February 22, 2020
Jonathan Spack Calls it a Career After 34 Years at TSNE

Jonathan Spack
July 7, 2016 — Third Sector New England, a Boston-based nonprofit that provides management resources to other nonprofits, announced that Jonathan Spack, its chief executive officer, will retire after 34 years, during which he saw the Massachusetts nonprofit sector evolve from what many saw as offering unattractive careers to a vibrant sector touching on all aspects of life across the state.

The Third Sector New England (TSNE) board has hired the Management Assistance Group to conduct a national search for Spack's successor. Spack will step down at the end of 2016.

“The local and national nonprofit field has benefitted from Jonathan’s expertise and collegial generosity. The TSNE staff, board and our many partners feel privileged to have worked with Jonathan and are enormously grateful to him for his many contributions,” said TSNE board president Tammy Dowley-Blackman.

During Spack's tenure, TSNE became a national leader in building capacity-for nonprofits. TSNE is the nation’s most experienced fiscal sponsor, and also provides executive transition services, consulting, leadership programs, training and innovative grant making.

Of particular note to the local nonprofit community, TSNE in 2004 purchased a 110,000-square-foot office building in downtown Boston and developed it into NonProfit Center, now home to 43 Boston-based nonprofit organizations.

Reflecting on changes in the sector during his career, Spack noted that when he started at TSNE the most pressing challenges for nonprofits were lack of access to capital, the prevalence of "old-school thinking" about nonprofits as charities—deserving of basic support but far less competent and efficient than the private sector—and "wrongheaded ideas which were internalized by many in the sector."

Today, he said, Massachusetts nonprofits still lack access to capital, and are additionally burdened by demands to take on "heavy burdens" resulting from cutbacks in many government programs.

However, he remains optimistic – and realistic about what nonprofits need in order to thrive.

"I believe that most basic qualities needed for effective long term leadership are timeless – wisdom, adaptability, emotional intelligence, humility will always be on the short list.

"To stay the course today nonprofit leaders must be tech-savvy, extensively networked within and outside their own fields of practice, and open to new types of collaborations. The focus needs to be more on mission and less on organizational boundaries," Spack said.

Nonprofit leaders will also need support from boards that are focused on governance, and less on short-term fundraising, the latter of which, he said, undermines long-term sustainability and leads to continued dissatisfaction between leaders and their boards.

Boards also need to actively think about succession planning, he added, especially as a generational shift unfolds with more and more baby boomers likely to retire in the next five years.

Nonprofit leaders and their boards will also need to better demonstrate their impact, " though the issues which many of us exist to address resist easy measurement."

Spack said he plans to " enjoy a mix of paid work, pro bono work, and travel and relaxation" while continuing to remain in the Boston area.

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