There are half as many Generation X’ers as there are baby boomers. Yes, half.
Study after study (2005-2006) states that 75% of Executive Directors/CEO’s of non profits plan to leave their jobs in the next five years. Although this has changed some since the economic turn down in 2008, the trend remains and the shift in leadership is still looming over the NFP sector.
So is it merely a shortage of numbers that the NFP sector is facing or are there more complicated factors at play? If we had more GenX’ers, would we still be looking at a crisis?
The answer is an unequivocal yes. Which brings me to the main purpose of this blog…it is not only the people who work in the NFP sector who are changing, the entire nonprofit industry is changing. And in this GenXer’s point of view…none too soon.
In my tenure in the sector, I have done all jobs from volunteer grunt worker to Executive Director, board chair to Executive Coach and hired consultant. I’ve seen my fair share of the internal workings of hundreds of non profits. In typical GenX fashion….I usually come in to these non profits, regardless of my role, and ask why. This is not always received well. People often look at me as if I have sprouted a second head and the common response is “because we’ve always done it this way”. I can assure you I only have one head (at least on good days) so why the response?
Well..one explanation is that the NFP sector has been set up to address a social mandate, instead of a making profit. We are designed to allocate a higher percentage of our resources to provide services vs. building infrastructure, supporting management/leadership change or evaluating our effectiveness for change trends. Although we have adjusted to many new demands from funders and communities, by and large, business is still being done the same way it was 30 years ago.
This is not a popular sentiment but I believe it IS an accurate assessment. Our way of doing business has worked pretty well thus far, but with new political, economic, cultural and demographic shifts, change is here. How we collaborate, how we measure success, the role of leadership and how we negotiate this change is still up for grabs.
The good news is that private foundations and non profit consultants are beginning to recognize this and are allocating resources to find ways to negotiate successfully. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Next Shift: Beyond the Nonprofit Leadership Crisis” is an excellent publication, worthy of the download.
Other good news?….this GenX’er LOVES change, planning for it, negotiating it, evaluating it…you name it, GenX’ers like to ask why and propose solutions. That part of the crisis is exciting…waking up one day to find out I am the lone person standing because everyone has retired or my generation has decided this industry is too stuck in a rut-not so exciting. It is time we look at the issue of leadership change as more than mere numbers, and more as a cultural shift, a change in the entire industry.