Transformation is everywhere today in the non-profit sector. Long time senior executives are retiring, succession planning is a continuing challenge, the competitive environment is one of fewer dollars and more participants than ever before, and donors and stakeholders are demanding greater transparency and accountability. Performance and execution against Mission and Vision are under constant review as successful non-profits worry about decline, and challenged non-profits are concerned about how they can do better.
Using the services and expertise of an interim CEO or other interim senior management executive often provides non-profit organizations with an opportunity to ask for a fresh look at their strategy and goals. An interim CEO gives remarkable value, and can lead to important improvements in results and achievement.
An experienced interim executive has the advantage of having seen the best and the worst at other organizations and is able to bring those insights to bear in any examination of past performance and future goals. They have functional knowledge about what works, what doesn’t and why.
An interim leader can spot where are the bottlenecks? What are the constraints in Mission and program delivery? How can existing resources (employees, donor dollars) be the lever for the creation of new resources and more delivery against Mission, instead of a barrier against innovation? What is the strategy to channel organization and stakeholder energy into what seem to be one or two of the most attractive opportunities? Where does it look like you can make major inroads or breakthroughs for more donor support and more?
When we stop to consider that the charitable sector in Canada is already undergoing, and will continue to experience, a significant transition of executive and board leadership (not to mention donors) over the next decade, organizations will need to look carefully at who they will need to accomplish their mission. The next ten years will not look like the last twenty. Interim executives will become an important consideration in those deliberations. As such, we will need some of the transitioning cohort of Boomers with C-Suite executive leadership experience to consider interim opportunities before they fully retire.
Part of the reality we face is that GenX did not enter the charitable sector in sufficient numbers twenty-five years ago which means there are not enough of them to fill the executive roles that will be vacated. Additionally, while the Millennial generation certainly represents the future of executive leadership in the charitable sector over the next ten years, there are not yet enough of them ready to lead (which leads to a whole other discussion about “real” leadership development and mentorship – something an Interim executive could be mandated to do).
Interim executive leadership is not the absolute panacea for all organizations and it may not be financially attainable by many. However, if Boards or CEOs with gaps in their executive team do not consider interim leadership support (even while trying to fill the role with a permanent candidate), it may be detrimental to the day-to-day business operations of their organizations.
David Hutchinson is a consultant to executives and boards serving the charitable (social profit, mission-driven) sector. His website is www.hutchgroup.com
Christopher Barry works as an interim CEO to support nonprofit organizations experiencing revenue challenges and transformational change. His website is www.cbarry.ca