Leadership: Pending Crisis Equals Opportunity

The need to plan strategically for new volunteer leadership is one of the important trends in the nonprofit sector. At Alexander Haas, we refer to three keys to fundraising success that every organization must have:

  • A compelling case for support;
  • A clear, well-defined strategy in the form of a written plan; and
  • Strong, committed leadership.

Of these three, leadership is the most impactful.

NonProfit Volunteer Leaders

As many volunteer leaders move closer to retirement, researchers suggest that we are in for challenges – and a potential “leadership crisis” – as we seek the next generation of volunteer leaders.

A 2016 study conducted by the Concord Leadership Group finds that 77% of nonprofit organizations do not have leadership succession plans nor are they focused on developing new leaders. Alexander Haas’ strategic partner, DonorSearch, was one of the lead survey groups for this study.

There must be a strategy for developing the next generation of volunteer leaders. Developing this plan may be a challenge due to the rapid shift in age demographics of our constituents.

Demographic Age Shift in NonProfit Leadership Roles

The shift to the next generation of volunteers in organizations is occurring rapidly. One Pew Research Center study shows that over 10,000 Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) reach retirement age every single day.

Who is the “next generation” that Baby Boomers hope will replace them in volunteer leadership roles? It is natural to look to Gen Xers (those born between 1965 and 1980) who are moving in to their middle age to step into these roles.

However, a second Pew study finds that starting two years ago, Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997) became the largest generation of the workforce surpassing Gen Xers. Organizations must quickly develop plans to engage and involve these younger groups in leadership roles taking into account emerging evidence that shows this next generation of leaders is very different from previous generations.

Preparing New Volunteer Leaders

Alexander Haas offers three important steps you should undertake:

  • Begin NOW to develop a strategic plan for volunteer leadership succession. Without a well-thought-out plan that takes into consideration your constituents and shifting age demographics, you may, indeed, find a leadership vacuum within your organization.
  • Broaden the pool of talent as you seek committee members and Board members from among your donors and constituents. Seek the Gen Xers and Millennials who offer a variety of new, innovative ideas and involve them now.
  • Encourage your current leaders to serve as mentors for the younger generation of leaders that you seek to nurture and recruit. The Millennials (as well as Gen Xers) prefer hands-on mentoring and coaching rather than passive training and workshops.

Your thoughtful work will turn what some view as an impending crisis into a new opportunity for your organization!