Nonprofit executive directors tried telling us in the first Daring to Lead report five years ago. They said it loudly and clearly to the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 2004. They tell us again in Daring to Lead 2006, a national study conducted by the Meyer Foundation and CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. The sobering news from this last survey of 2,000 nonprofit executive directors is that three quarters don’t plan to be in their current jobs five years from now. According to the report, “Frustrations with boards of directors and institutional funders, lack of management and administrative support, and below-market compensation add stress to a role that can be challenging even in the best circumstances.”
In case their message hasn’t been getting through to the funding community, here it is, put another way:
In a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy op ed., Meyer Foundation president Julie Rogers urged grantmakers to heed the cries of the nonprofit executive directors they support. According to Rogers, foundations too often behave like “well-meaning rich aunts,” full of advice for nonprofits but not always sensitive to their real needs.
The Bridgespan Group predicts that constrained supply and increased demand will result in a pronounced leadership deficit for the nonprofit sector. Perhaps this yawning leadership gap will finally focus our attention on what nonprofit execs are telling us.
We can’t stop nonprofit executive directors from growing old and retiring, but we can help keep them from going grey and leaving their jobs prematurely.