Monday, January 9, 2012

The Coming Wave of Change for US Non-Profits

In the next five years US based non-profits are going to be faced with a wave of leadership transitions as baby-boomer executive directors retire. For the smaller and more innovative organizations, this is going to be an absolutely critical set of transitions. At the same time as the mantles are being passed, organizations are going to be faced with an increased need to increase efficiencies and run leaner. This will require the use of partnerships and contract relationships as organizations downsize and operations go online and into the cloud. There are many risks ahead, but the single largest risk for visionary and innovative organizations is that the core visions and values that the executive teams have nurtured over their tenure will be lost or diluted in the upcoming turmoil.

To increase the challenges, there are fewer qualified people to inherit these positions than there are people who are going to be retiring. The good news is that universities have recognized this deficit and are launching extremely innovative programs in social entrepreneurship, human driven design and social change that are graduating people with the raw skills and the creative methods to start to fill the void. Their entry into the work place will increase innovation, with all the problems that disruptive change brings.

The next wave of innovative non-profits will need to run extremely lean, be highly creative, work in partnerships as well as independently, and contract out critical portions of their operations. At the same time, they will have to be rapidly scalable as large influxes of money come their way in pulses.
As executive teams head into retirement, they need to set up their successors with a core set of strategies that are designed to embrace this more turbulent environment and still carry the core visions and values forward.

These next wave non-profits will be able to receive highly evolved strategic input and move it forward. A critical problem is communicating to those partners in ways that carry the vision to them. The best thing that an executive team can do to prepare for this is to engage in a strategic distillation of their expertise into a set of core documents that can communicate their vision in terms of internal accounting, internal and external communications strategies, and scalable growth plans. Without that strategic distillation, those core components discovered through years of work will at the very least be transformed if not lost altogether.

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