Introduction: Understanding the Generations and Bridging the Gaps
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During the past decade, there has been a rising sense of alarm in the nonprofit sector about the future of its leadership. Study after study has pointed to an impending crisis, with roughly 75 percent of executive directors/CEOs reporting that they plan to leave their jobs within the next five years. Concerns about how to identify new leaders and issues of workforce development have become high priorities for those thinking about the sector’s future.
However, this supposed crisis has proven to be somewhat exaggerated. Many long-time leaders are experiencing anxiety at the prospect of leaving their positions, both for their own personal financial and professional stability, and for their organizations. This has meant that multi-generational workplaces are now the norm in the nonprofit sector, begging many questions and much further discussion about the best ways to structure leadership for all parties involved, while still planning for eventual leadership transitions.
Talking with current and emerging non-profit leaders in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s in numerous interviews, focus groups, and meetings, we have found these younger (post Baby Boom-age) leaders want to work with older generations to look at the causes and forces that have shaped the sector and the broader environment today and plan future directions to pursue. For younger leaders, the next decades will mean a different type of sector, with a different kind of leadership, one that will build on and move forward from that which exists today.