Staying Fresh as a Nonprofit Leader
I was visiting with a veteran fundraising professional who now coaches nonprofit professionals new to leadership roles. A fellow University of Georgia (UGA) graduate, our talk turned to football.
UGA made news at year end when it made a big change. Mark Richt, the highly regarded and successful long-time coach was replaced. Kirby Smart, a UGA graduate who was key to the championship success at University of Alabama, was brought on board.
Now, as the new season nears, it appears that both coaches have been revitalized by a new opportunity: new challenges.
Our conversation then turned from football to nonprofit leadership. How long can you stay fresh, feel challenged and make a difference?
According to Fortune, the median tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is just under five years. Of course, when you look at an average, this is the balance between two extremes.
The average tenure of a college president was seven years, according to a 2012 study by American Council on Education.
More often than not, periods of rapid growth need to be balanced by periods of absorbing the growth and shoring up systems and standards. A different perspective for a different time.
A CompassPoint study, “Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising,” found that half of chief fundraisers planned to leave their jobs within two years. Tenures that are too short in a relationship-based field are not positive. But neither is stagnation.
No matter how long you have been in your role as a nonprofit leader, find ways to continually grow, be challenged and stay fresh. A great asset, no matter how long your tenure, is a formal or informal group of advisors—a kitchen cabinet—that can give you candid feedback.
Find learning opportunities within and outside your “segment” of the nonprofit arena.
Find ways to stretch and grow that benefit you and your organization. And know when the right cycle is for a new opportunity for both.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.