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Change at the Top – Risks and Opportunities: What Does the Research Say?

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

The findings from the latest Daring to Lead study from CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the Meyer Foundation are sobering. Why sobering?  Because while we work with many engaged boards and funders who are helping to strengthen the executive leadership of the sector, there are many others who do not realize the extent of the issues or are not aware of potential solutions.  This national study reflects the trends we see here in the tri-state area, and their recommendations also mirror best practices we have found to work.

Several aspects of nonprofit leadership are explored, but here we focus on highlights relating to Executive Transitions, a growing part of our work:

  • As reported in previous Daring to Lead studies, the large majority of executive directors –67 % in 2011– report that they will be leaving their jobs within the next five years. And an additional 7% have already given notice.  Executive and boards are still reluctant to talk proactively about succession and just 17% of organizations have a documented succession plan.
  • 33% percent of current executives followed a leader who was fired or forced to resign, indicating the frequency of mis-hires and unclear expectations between boards and executives across the sector.
  • Many boards see executive transition ending with a successful hire. And many new leaders in the study were challenged by establishing effective partnerships with their boards. These executives were confounded by the lack of strategy, resources, and personal support they got from their boards.

The author’s “Calls to Action” include strategies that will help prepare for these executive departures, and ensure healthy transitions and productive, effective, and satisfied new leaders:

  • Creation of emergency succession and transition plans to ensure continuity in the event of an unexpected departure
  • Recognition by funders of the importance of successful leadership transition to the strength and stability of grantees and, where possible, stepped up support during the transition
  • Ongoing board involvement and support for new executives beyond the hire

From our own experience with executive transition clients, we would add:

  • Board engagement in a comprehensive executive search and transition plan  helps to assure a successful hire and makes the most of the opportunities in transition. Our approach includes three phases: 1- an organizational assessment to determine the organization’s current needs and the qualities necessary for a new executive to succeed, 2- a thorough search for a new leader involving all stakeholders, and 3- “on-boarding” coaching  for the new leader to aid integration into the organization and to foster productive relationships with the board and staff.   In addition, transition to a new leader is often aided by the placement of an interim executive director who manages the day to day operations.

A chief executive transition also provides the opportunity for boards to explore organizational restructuring including administrative outsourcing, strategic alliances, and mergers.

There are, indeed, opportunities available during “Change at the Top.”  Following the recommendations of the researchers provides opportunities for nonprofit organizations to both explore – openly – opportunities for the future of the organization and find the right next leader to help them build that future.

Tell us what your experience has been in the executive transition process as an executive director, board member or funder.  What works and what could be better?

Don Crocker, CEO

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Drumthwacket Foundation Selects Robyn Tromeur Brenner as New Executive Director

September 19, 2011 1 comment

The Support Center’s congratulates the Drumthwacket Foundation—the official residence of the Governor of New Jersey—on the selection of its new Executive Director, Robyn Tromeur Brenner.

In assuming responsibility for the residence, Governor and Mrs. Christie formulated a new vision for Drumthwacket as a means to offer wider outreach and engagement of New Jerseyans.  This new direction provided a remarkable window of opportunity to achieve significant, near term organizational results, but it also required systemic rethinking of Drumthwacket’s current  programming, operations and funding as well as a change in leadership.  Working with the Support Center in its search to find a new executive director has helped Drumthwacket to produce a more engaged board that has a commitment to the mission and vision and a means for achieving its goals.

Brenner most recently served as Executive Director for The Center for Contemporary Art located in Bedminster, NJ.  During her ten-year tenure, she implemented the organization’s first, multi-year strategic plan which led to more than doubling the number of studio course offerings and membership; launching program and fund development initiatives which increased private, corporate and government support; and strengthening community partnerships and outreach.  Prior to that she was Curator of Fabergé & Manuscript Collections for Forbes Inc. in New York City, one of the largest privately held collections of objets d’art by the House of Fabergé.  She curated numerous on- and off-site exhibitions at The Forbes Magazine Galleries and prestigious domestic and international museums.  Brenner is succeeding Francine Lynch who has served as the Interim Executive Director since November 2010.

Tweets for Thought

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Learn how your work-life might benefit from ‘cyberloafing” and volunteering, but not necessarily at the same time! Also, if you’re involved in communications at your nonprofit, here are some tips for making your content more varied and interesting to your readers.

Please leave a comment and share your favorite tweets!

Categories: Tweets for Thought