Baby boomers, who flooded the nonprofit sector with leaders over the past four decades, are retiring, and experts are hoping the generational hand-off won’t be fumbled. A survey of 3,000 CEOs at nonprofit organizations found that 2,000 of them expect to leave their post within the next five years. Experts in the field are concerned about finding sufficient skilled replacements for them.
Anne Marie Thigpen, who trains nonprofit leaders, is worried about the departure of baby boomers who brought the passion and the idealism of the 1960s and ‘70s to their work.
“The baby boomers have been the heart and the soul of the sector, but I also think – and I absolutely believe this – that change is good.”
Many nonprofits have been hit hard by the recession. On top of that, many CEOs say their boards of directors simply are not doing a good enough job of supporting them.
Rick Van Dyke recently retired after almost 40 years of working at five different nonprofits. He is concerned about a potential leadership shortage.
“Some new leaders are coming up through the ranks, but not enough to fill the jobs that are available. It is up to universities, as well as the not-for-profits themselves, to help prepare those who may be interested in becoming leaders.”
Thigpen says a new generation of leaders will bring advanced knowledge and expertise to the nonprofit world, but they probably won’t bring the collective impulse to change the world that motivated the young people who came of age in the 1960s.
“We need to somehow figure out a way to nurture that passion for programs and for issues, as well as the skill-based expertise that many of the young people bring.”
A hopeful sign is that some of the young people joining nonprofit organizations in the near future will benefit from extra training, she says, since the sluggish job market has prompted many to stay in school and go after advanced degrees.
The report, “Daring to Lead 2011,” is the third such study produced in partnership by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the Meyer Foundation. It is available at http://DaringToLead.org.