November 17, 2019
Study Reaffirms Nonprofits Are Not Planning for New Leaders

April 17, 2018 — Although two-thirds of nonprofit leaders plan to leave their positions within the next five years, nearly 80% do not have a formal succession process and fewer than half have identified potential successors, according to a recently completed analysis.

According to A Study of Nonprofit Leadership in the US and Its Impending Crisis, which surveyed 1,141 nonprofit organization, published by the Concord Leadership Group, Boomerang, Donor Research, and Boardable:
  • 77.7% of organizations do not have a formal succession process in place
  • Only40.8% of nonprofits have identified potential future leaders
  • Only 17.3% have performed a gap analysis of leadership competencies
  • Only 37.3% are actively working to address gaps in leadership competence
"Despite the leadership transitions that are currently happening and will continue for years to come, nonprofits are facing a huge vacuum in finding leadership talent," said Marc Pittman, CEO of the Concord Leadership Group.

He added that "nonprofits seem to be sticking their heads in the sand, taking an ostrich-like approach of avoiding the problem. Worse, while there are superhuman demands on nonprofit leaders, nonprofits do not seem to be taking care of the leaders they have, not intentionally growing leaders from within their organization."

The new analysis reflects a study published last year by The Boston Foundation which found that 72% of Greater Boston nonprofit leaders and board members say their organizations do not have a succession plan.

While 90% of the nonprofit leaders participating in the study engage in strategic planning, fewer than half—47.4%—indicated that performance against the plan was a factor in their appraisal.

In addition, only 55.8% of respondents agreed that staff at all levels were engaged in the planning process and only 24.6% of respondents were rewarding staff for their contribution.

Board involvement is critical to successful leadership planning, according to the Concord Leadership Group study, without which "there is a danger succession planning will not be given the priority it truly deserves."

Organizations that undertake higher quality strategic planning, higher quality succession planning, and focus more completely meeting the development needs of their leaders, were also found to significantly more likely have a strong culture of philanthropy, according to the study.

The report concludes that "many boards are not as engaged with leadership issues as they should be. Investment in leadership is low, oversight of leadership is weak and succession planning for key leadership roles in many organizations is notable only by its absence."

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