publication date: Jan 20, 2012
author/source: Kathryn McKechnie
The Canadian nonprofit sector is facing a leadership crisis,
president Deborah Legrove
. In a presentation to AFP Greater Toronto Chapter
in November, she outlined the twin causes of the leader shortage.
Some Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964), who make up 30% of the
population, have already started retiring, and in eight years the majority of Boomers
will follow suit. Therefore, charitable
organizations across Canada face the reality that their CEOs will retire in the
near future. On the other hand, the Gen
X (b. 1965-late 70s) and Gen Y (b. late 70s-1997) cohorts are smaller than the
Boomer cohort, and insufficient numbers of Gen X and Gen Y professionals within
the nonprofit sector are being groomed for leadership.
Why aren't we growing
At present the majority of nonprofit leaders are recruited
from outside the sector. Just one-third
of nonprofit leaders are promoted from within the organization. This compares with 60% in the for-profit
sector. With 1.2 million people, or 8%
of the labour force, working in 69,000 nonprofit organizations across the
country, one has to wonder why the nonprofit sector isn't producing more of its
In a recent CrawfordConnect survey of 17 nonprofit leaders
in Canada, over two-thirds did not have a succession plan for the CEO
position. LeGrove states that not only
is a succession plan vitally important, but that everyone in the organization
should be aware of it and that the CEO should take the lead in verbalizing and
sharing the succession plan by actively engaging staff and the board.
Since succession planning can take up to two years, many
organizations begin by creating an emergency succession plan before commencing
long-term planning. Given the looming
leadership deficit, succession planning will be even harder for CEOs and boards
who have yet to start thinking about replacing their leaders.
How to build our own
Since there are fewer Gen X and Gen Y individuals to replace
retiring Boomers, it pays to be mindful of your own internal resources. Are you capitalizing on the human potential
within your organization? Who has potential to lead? Look carefully at your
staff team, Legrove advises, and seek out the leaders-in-waiting. Look for key competencies and personality
traits such as strategic thinking, relationship building, high integrity,
adaptability and perseverance.
The greatest skills gap among potential future leaders from
the nonprofit sector is in financial acumen, she explains, so this is an area
in which to consider investing your professional development dollars.
Don't cut training,
Resist the temptation to downsize your professional
development budget during periods of financial pressure. Gen X and Gen Y value a career path. By investing
in professional development, you demonstrate to those staff that you are
serious about helping them develop the skill set required for leadership. Unfortunately in Canada, there is a lack of
formal education options for nonprofit leadership, although this is changing
slowly. There is great value to be found in mainstream leadership training and
When thinking about potential leaders from among your current
staff team, you need to be sure you really understand the people on your
team. If you believe you have the right
people, set your Gen X and Gen Y staff on a career path which affords them the
opportunity for self-development.
Motivation is the challenge, Legrove reminds us. Gen X and
Gen Y staff will not stay at your organization if they are not challenged. It is in part because the majority of
nonprofits cannot or do not currently offer a career path that the majority of
our leaders come from outside the sector, she believes.
Proper training and development will allow potential future
leaders within the nonprofit sector to be accepted into leadership roles. It is not too late to start grooming the next
generation of leaders within your organization.
Start investing in tomorrow's leaders today.
a Toronto-based fundraiser with over seven years of small shop fundraising
experience in Canada and the UK. Recently she started Kathryn McKechnie Consulting, focused on providing advice,
resources and hands-on fundraising services for emerging charities and small
shops. She sits on the Board of
Directors and is Chair of the Fundraising Committee for the Scarborough Women's Centre. Contact Kathryn by email or 647-459-4858.