ready to take the helm, precisely for the reason just described. An even greater challenge occurs if the board does not itself possess enough institutional knowledge to conduct an effective search process.
Following are a few suggestions to help ensure the next leader will be effective:
* Take the time to ensure that the board is in agreement on the charitable organization’s mission, strategy and personality.
* Talk to the staff to understand what truly is required of a leader. Gain their assessment of the organization’s needs.
* Articulate the characteristics and qualifications of the person who can effectively lead the organization and its staff and volunteers.
* Conduct a thorough search and, in larger organizations, invest in a competent search firm. The firm’s contact list and management of the search process is well worth it.
* Vet the new leader with incredible care before hiring, verifying degrees, checking references (those provided and some not provided) and doing a thorough background check.